Orange Wednesday: Split (2016) and Das Boot (1981) + Polar (2019)

Das Boot

Every Wednesday, TMINE reviews two movies and infringes a trademarked former mobile phone company’s marketing gimmick

Would that I had a slightly larger brain, I’d have smartly introduced last week’s inaugural edition of Orange Wednesday by saying that I’d review two movies every week on Wednesday. Yes, a 2-for-1 movie offer called Orange Wednesday! Rings a bell, doesn’t it?

But I’m not. I’m also time-poor and lazy, so the prospect of watching two movies a week seems a bit of a stretch. But I’m going to give it a go.

In fact, if you look at the title of this week’s Orange Wednesday, you’ll notice I made a brave stab at watching three movies. Unfortunately, Polar was terrible so I gave up on it after about 10 minutes – I’ll tell you all about it after the jump, but technically, it’s not a review, since I didn’t finish the movie. I do have some editorial standards, you know.

After the jump, however, I’ll be definitely be looking at two movies that I’ve watched all the way through this week: M Night Shyamalan’s 2016 Split, starring James McAvoy, and Wolfgang Petersen’s 1981 theatrical cut of Das Boot. See you in a mo…

Polar

Polar (2019) (Available on Netflix)

So let’s get the dreadful out of the way with first. This graphic novel adaptation sees the marvellous Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal) playing a hitman nearing retirement, while training up a young protegé (Vanessa Hudgens). Summoned back for one last job, he’s soon being pursued by a bunch of young up-and-coming hitboys and hitgirls who want him dead for some reason related to Matt Lucas (Little Britain) and Katheryn Winnick (Vikings).

There’s an interesting visual and tonal contrast going on with this. Mikkelsen’s scenes are all washed-out, shakycam, with gritty realism as we see what terrible physical effects he’s suffered from a life of murdering people. However, all the scenes with the young assassins are comic book, colour-saturated, gimmicky visuals, T&A and CGI. They get their own captions, too.

It’s the latter approach that’s almost unwatchable. While Winnick and Mikkelsen are as good as always, Lucas in particular is just terribly implausible and hammy, as are all the young people. The early Guy Ritchie-level OTT scenes are repellent and make you hate every last one of them with a passion.

I gave up. You might not.

Split

Split (2016) (Available on Netflix)

A welcome return to form for M Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) with a stunning series of performances by James McAvoy as a man with dissociative identity disorder (DID) – he has no fewer than 23 different personalities, in fact. While normally perfectly fine and under the control of one of those personalities, two of McAvoy’s other personalities have recently gained control and choose to abduct a couple of teenage girls, although they end up also picking up Anya Taylor-Joy at the same time. Why? Because there’s a theoretical 24th personality, ‘The Beast’, to whom they plan to sacrifice the girls. Is The Beast, who is invulnerable and can climb walls, just something they’ve made up or will he finally emerge?

McAvoy does an amazing job of differentiating the personalities and making each role unique; he inhabits them in an amazing way and the movie would be nothing without him. And I say that because to be honest, there’s not much to it bar his performance. The three teenage girls are stuck in Room for most of the movie, while McAvoy is inhabiting Manhunter. We get flashbacks to Taylor-Joy’s life, as they’re we’re going to get a final, Signs-esque reveal. And we do, but when it comes, it’s very much an “Oh” moment, rather than a “wow”.

There’s no triumph of ingenuity, no bright ideas or cleverness that help Taylor-Joy to overcome adversity. Instead, Split is the first ever standalone origin story for a supervillain and does little but depict his emergence. It’s also not exactly a helpful take on DID.

However, and this is a big however, there is one final coda to the whole thing that makes it all ‘pop’. If you don’t know it, don’t let anyone tell you, but if you really want to know, it’s this. (Spoiler alert)(spoiler alert)  Split is actually a ‘stealth sequel’ to Unbreakable – it’s Hollywood’s first ever proper stealth sequel, apparently. Bruce Willis’s character from Unbreakable appears at the end and directly ties Split with that movie; and in the cinemas right now is Glass, which is a sequel to both movies and features McAvoy, Willis and Samuel L Jackson reprising his role as Mr Glass.

Worth watching for that scene and McAvoy’s performance, as well as Shyamalan’s direction. Otherwise, while not as repellent as other entries in the “serial killer abducts teenage girls and sticks them in a room” genre, not a great one overall.

 

Das Boot

Das Boot (1981) (Available on Netflix)

Given it’s been an insane amount of time since I originally saw this and German sequel TV series is going to air on Sky Atlantic from tonight (although the whole thing is already available on demand), I thought I’d rewatch the theatrical cut of one of German cinema’s greatest ever movies, just to reacquaint myself with it in preparation.

An adaptation of Lothar-Günther Buchheim’s novel of the same name, it sees Jürgen Prochnow (Dune) playing the captain of a wartime German U-boat, tasked with attacking British merchant shipping but discovering that’s almost a suicide mission, thanks to the Royal Navy’s destroyers being equipped with ASDIC (aka Sonar) and copious depth-charges. It’s up to his ingenuity to keep his crew alive in their tiny metal box under the sea, but can he do it?

Das Boot is about as anti-war as you can get and the action moves from tragedy to tragedy, as the submarine becomes more and more damaged and more and more people die. Even when the crew win an engagement, it’s clear they know full well they’re murdering other people, something that none of them really want to do – particularly the highly anti-Nazi Prochnow. Ultimately, all their tricks and skills are for nothing.

The action is claustrophobic and almost unrelenting; while there is frequent downtime between engagements, in which the crew talk about their lives, the tension remains, as do the numerous privations. The model work is a little of its time, but it still reasonably convinces and you’ll find yourself wondering at the bravery of men going to sea in vessels that offered little more protection than the wooden ships of Master and Commander – and who have none of the technology that those in The Last Ship have to protect themselves.

It was also lovely to see Prochnow acting in German, rather than in English, for a change. The subtitling was a bit loose, it has to be said, but good nevertheless.

There was a later mini-series version made so you might want to check that out by preference and if you have the time, but if you want to see a cracking war movie, Das Boot is a must-see.

Advertisements