Monday, February 27, 2012

Contraband (US, 2012) - confounding the critics

I have to admit, I tend to agree with film critics in their judgements on films.  Broadly.  I often differ by degrees, but concur in the overview.

Contraband is one film that gives the lie to that.

I read some lukewarm to bad things about this film before I saw it.  So I was expecting a bit of incoherence and Hollywood shallowness - and I was quite pleasantly surprised.  You can read quite a few of those negative comments on Wikipedia - the sort of works that encourage you think it's not really worth bothering.  But I can only disagree with them.  There is really no doubt: Contraband is a definitely a good film.

The core plot involves an ex-smuggler whose family obligations compell him to do one more round, on a cargo ship picking up goods from Panama City.  In the process, he has to navigate a number of competing forces, none of whom are entirely ethical.

What did I like about Contraband?  Its complex plot, its gritty but telegenic cinematography, its taut direction, its view of a few worlds that I had not seen before (namely, freight shipping and Panama City), and some realistic characterisations - to name a few.

I like a complex plot, but a film that has plot holes is simply irritating.  Contrary to one review, I found it scored well on both counts.

In particular, there was a dizzying array of competing sides - numerous individuals and groups that had their own agendas: by turns collaborative then at odds with other parties.  Such a swirling script is epitomised by Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, which takes several viewings to sort out all the nuances.  I believe I was on top of the shifting sands of this film, but it wouldn't do any harm to review the convolutions a second time around.

And that's a good recommendation: that it bears watching again.  I can't understand why those reviewers seemed to be watching a totally different film.

1 comment:

bazza said...

Hello Stephen. I have not seen this film but think it's my kind of thing from your review.
I sometimes think that critics have a different agenda from the typical film-goer and I tend to rely on the same trusted sources for information.
It's easy to believe that a critic is a frustrated director or actor and an interesting debate is to be had about the very purpose of criticism.
Objective criticism may educate and inform but the subjective kind conveys individual feelings of the critic. Which do we find the most useful?
Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’