Film Review: Hitchcock

HitchcockWith The Girl being screened on television last year and now Hitchcock, legendary director Alfred Hitchcock is getting a bad rap on screen. Although Hitchcock looks great and is never dull, ultimately it feels unsatisfying.

In 1959 Alfred Hitchcock is a very successful director, skillfully abetted by his wife Alma. Looking for his next project, Hitchcock decides to adapt the horror novel Psycho. Self-financing the production, Hitchcock’s behaviour causes Alma to seek solace in another project…

Set during the making of Psycho, Sacha Gervasi’s film mixes events around the production of the film with Alfred and Alma’s marriage and the mindset of the director. Whilst the first and arguably second aspects are sound, the film is let down by this third strand.

The Ed Gein element of the film does not work well. Although the connection between the notorious killer and the film Psycho are clear, it seems a strange tact to focus on this character. The film’s depiction of Hitchock’s preoccupation with Gein is odd. Playing on the mental stability of a real person, especially one in living memory will rarely sit well. Hitchcock is very much the Gervasi and screenwriter John J. McLaughlin’s interpretation of events.

Although Alfred Hitchcock’s career has been widely praised, much has been made of his treatment of his leading ladies. Hitchcock goes a step beyond this to insinuate more serious problems. This is unlikely to sit comfortably with most viewers.

The script is littered with humorous lines and the pacing of the film is fine. Costumes are great, and the film has a glossy look to it, with everything appearing immaculate. Anthony Hopkins sounds the part of Hitchcock, and looks the part thanks to some prosthetics. Helen Mirren is good as Alma, while James D’Arcy makes a convincing Anthony Perkins.

As a fictional interpretation, Hitchcock is fine. Given that it is based on real people however, the film does become problematic.

Film Review: Shutter Island

Often, Martin Scorsese makes it all better. Every now and again, tired of the incessant remakes, sequels and sub-par star vehicles, one longs for a bit of quality in mainstream Hollywood cinema. It seems that Mr Scorsese has heard our cries, as Shutter Island is a thoroughly enjoyable film, reinstating a degree of quality missing from many other recent films.

Granted, the film not an entirely original affair; it is based on Dennis Lehane novel of the same name. However, Scorsese’s picture is an exceptionally well crafted suspense thriller. Whilst perhaps not being on quite the same level as some of the director’s earlier work, it nonetheless harks back to the Classical Hollywood thriller, popularised by Hitchcock and others.

Shutter Island tells the story of a US marshal and his partner who visit an island inhabited solely by a hospital for the criminally insane. Originally called to investigate the disappearance of a patient, their inquiry uncovers something deeper…

Leonardo DiCaprio gives a compelling performance as the marshal haunted by the death of his wife and the atrocities he witnessed whilst serving during World War II. Shutter Island features many of the Scorsese hallmarks, although this time the persistent theme of psychology and the frailty of sanity is brought right to the forefront.

As ever, Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing is on point. The production design, particularly of Ward C, is excellent. The editing, cinematography, design, and the jittering score combine wonderfully to generate an atmosphere of trepidation throughout the duration.

Perhaps the one downside is that the ending may be disappointing for some viewers. However, for over two hours Scorsese grips the audience with this immensely absorbing thriller.