(au) wrote: Disregard the misleading one star rating this has somehow got on flixster, the thoughtful as well as gripping Red Mercury is everything the much greater hyped and financed, but very immature Britz, was meant to be. With a cast of great TV actors, Stockard Channing, Pete Postlethwaite, Juliet Stevenson, to name but a few, and an excellent script from the writer Farrukh Dhondy, I was definitely interested to see the film when it was listed on satellite TV. What other films with the subject nature of terrorism fail on is insight into character. As a long standing British Asian writer and educator, Dhondy has a clear insight into the three dimensional Asian terrorists he has created (all well played by young, little known actors). These are people he understands intimately, and represent the patchwork nature of British Islamism. Further, Dhondy does not flinch from telling harsh truths, both about Muslims and Non-Muslims. It is a must for all who want an insight into the roots of British Islamism. Moreover, Dhondy's gifts as a storyteller also shine through and his script is intelligent, funny and gripping, a rare combination. His only fault is in trying to pack too many characters and plot-lines in. I can understand he was trying to create a climate around the theme of generation gap and cultural degeneration, but the tapestry feeling seemed a little contrived. What lets the film down is its clearly pathetic budget. In a small, low-key drama, this hardly matters. However, in an upmarket, 'big' thriller such as this, the cheap production jars in the eye of the viewer. This doesn't matter so much when dealing with the holed-up terrorists and their hostages, but on the parallel plot following the police, it really shows. The police seem to have the resources not of the entire Met, but of a village police station. Related to this, the direction, while competent, is also uninspired, making it look very much like another piece of unoriginal TV, and there is one truly howling continuity error, for which the editor should be shot (figuratively, of course). Red Mercury certainly would have been better off as a Channel 4 Mini Series, instead of the childish, unimformed Britz (even stranger when you consider that Dhondy himself was a senior Channel 4 Executive). It is also a real shame that this film was made in 2005, clearly just before the London Bombings, as its ultimately upbeat message was obliterated by the actions of real 'home-grown' terrorists. This must have been one of the reasons for its commercial collapse when it was finally released.
(gb) wrote: I kind of wish that there was actually a mention of the title in the lyric to the song "Land of a Thousand Dances" so that I could replace it with this film's title, largely because the title "Land of a Thousand Dances" is pretty cool for a song whose lyric could have seriously used a cool line. I can't believe that there was a time when Cannibal & the Headhunters wasn't the name of some kind of an extreme metal band, but there was, and it was a heck of a ways back, before even this film. Yes, people, before boys were playing with Hugo: Man of a Thousand Faces, they were playing to Anne of a Thousand Days. No, Genevive Bujold was cute, so that was an offensive, if slightly confusing joke about a young man's special time, but hey, at least it wasn't as creepy as Hugo: Man of a Thousand Faces. Haunting and happy boyhood memories aside, first it was "A More for All Seasons", and then this film, so for a while there, if the Golden Globes weren't giving Best Drama to a film about Henry II, then it was giving it to a film about the Henry VIII-Anne Boleyn affair. Ah, the latter '60s was quite the time for saucy, scandalous royal affairs and sophisticated writing, which is a formula that, well, wasn't going to work for too much longer. Now, this film works just fine, but it works for only so long, especially when it is very much more of the same. One of the biggest issues with the film is its being not nearly as unique as it could have been, having a few refreshing spots, but conforming a little too much to the then-popular formula of dialogue-driven royal melodramas, while hitting trope after trope with the dialogue and characterization of most any film of this nature, until even those who are willing to forget their history will be hard-pressed to not see where exactly things are going. It doesn't help that the conflicts feel manufactured, because many of the romantic dramatic aspects of this true story which can be embraced as factual are hard to buy into, what with all of the contrived elements of storytelling which ambitiously work to flesh out the depths of a story of only so much consequence. As if the story concepts of "A Man for All Seasons", "Becket" and "The Lion in Winter" weren't minimalist enough in their overt intimacy, this film is really light in scale, and even in consequence, with plenty of sauce and potential, but only so much dynamicity to its tightly focusing on characters who aren't endearing enough on paper to completely carry this drama. Well-portrayed enough to be intriguing, the characters have a good bit of inspiration behind them to sell their questionable traits, which cannot be consistently ignored, at least within the leads, with Henry VIII being a humanized, but somewhat sleazy and proud king who would challenge his faith to get what wants, while even Anne Boleyn feels corruptible, and more stubborn than self-respecting, with bickerings that don't seem to work in enough sense of motivation to sell her changes of heart, and therefore get to be monotonous. Well, the conflicts between Henry and Boleyn are monotonous until the film jarringly shifts it focus to Henry's conflicts with the church, then to Henry's and Boleyn's conflicts as a married couple, for this is an uneven film that would be more consistent if it was tighter, and not so bloated with - nay - defined by one draggy dialogue piece after another, and filler, and inconsistencies, until it begins to wear you down. The film has a lot of respectable aspects, enough so to engross right away, but after a while of repetitious conventions, melodramatics and chatter from questionable characters, the investment is loosened. The final product ultimately falls as a generally underwhelming, but it never loses so much of your investment that it fails to adequately engage, being mighty improvable, but tasteful, even in its aesthetic value. Well, the aesthetic value of the film is a little limited, in that it is restrained in its kick, and formulaic, but it is there, to one extent or another, whether it be found within Georges Delerue's underused, but solid score, or within Arthur Ibbetson's tightly framed and well-lit, if colorfully underwhelming cinematography. More than anything, Lionel Couch's art direction is aesthetically sound, with Maurice Carter's production designs and Margaret Furse's costume designs being lavish, as well as complimentary to the immersion value of this distinctly intimate period drama. While minimalist in its intimacy with problematic characters, and therefore as rich with natural shortcomings as it is with conventions, this film's subject matter is intriguing, with some potential established through historically and dramatically valuable themes on the political and personal conflicts surrounding Henry VIII's affairs, particularly with Anne Boleyn. There is some intrigue to salvage, and if no one else manages to draw upon it, then it is Charles Jarrott, whose steady direction worsens slow spots, though not nearly as much as it could have, as he establishes some subtle resonance through a fine orchestration of light style, sharp writing highlights, and strong performances. Perhaps the material is too limited for truly strong performances to be delivered, but plenty players carry his or her own weight, with the lovely Genevive Bujold being convincing, if occasionally melodramatic as the simultaneously strong-willed and vulnerable Anne Boleyn, while leading man Richard Burton truly becomes Henry VIII, with a royal charisma, as well as an intensity which captures the vulnerability of a proud, but flawed man of power. The characters are too questionable to embrace by their own right, but they're portrayed so well that it's hard to not be endeared, although it helps that this talented cast is handed decent, if somewhat lacking material, for although Bridget Boland's, John Hale's and Richard Sokolove's script is conventional, contrived and uneven in pacing and focus, it has its tightly extensive elements, and when it doesn't the dialogue is sharp enough to hold your attention between the heights in tasteful dramatic storytelling. Even the script has its strong elements, thus, this film has the makings to rewarding, just as it also has the makings of a relative misfire, and although the final product left me a little cold, there is enough to hold your investment with decency, even if it could have delivered on more. When the thousand days are done, conventions, melodramatics and problematic characters back a thin story, told unevenly and aimlessly, until enough momentum is lost for the final product to fall as underwhelming, in spite of the decent scoring and cinematography, strong art direction, thoughtful direction, memorable performances by Genevive Bujold and Richard Burton, and highlights in clever writing which make Charles Jarrott's "Anne of the Thousand Days" a reasonably intriguing, if challenging account on the affairs of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. 2.5/5 - Fair