The title says it all, really: Aussie Brickie Sam Worthington spends an entire movie stuck on a ledge, twenty-something floors up and on the outside of the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan. Elizabeth Banks is the cop who has to talk him down, Ed Harris the corrupt businessman that Sam’s trying to nab in the most unlikely of manners. And yet, given the static scenario of the title, it works, quite surprisingly – a kind of poor man’s Inside Man, but one that works nonetheless.
New York looks great from up on that ledge, and the Roosevelt – chosen because the producer shot the so-so chiller 1408 there, but perhaps more famous for Ralph Fiennes’ romcom (seriously!) Maid in Manhattan – gets some pretty enviable screen-time.
The Debt takes as its center-piece a fictional 1960’s era attempt by a trio of loyal Israelis to kidnap a hideously unrepentant Nazi war criminal out of East Germany and spirit him back to Jerusalem for trial. The attempt goes awry, and the three are forced into a series of course-changes and compromises that effectively up-end their collective futures.
But does The Debt work as a movie? Well yes, but also no. The movie is at its best in grimy sixties Berlin (of course, Budapest is the convenient stand-in) when Rachel, played with guts by it-girl Jessica Chastain, begins the operation in a series of extremely vulnerable positions. The botched kidnap and the final confrontation in a Ukrainian hospital are truly exciting. But generally I felt it hopped between the two time periods too clumsily and I came away feeling I’d been watching “Munich-lite.”
It doesn’t happen quite so much these days, but there was a time when you mentioned living in Africa and people thought there were giraffes in the street. I did live in Zimbabwe for a while and I remember startling a zebra once, when out on a morning run (the run being more unusual than the equine, quite frankly). I also can vividly recall the moment, out canoeing on the Zambezi, when I realised that log-shapes in the the water all around me were crocodiles. Good times.
Anyway, I recount this because I caught Rogue on DSTV – a great little Australian movie about a monster croc that’s chewing its way through the good folks of the Northern Territory. It stars Radha Mitchell and Michael Vartan, but there’s also Sam Worthington – pre, but very much on his way to, meteoric fame. In short; there’s a tour boat, it sinks, the ill-assorted survivors struggle to an island, but the island’s going to be below water by nightfall….. And guess who comes out to eat at night?
So what can I tell you? Well to be honest, there’s very little to fault. The characters, though familiar, are well acted and their psychologies feel real enough given the limited amount of time we spend getting to know them. The animatronic croc is great, the scenes are tense and the Kakadu National Park in Northern Territory stands out as a completely gorgeous but utterly ruthless backdrop. (Me, I’d be freaking about the snakes.) Interestingly though, the nocturnal scenes were not shot in the Northern Territory; the director used a specially built island in the midst of a lake in the Yarra Valley in Victoria.
Three movies and a tv series later – all of which, remember, were about actually stopping Skynet and the nuclear war – and the Robots of Terminator Salvation have indeed taken over the world. The grown-up John Connor, method-acted into snarly oblivion by the increasingly unpleasant Christian Bale, is now some sort of post-apocalyptic messiah, coordinating the surviving humans against the all-knowing, and unstoppable robotic onslaught. Well, sort of.
SciFi is, I think, meant to include Science as well as Fiction – things have to be at least vaguely sensible. And this isn’t. For instance, whilst the robots are apparently able to pick up enemy movement at will, they miss the rebel base entirely and they completely fail to react to the torching of a whole forest by Connor and his crowd. Can anyone say “heat seeking missile”?
And whilst Sam Worthington looks pretty (and he certainly picks up a lot of the slack for the odiously one-dimensional Bale) what exactly is he there for? To raise questions about the blurring distinctions between man and machine? Perhaps. Because while the movie raises those questions, it doesn’t get around to answering them. All Very Perplexing.
For what it’s worth, Terminator Salvation filmed in New Mexico. New Mexico Magazine offers advice on day trips to the locations in the film. And in case there was any doubt about how filming can involve the whole community, here’s a story about how two dogs from the local doggie day care won featured extras roles…..