The Expatriate

How do you (does one) account for a movie like The Expatriate? It”s not like it”s irredeemably bad, but it is irrevocably dull. Aaron Eckhart (who you know I love) plays an ex-CIA agent working on some top-security project, who goes on the run when his employers try to permanently erase all records of his existence. It co-stars the truly, truly awful Olga Kurylenko, who runs the gamut of emotions from A to A as the handler tasked with shutting Aaron up. There’s a daughter in it too, who’s estranged from Aaron and therefore required by the script to be stroppy and do unaccountably stupid things.

The-Expatriate (3)

The Expatriate is like every Liam Neeson movie from the past 5 years, but without Liam Neeson and set in Belgium – which, let’s face it, hardly has a rep as a glamorous destination of thrills and intrigue. I can only assume that it was made with European funds, because Brussels and Antwerp feature heavily as the locations. Frankly, there really are better ways to spend your time.

Battle Los Angeles

I am well-known amongst my friends for loving movies where aliens blow shit up. In Battle: Los Angeles, the aliens are more destructive than most. They land off the coast of Santa Monica (and twenty other world cities – shocker!) in preparation for a simultaneous attack. And a small group of soldiers from disparate backgrounds are left to rescue a handful of civilians and save the day. Think Independence Day lite. There’s even a mother ship that controls the drones, so it’s hardly original. In fact there are enough holes in the plot to drive a humvee through. On the plus side though, the battle scenes are frenetic and pretty thrilling, and the whole thing is ultimately saved from irrelevance by the ruggedly handsome Aaron Eckhart, who is sympathetic, compelling, and (how do I say this?) vigorous. If California hadn’t gone all Prop-8-Hate-State, I’d probably marry him or something.

Actually, the tragedy of Battle: Los Angeles is that it filmed in Louisiana. I had coffee today with a great lady from the Location Managers Guild of America, who was telling me how production in this town has basically been eviscerated. Sounds like there are more movies filming in Cape Town today than there are in Hollywood.

Batman, The Dark Knight

OK, let me start by saying; 1) Heath Ledger is as good as the hype and 2) the latest three hour Batman movie isn’t – at least not quite.

Batman may have hoped to inspire goodness in mankind, but at the start of Christopher Nolan’s latest saga, it’s kind of backfired. Vigilantes and bad guys alike have taken to dressing up in tights and mouseketeer hats and are collectively confusing the hell out of the GPD (that’s Gotham Police Department to you). And worse still, the successful crack-down on organised crime has brought the city’s mobsters into the collective thrall of an appalling, a-moral, dysfunctional villain – Heath Ledger’s now-notorious Joker. Up against this anarchistic and chaotic force of un-nature is gloomy-two-shoes Batman and his cohorts – Bale, Caine, Oldman, Freeman again – joined by Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) a golden-boy District Attorney with really nice hair.

Batman, The Dark Knight looks great, and I was interested to read somewhere that 1995’s Heat was one of the inspirations for some of the Dark Knight’s relentless criminal set-pieces – it’s got the guns and that breathy sense of inexorable movement. And (plot spoilers from here on in) if it had all ended with the final show-down between Batman and the Joker, it would have been a truly well rounded movie-going experience. But Harvey Dent going bad? It just didn’t make sense. And on a separate but related whinge, am I the only one who thinks Maggie Gyllenhaal is hardly worth the bother of a run to Woolies, let alone a killing spree?   

Anyway, one thing I did admire about the movie was the refreshing up-dating of the aura of Gotham; no more dark and dirty alleys, but a grand, modern, thriving city. It’s Chicago that gets to play host to the production and according to Wikipedia, the movie generated $45 million in Chicago’s economy, creating thousands of jobs in the process. There’s a cute little website called Chicago.Everyblock that lists every location the movie used in the city and links it to a little map. Nice. And of course you can always check out Emmanuel Levy’s in depth comment.

Ever the art director, it was the Redhead who noticed that many of the movie’s locations looked out onto the same street, and as it turns out he was right (again, dammit) The IBM Building was the site of the Wayne Enterprises Boardroom, Harvey Dent’s office, the Mayor’s office and the Police Commissioner’s office. (And Di, Bruce’s bedroom was built separately on the 39th floor of Hotel 71 on East Wacker Drive……)

Having scouted extensively all over the world Chicago was ultimately chosen as the main location for Batman because director Christopher Nolan had a “truly remarkable” experience there filming Batman Begins – a great advert for the benefits that come from rolling out the carpet for filmmakers. Somehow though, I doubt he’ll be rushing back to Hong Kong. The shoot there was plagued by unhelpful city officials expressing concern over possible noise pollution and traffic. Like flipping an 18-wheeler on Chicago’s La Salle street wasn’t potentially problematic??? I guess it’s all about attitude.

At the end of the day, jurisdictions all need to consider: do you want an extra $45 million kicking around your economy or don’t you? (and that is NOT a trick question.)