Archives for posts with tag: mark strong

The current trend of biography is lengthy and complicated (see “The Crown,” or “Victoria”), which is possibly admirable. If, however, you are looking for the film biography equivalent of a chocolate soufflé, look no further than The Young Victoria.

As the title suggests, this film deals only with the early, Cinderella-type years of Victoria’s life, when she falls in love and is kind of bad at being the queen, and before she gets jowly and depressing. Helpfully, Victoria’s life was peopled with engagingly cartoonish heroes and villains, and they find excellent avatars here. Victoria (Emily Blunt) is so young, and slightly too pretty, and she is liable to listen to Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany) because he is handsome and she is frighteningly sheltered. Her mother (Miranda Richardson) and Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong) would like to control her, and have made a decent go of it for the first 17 years of her life. Sir John is so evil, and so delightful. He wears amazing trousers.

mv5bmtm4mjexmdk3nv5bml5banbnxkftztcwmtu3otmwmw-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_Enter Albert (Rupert Friend), who is also unbelievably young, and unbelievably Romantically German. His hair! His shirtsleeves! His awkward love of Schubert! His hilariously tolerant brother Ernest (Michiel Huisman)! Apparently Ernest was awful in real life, but here he just rolls his eyes when Albert is adorably dumb about Sir Walter Scott.

To be sure, the most interesting thing about Victoria was not her romantic life, but it makes a good feature film. She and Albert are so young, and so silly, and so in love, and so well dressed. They care just enough about the poor and about progress that you aren’t grossed out by their fake problems. You’re sad when they fight and pleased when they make up, and why can’t some dreamy moron come visit me with a pair of giant dogs?

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Rating: PG
Length: 105 minutes
Score: 5/5

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If you saw the trailers for Kingsman, you probably thought that it looked like a heightened version of James Bond, with stylish rooms full of guns and a slightly off sense of humor. And it sort of is that, but also tonally so, so different. Colin Firth kills a lot of people. A lot.

Kingsman is both a Savile Row tailor and a stateless band of elite spy-assassins with cute Knights of the Round Table nicknames. They’re all English, though, and, until this film starts, posh.* Their brief is…unclear, but appears to involve general world-saving type things. Arthur (Michael Caine) is in charge, and the three agents with whom we most interact are Galahad (Firth), Lancelot (Jack Davenport), and Merlin (Mark Strong). Merlin is basically Q, but mean. They’re trying to find a new agent to replace a dead comrade, so we start out with a bunch of posh kids (particularly Edward Holcroft as Charlie and Sophie Cookson as Roxy), and one streetwise youth, Eggsy (Taron Egerton).

They are pitted against a tycoon with world-domination and/or cleansing ambitions, Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson, with a hell of a lisp and a baseball cap in place of his trademark Kangol, but otherwise the same). He has an assistant with blade prosthetics on her legs (Sofia Boutella), and those blades are not euphemistic. Also he has kidnapped Mark Hamill(!).

The acting is better than you’d think, frankly. Both Firth and Strong are glintingly, urbanely intense, in a very pleasing way. Egerton makes the chip on Eggsy’s shoulder both irritating and comprehensible, which is no mean feat. Beyond that, though, there’s not much there. Roxy is unfortunately rather a cipher, but it’s probably something of a step to have a woman in this sort of movie as anything other than ornament, so I guess maybe we shouldn’t be picky. And the clothes and interiors are great.

This is sort of Avengers (Marvel-type) meets James Bond, but it’s less than the sum of its parts. The cartoonish notes–down to its comic book pedigree, presumably–are discordant and sometimes offensively flippant. The violence is all extremely well choreographed, but a lot of people die. It’s not very gory, but perhaps it’s not gory enough. We are constantly told that the stakes are high, but it never really seems that way.

*Maybe not, though, with Michael Caine. Unclear.

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Rating: R
Length: 129 minutes
Score: 3/5