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Danny Boyle is one of my favour­ite dir­ect­ors. From Shallow Grave in 1994 to 127 Hours in 2010, his work has stim­u­lated and inspired me. I re-watched Trainspotting the oth­er day and it still made everything else I saw that week seem old-fashioned. Everything, that is, except Trance which just hap­pens to be Boyle’s new film, a return to cinemas after dir­ect­ing the biggest theatre show of all time – the Olympic Games open­ing cere­mony which was seen by an audi­ence of – ooh – about 900 mil­lion people.

Trance returns Boyle to his $20m budget com­fort zone and his new light­weight digit­al film­mak­ing style. It also reunites him with screen­writer John Hodge (Trainspotting) so it should be all sys­tems go, yes?

Not quite. In Trance, James McAvoy plays an art expert with a prob­lem. Instead of help­ing a gang of thugs steal a very expens­ive paint­ing from his auc­tion house he actu­ally tries to steal it him­self, get­ting a whack on the head for his trouble. Now he can’t remem­ber where he left the paint­ing and the gang are try­ing everything from fingernail-pulling to hyp­no­ther­apy to help him remem­ber where it is.

The story rattles along like an express train, boun­cing between genres and time peri­ods until the whole thing is a con­fus­ing mess. Which is actu­ally a good thing because the more of the plot you unravel the less sub­stance you actu­ally find and it pays not to think too much about all the holes. Trance is a wickedly mod­ern ride – and the twists should keep you inter­ested to very end – but I’m sorry to say that it’s only minor Boyle.

Wellington film­maker Alex Galvin has released his follow-up to 2007’s coun­try house thrill­er When Night Falls. It’s called Eternity and it’s a sci­ence fic­tion movie in the vein of The Matrix or Virtuosity – real people are some­how inser­ted into a com­puter pro­gramme and have to find their way out. In this case, it’s a cop played by Elliot Travers try­ing to solve a murder before a vir­us shuts the game – and everything in it – down.

Self-funding a fea­ture film is an enorm­ous under­tak­ing and Galvin has done it twice. But – sadly – you don’t get points just for turn­ing up and Eternity betrays many of the same flaws as his debut. An unori­gin­al premise, slack pacing, poor per­form­ances, and clichéd dia­logue mar a glossy pro­duc­tion with impress­ive effects, score and spon­sor sup­port. Impossible to recom­mend to any­one except friends and fam­ily (just not my friends and family).

Quietly bid­ing it’s time and hop­ing for a big school hol­i­day sea­son is Canadian eco-doc The Whale which blew me away the oth­er night. Perfectly pitched at fam­il­ies of all ages, it tells the story of a baby orca named Luna that gets lost in pic­tur­esque Nootka Sound off Vancouver Island. Killer whales are social creatures and – without a pod to call home – Luna befriends and bewitches every­one she meets. Of course, bur­eau­cracy being what it is, this couldn’t be allowed so the full force of the Canadian fish­er­ies pro­tec­tion people are enlis­ted to keep Luna away from the people she loves to play with.

A bril­liant story, superbly and power­fully told with won­der­ful pic­tures and a per­fect voi­ceover from exec­ut­ive pro­du­cer and Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds. I would be sur­prised if any view­er remained uncap­tiv­ated by one of the best nature doc­u­ment­ar­ies in years. Those last two sen­tences have been espe­cially craf­ted to go into news­pa­per ads – that’s how much I recom­mend The Whale.

At first, I tried to ima­gine The Perks of being a Wallflower as the next in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and that amused me for a while but soon Perks took on an intriguing life of its own.

It’s sens­it­ive – and fra­gile – Charlie’s first year at High School and he has trouble fit­ting in until he is taken under the wing of some older kids who also have out­sider issues of their own. Setting aside the bril­liantly handled blind­sid­ing that hap­pens near the very end, Stephen Chbosky’s film (based on his own book) is a deft and gen­er­ous por­trait of an age where you’re not totally obsessed with your­self, you only think you are.

Performances through­out are fine but spe­cial men­tion must be made of the freak­ishly gif­ted Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin) as the nois­ily gay Patrick and ever-brilliant Melanie Lynskey in yet anoth­er brave but tiny role as the dead aunt who haunts Charlie’s hal­lu­cin­at­ory dreams.

This is the final column that I will be writ­ing for the Capital Times and it’s in the last paper that you will be read­ing. I have been hon­oured to write for you over the last six (nearly sev­en) years and hope that I can con­tin­ue to do so via my new mail­ing list ( I’ll carry on writ­ing these if you’ll carry on read­ing them.

In the mean­time, thanks to every­one in the movie busi­ness in Wellington who has helped me every week, thanks to all the read­ers who voted for me every year, and spe­cial thanks to my edit­ors – Aaron, Dawn, Rebekah and Niels – and espe­cially Alison and John who gave me plenty of space every week and let me fill it as I pleased. See you all at a cinema some­time, soon.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 10 April, 2013.


  • Jenson Fields says:

    Paid a vis­it to the cinema earli­er to see Eternity and once I got home I was curi­ous to read oth­er opin­ions about the movie. Sadly I ended up here and was dis­ap­poin­ted to see what appears to be more of a per­son­al attack on the film­makers than an actu­al review of the movie itself. 

    Yes the film lacks pace at times but for the most part it trots along just fine for the genre of film it fits into, some of the per­form­ances are not Oscar worthy but they don’t dam­age the film in any way (the per­form­ance giv­en for the Sherlock char­ac­ter was superb!) and (if TV3 are correct)with a budget of less than $100,000 I per­son­ally believe Galvin and all con­cerned should be applauded for their efforts. A budget like that is prob­ably smal­ler than the cof­fee bill on most Hollywood pro­duc­tions yet Eternity looks espe­cially stun­ning. The use of recog­nis­able yet icon­ic NZ archi­tec­ture adds style and beauty to the film and the over­all look is ser­i­ously pol­ished for a self fun­ded movie.

    The com­par­is­ons to the Matrix are unfair and mis­used. Yes, someone goes into a com­puter but that’s where the com­par­is­on starts and ends. Its more along the lines of an epis­ode of Inspector Morse with a sci fi twist. If you like your drama and murder mys­ter­ies then this film may be more for you than it will be for the sci fi action crowd that may grab hold of the Matrix tag. The films syn­op­sis alone will tell you if its your cup of tea or not.

    I don’t want this to be a review of my own, I am just a bit annoyed to have stumbled across this art­icle that seems very unfair to a cool little kiwi movie. If you are going to review a film then at least do that – review it prop­erly and don’t just lazily pen a 6 line shot at a film that at least tried to do some­thing different.

    • Dan says:

      I love how the only neg­at­ive com­ments I ever get for reviews are for the hand­made little Kiwi-battler movies like Eternity.

      Read again and you’ll see that I praised what was good and cri­ti­cised what was bad. That’s what review­ers do.

      When a film charges the pub­lic real money for tick­ets – and sits there along­side oth­er choices that the pub­lic might make with their money – then it gets reviewed on that basis.

      I’m not attack­ing the film­makers. I have noth­ing but respect for get­ting two fea­tures made – that’s a real achieve­ment. But I sus­pect that Mr. Galvin’s skills lie more in pro­du­cing film than in writ­ing or directing.