Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull

It’s 1957, the Cold War is freezing over, but an aging Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is still capable of cracking his whip at those damn Russkies, led by the ice-cool Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), when they arrive in Nevada at a Roswell-style complex to steal what appears to be the body of an alien life-form. A terrific opening sequence ensues, with a tongue-in-cheek finale courtesy of an exploding A-bomb, and then the movie settles down to its real quest, that of Indy’s search for a mythical crystal skull which will lead him and his sidekick, the Brando-lite rebel Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), to the equally mythical El Dorado deep in the Amazon’s impenetrable jungles. Every cent of the reputed $200 million budget is up on the screen, and for the most part this is a rollicking homage to the often shambolic B-movie matinee adventures of the ’30s and ’40s. It’s not supposed to be taken seriously (the ‘CCCP’ emblazoned on the back of Spalko’s jumpsuit is a wink in the direction of cartoonish style), but even so there’s a lack of rigorousness about the storytelling that is disappointing. The adrenaline-charged pursuit through the Amazon jungle is a case in point. Yes, it’s a terrifically entertaining and even hilarious set-piece as Indy, Spalko, Mutt, Marion (Karen Allen), Mac (Ray Winstone), Ox (John Hurt) and a veritable battalion of (uniformed!) Russian soldiers jump back and forth between trucks, jeeps and amphibious vehicles, using a variety of weapons to thrash one another senseless as the convoy careers through the jungle – but wait a minute, wasn’t that jungle supposed to be ‘impenetrable’? Where did the parallel roads come from? Are they the work of the aliens who arrived on earth 7,000 years ago to kick-start human civilisation as we know it, or was it just George Lucas and Steven Spielberg not really caring about simple things like continuity? Much as we’d like to believe it’s the former, it’s very probably the latter – The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a series of great set-pieces, one segueing into the other, but there’s no cohesion to what happens, and how, or why. In a nutshell, there’s no story to give us a reason as to why we should care if Indy and his crew succeed in their quest. The finale, which trades very heavily on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, is visually impressive but emotionally sterile – there’s a perfunctory feel to it that suggests the makers simply couldn’t wait to get it all over with so they could begin a whole new franchise with Shia LaBeouf wielding the whip. *** - Declan Burke