Review: Stoker May Rival Django As Film Of The Year


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The One Where “It Is Going To Rain Out There”.

Saying a film “blew me away” is a bold statement.

I got emails immediately from the Chairman (AKA Philip Edwards).

I ignored them. Then the phone calls came. Imploring me to explain. Elaborate. Expand.

“No, Philip”, I said. “I’m busy watching Russell Crowe redeem himself from Les Mis. It’s almost like he’s apologising to me personally.”

“OK”, said Philip. But have it on my virtual desk by 9AM. “Yes Ma’am”, I uttered under my voice.

So it’s a bold statement, and I like playing with fire, so I’m going one further. It took precisely five seconds for me to be blown away.

Mia crossing the road, in beautiful soft focus. Then, a freeze frame. Totally unexpected, (unnecessary?), and breath-taking. But it got better…

…Mia, as she walked off, kicked the title card away that had come up, in stark white.

Now, I’m a title card fanboy. I clenched Mrs T’s arm during Fight Club when Fincher projected them onto buildings. I just love anyone doing anything… different. Django did a good job too. Starting a film well is vital though, isn’t it? Get stuck in. Why wait around?

This though? This seemed special.

So, I’m hooked immediately. I think I even let out a girly gasp. Possibly the only thing worse than going to the cinema on your own. Sitting on your own and sounding like you’re orgasmic at some title cards. But I can deal with it. I felt vindicated. I hadn’t been this excited about seeing a film on the day of since… Django, I guess. Feb was a lean month. I tried to like/love Flight (but cocaine is bad kids, and no amount of John Goodman is going to tell me otherwise). Die Hard can fuck itself. So it felt like the team behind Stoker were trying to make everything OK, again.

Mia walks on. Freeze frame. And again, and again. Until we get images that recur later on, in the troubled climax. It’s just brilliant. The use of sound reminded me of Malick’s Tree Of Life. And we all loved that, didn’t we? And it just snow balls from there. The fact it snow balls into a frenetic, and flawed finale doesn’t even matter. The balls its shown to get there is flat-out amazing.

I just can’t remember watching a film that’s done so much “new stuff”. Have you ever seen a shot of a box of shoes, merge slowly to another (the same box?). And again, and again. Until you realise the shoes are shrinking down a size each time, and we’re going back in time? Its brilliant. Absolutely flawless film making. Ballsy.

Have you ever seen a flash back start with the 30 y/o man looking at whats happening – only for the camera to pan behind, and the protagonist change to his 10 y/o self? All simple, simple things. Executed fantastically well, and with no sense of it being a bit “wanky“.

This isn’t Almodovar or Von Trier. It’s not trying as hard, but is just as effortless. I found myself for the first time in years genuinely not knowing where it was going.

I won’t spoil where *I* wanted the film to go – but the name Stoker is a big clue. Instead I’ll just say I’m not sure I’ve ever forgiven a film for its flaws as much as I have here. So why is that?

Well, for starters, the cast. The three leads are incredible. Kidman is right back on my radar. My mate Jon and I will be trying to be Matthew Goode in clubs from now on, rather than Gosling or Bale. He’s just the epitome of cool in this film. One scene, late on, sees him sprawled out at the piano. Everything about the mise en scene is spot on. What he’s wearing. The direction he’s facing. It’s all spot on. And he’s in the wonderful Watchmen, so I’m following his career and next move, now.

I had wondered going in why it was an 18. A few challenging scenes later, (mainly attempted attacks on women) later, and I got what I wanted. Red splattered on walls. All guns blazing. And that’s ironically where I came out of the film for a bit. Don’t hear me saying its a gore fest, by the way. It’s absolutely not. It’s just a very adult film. People that have dozed off during the talky bits will wonder what the fuck is going on. It would be a fair question. But the characters, intrigue and the way they’re played carries it through.

I love this film. The final shot, echoing the first, is a sign you’ve just seen one of the smartest films of the year. Have you seen it all before? Bits of Lynch. Bits of Kubrick (the set design is phenomenal). Yeah, I guess we have. But executed like this? No. I don’t think so. Never like this.

Highly recommended. If you can get to a cinema showing it, eh Mike?

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