Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Somewhere in the middle of loud action, threatening dinosaurs and pixilated activities in films ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, Tom Cruise managed to release the latest film in the Mission Impossible series. Rogue Nation is one of the more intelligent in the series, and is a refreshing combination of action and Cold War spy thriller. It’s full of twists and turns, and features one of the best leading ladies in a recent action film.

Cruise just manages as an actor to get away with being an action star at this point. While he’s been slow to age, is still in shape and moves well, his face tells us that all the fighting and running has a certain shelf life. As a producer, though, he and his team have given us a great example of how to keep the energy and life in a franchise that could easily have lost its identity. It has elements of James Bond, but MI is not that series. It’s full of action, but is not any of those other mindless offerings. It’s opened and kept at number two, but has managed to entice a large number of viewers drawn to its more adult sensibilities.

The strongest asset in the film, and one that attests to the series’ attempts to address a more mature audience, is the presence of Rebecca Ferguson as the lead female. She’s pretty, of course, but far more interesting looking than that, and tougher than she is pretty. She isn’t 20 and scatterbrained, but 30-plus and a serious participant in the fight scenes. She’s easily Cruise’s equal in every scene, and it’s to the film’s benefit that there is no sex scene, and (spoiler alert) the expected kiss turns into a heartfelt hug that enriches the entire film.

As a film nerd, I was delighted to note that her striking resemblance to film legend Ingrid Bergman didn’t go unnoticed. Her name here is Ilsa, the same as Bergman’s in Casablanca, and some scenes take place in Morocco, specifically Casablanca. She never went to Rick’s, but I think we get the nudges.

Cruise also wisely shares the screen with accomplished actors who both hold their own, and likely bring out a stronger performance from their leading man. Jeremy Renner, who can’t seem to manage a successful lead in a film, does solid work, as does Simon Pegg, who pulls off the serious aspects of his character without losing his comic persona, not an easy task. Cruise underplays at times, offering a less intense performance, one punctuated by moments of his character’s being dizzy or suffering the effects of the previous scenes’ exertions. It adds a reality to the film and keeps Cruise from too much thespian couch-jumping.

One element worthy of more study than my mere mention is Cruise’s expected “can-you-top-this?” scene. Last time it was crawling on the outside of the world’s tallest building. Here he is “really, really” holding onto a plane as it ascends. There has been a great deal of press about this event, so we all know it’s real. Yet it is less than dazzling or tense. That’s because CGI had reached a point of simulation so real that the “reality” of the stunt doesn’t have the punch it should have. It just seems like a modern-day version of a matte shot. Let the cinematic speculation begin.

Renée Zellweger might have had Tom Cruise at “hello” in Jerry McGuire. MI:RN had me at “Nessun Dorma,” my favorite classical piece. It not only is featured dramatically a la the Albert Hall sequence toward the end of Hitchcock’s 1956 The Man Who Knew Too Much, its main theme is used throughout as part of the background score. It lends the entire proceedings an elegance that enhances the entire film.

Cruise’s character of Ethan Hunt is not as exciting or iconic as others (e.g., Bond, nearly any action hero), but this latest offering keeps things exciting by all the questions consistently raised in the plot. Is she with us, or against us, or both? What is the Syndicate—is it real or fictional, and if either, what might that mean? Has the IMF really been canceled? Is the data, captured at such a cost, really worth anything? Is Ethan going to die? (OK, that last one is really never in doubt.)

Released July 31, this film is the perfect segue from summer action to more serious and thoughtful films that come in the fall. More intriguing than dazzling, providing more thought than action (of which it provides plenty), MI:RN is smart, full of quick turns, and introduces us to a fascinating new action star in its leading lady. For those waiting impatiently for Spectre (November 6 in the U.S.), try this in the meantime.

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Quick Takes: Inside Out, Ant-Man, Out of the Past

Been busy with the publication of book number two and the continuation of book number three! So here are some quick takes on what I’ve been seeing.

Inside Out

Pixar’s latest success in a long string of successes. Great vocal performances combined with creative animation and a solid and touching storyline. It was released in June among a number of gigantic moneymaking summer films and has been a bit ignored in the process. As with most Pixar films, this is one that appeals to adults as well as children; there are layers of understanding throughout the film’s many twists and turns. There is also a quick throwaway line about facts vs. opinions that had me laughing so loud and hard that I had to get myself under control.

Ant-Man

Smart to release this in the summer when our brains are turned off. It’s a lot of fun, yet all over the place in tone and pace. But just making us sit in our seats to see an ant-sized “superhero” is a triumph of some kind in itself. Paul Rudd is not the perfect choice, but probably the best one around as the lead character. He’s not anywhere near as strong or macho as the other great leading man of the summer-Chris Pratt—but his off-the-charts likability is the thread that holds this together. Hats off to Oscar-winner Michael Douglas for taking his role seriously and holding his crucial part of the film together in terms of acting. A happy surprise is the solid work of Lost’s Evangeline Lilly, who’s been absent from any screen—big or small—recently. With these three at work, any danger of the film going off its rails has been contained.

Best friend Clint Morgan noticed that the special effects were uneven in quality (he has the eye for such things). But while Ant-Man is not in the class of the Avengers films or the first Iron Man film, it’s a fun diversion. It will probably fall out of your head in a day or two, but we’ll likely see sequels.

Out of the Past (1947)

To some, this Robert Mitchum/Jane Greer classic is the ultimate film noir. The new Blu-Ray version is knock-your-eyeballs-out gorgeous in its blacks and whites. The story occasionally veers into Big Sleep confusion at times, but Greer (who should have had a much bigger career) is perhaps the fatale-est of noir’s femme fatales. The film finds Mitchum relatively early in his career, when he was working harder and seemed fresher than he did later, when things got a little too stolid.

But beyond the acting and the look and the plot, this film has perhaps the best collection of hard-boiled noir lines of any film. I won’t quote any of them, so you can enjoy them all for yourself.

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Jurassic World

Jurassic World has two things going for it—state-of-the-art special effects and Chris Pratt. It’s also got a completely unoriginal plot line with cliché subplots, and is often poorly directed. And it’s the biggest moneymaker of the year, which is worth exploring for reasons outside of the purview of this blog.

This latest installment of the series is pretty much a reboot, with enough references to the original to be simultaneously cute and knowing, with little other effect. It’s essentially the first film reset into current times, but with sexual politics right out of the worst of the ‘80s.

There is nothing edgy or even fresh outside of the effects. It’s the same old story of innocents in danger, but with a little background of corporate greed. This is ironic to the max, as the film is also a first-rate example of the excesses of product placement, the extremes of which border on the absurd. The central “romance” has come under a great deal of deserved criticism, featuring the rather cold corporate female having to be “tamed” and defrosted by the rough-and-tumble male lead. There has been enough ink spilled on the ludicrousness of the female lead hiking, walking and running in her high heels; no need to beat a dead horse here.

There has also been deserved criticism of the lack of wonder in the film. This too is true, and even Spielberg’s production presence failed to provide that. Spielberg as a director knew how to bring the viewer back to the feelings of awe and surprise felt by a 10-year-old while not insulting one’s intelligence. That sense is not captured here. Director Colin Trevorrow has limited feature film experience, and it shows. Some of the early scenes are functional, with not much else. Some of the conversations, especially between Pratt and female lead Bryce Dallas Howard, are awkwardly directed, with bumpy editing and uneven conversational rhythms that were clearly not intentional.

The action scenes are more successful, and some are even beautifully timed and well executed. This is the film’s biggest strength, and obviously the factor that fills the seats. Logic needs to be suspended at times, sometimes greatly, during these scenes, especially when the people we come to care about rather magically escape harm, and when Pratt’s character can manage to ride his motorcycle smoothly through areas where dinosaurs have to jump over obstacles in their paths.

The acting, usually not a major component of the action adventure film, is run-of-the mill. The young brothers get off to a rough start (blame it on the script and director), but improve slightly throughout the film. Bryce Dallas Howard is a wildly inconsistent actress. She can nail a character sometimes and stay consistent throughout, as she did in The Help. She can also fail to locate the essence of her character and just “do her best” from scene to scene, as she does here. Her character doesn’t come off as particularly likable, which becomes more and more of a deficit as the film progresses and as she and Pratt’s character Owen supposedly grow closer. The eventual “creation of the couple” here ends up where you think it will, which is satisfying on a superficial level. But their basic incompatibility as two people casts a rather dark shadow over the pairing and its possible future.

But finally, and ultimately, there is Chris Pratt, doing a Julie Andrews in the new millennium. Her Oscar-winning Mary Poppins in 1964 was followed the next year by the juggernaut The Sound of Music, which put her stardom into the stratosphere. Pratt’s one-two punch was last year’s runaway surprise hit Guardians of the Galaxy, followed by this film. The single greatest attribute of both films is Pratt, though he is much more limited here in expression.. In GOTG, he was funny and cool in equal amounts. Here he is the traditional action hero, but is much straighter and serious. Yet his undeniable charisma and charm override the restrictions of his character, and he remains the glue—even more than the dinosaurs—that holds the films together. As has been said about only a handful of stars in the past, everyone likes him; men want to be him, or at least hang out with him, and women want to be with him.

To those who get the difference, Jurassic World is a movie, not a film. It’s escapist, mindless fare of the first order, and is therefore highly resistant to analysis and criticism. Yet that only makes it more of a challenge to try.

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New website coming next week!

My Friends:

I am launching a new website next week called “Dedicated to Grammar.” It’s for everyone, but aimed primarily at students and business professionals who want to sound and write more accurately. It’s not high-falutin’ and will be fun and easy.

Just go to dedicatedtogrammar.com and sign up for the weekly entries, which come on Tuesday. And if you want to know the play on words of the title, just click on “About.”

Thanks!

Mark DuPre

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The Garden of Allah (1936)

Such a curiosity! The film is visually stunning, stolid, lumpy and howlingly unbelievable. But it’s worth a look for several reasons.

The story is so out of our time as to be worthy of archeological study. A young woman who used to attend a convent school near Paris (Marlene Dietrich—an obvious choice for a young French student, right?) has a major attack of purposelessness and ennui and returns to the school to get some life direction. She’s told to go to the desert, an obviously common recommendation for bored young women.

At the same time, we visit a monastery that produces a fine liqueur, and we jump in right when the monk who carries the secret recipe decides to break his vows and go into the world. He ends up meeting Dietrich’s character, and they….well, you can guess.

The renegade monk is played by Charles Boyer (who at least is French), in full “Come with me to the Casbah” mode, two years before that line became famous in the film trailer for his 1938 film Algiers.

This was in the middle of the low period for Dietrich, and was one of the reasons for her inclusion on the famous “box office poison” list of 1938. Watching her is a hoot. She learned a great deal about lighting from mentor/director Joseph von Sternberg, and her input must have won the day with the cinematographer. Her face is lit up more than any other person or object in the frame, almost comically at times. Her acting isn’t good, nor particularly interesting in any fun or strange way, as it could be in her earlier films. But what a presence she is on film!

Boyer gives the stronger performance. While he is as credible as a monk as Dietrich is as a French convent girl, his scenes (mostly done in long uninterrupted takes) at least demonstrate the level of conflict and pain the man is in.

What’s missing in the film is any sense of believability in the plot, or any real connection between the two leads. Boyer’s character’s pain is internal, and Dietrich’s character is all make-up, fabulous costumes, and “look at me” lighting. It’s a fantastic study of what classic old Hollywood could be, but it doesn’t make for an engaging film.

The strongest reason for seeing it beyond its stars is its look. It was the third film done in three-strip Technicolor, and has been featured in the celebrations of the 100-year anniversary of the technology. For those who think of American Technicolor as loud and brash, this film is worth a close look. It won a special Oscar for its color cinematography. Combining that with the talents of William Cameron Menzies, art direction/production designer extraordinaire, who was listed in the credits, and you have a glorious color film that prefigures both Gone with the Wind and even Lawrence of Arabia. Menzies, of course, won a special Oscar himself three years after this film for his work on Gone with the Wind, and one can see his earlier hand here. (This year was also the year he directed the famous Things to Come, based on the H.G. Wells novel.)

The look is rich and softer than you might think. Like The Red Shoes, this Technicolor wonder shows us what Technicolor could look like, and what color films could do. For those unfamiliar with early three-strip Technicolor, or for anyone who is curious about what could be done with color cinematography, it’s a revelation. In an era of eye-popping CGI, it’s exciting to see what beauty could be achieved with what is now an older color technology. The plot may be thin, but the film is a rich panoply of images.

Note: This is one of the last films directed by Richard Boleslawski, a former actor and acting teacher (and early proponent of what became known as The Method). He had a full history of stage and screen work before dying just two months after this film was released. Just another one of those “we’ll never know” items in Hollywood history.

It was also a David O. Selznick production, and one cannot watch it now without seeing it in the light of Selznick’s production of Gone with the Wind (1939). Production values are top-notch, the look and design are beautiful, and the Oscar-nominated score was by GWTW’s Max Steiner.

One way in which this is an historical relic is the element of faith in the story. (Spoiler alert) Boris (Boyer) decides that he has broken his vow to God and decides to return to the monastery after he and Dietrich’s character get together. Not only does the film essentially agree that this is the right decision to make, Dietrich’s character, while emotionally torn, ultimately agrees with him.

Not only would such an occurrence probably never be seen in one of today’s films, but the very idea of faith would likely be ridiculed or at least lessened relative to human love. Even the Max Steiner song introduced in the film is entitled “No One But God and I Know What is in My Heart”. No irony, no condescension. While the particular religious expression is not one that I share, I can’t help but be impressed by a film that gives narrative weight to the sanctity of vows and the importance of a call from God.

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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

If you somehow managed to cross The Fault in Our Stars with Juno, you might get something like Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. That’s neither a compliment nor an insult, just something of a description.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (whose title is both somewhat misleading and possibly ungrammatical), which shall henceforth be referred to as Me and Earl, shouldn’t work, as the Young Adult story on which this is based contains characters and situations that shouldn’t quite make the transition onto the screen. Yet due to a confident directorial hand (Alfonso Gomez-Rejon) and a number of fully realized performances, the film emerges as almost real while still containing the point of view of an isolated teenage boy clearly uncomfortable in his own skin.

The “me” of the title is a rather snarky, intelligent and nearly too articulate Greg, played by Thomas Mann. Yes, he’s just a bit too literary and eloquent, but no more than the great studio actors of the 1930’s and ‘40s. But that eloquence draws us into the film and makes us care about him and track with his perspectives in a way that a quieter, cooler character wouldn’t have been able to do. Mann clearly owns this character, and could possibly one of the most talented and promising young actors around.

The “dying girl” is his equal. Rachel, played by Olivia Cooke, is first cousin to Shailene Woodley’s Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars, but Me and Earl is a different film and provides another context for a terminally sick (or is she?) young lady. Cooke, another Brit completely nailing an American accent, is the film’s anchor in reality around which Greg and Earl (RJ Cyler) can be funny and quirky without spinning out of orbit. Her performance is real enough to be accepted, yet individual enough to be intriguing as her character makes her way through the various stages of the disease and her relationship with Greg.

Earl is more of a minor character than the title implies, and while played with as much fullness as the actor can muster, is less defined and is a lighter presence than the other two. He’s mostly there as a friend who “gets” Greg and can explain him to Rachel, and as a partner in the making of their modern, low-rent versions of film classics, such as Senior Citizen Kane and Anatomy of a Burger.

As a film person, I’m probably supposed to be drawn in and at the same time either complimented by my “more than most filmgoers” knowledge of film or patronized by all the references that are supposed to get me to buy into the film more. But their crazy cinematic concoctions are more of a cute sideshow and neither shed too much light on the characters nor are delightful enough asides (such as Amélie’s fantasies were) to stand on their own.

One of the challenges of adapting a Young Adult piece of literature is how to handle the adults around you, especially when the world you’re creating is more real than, say, a Hunger Games film. The adults are looked at through the lenses of the young person/s, so they are generally shaded and a little “other.” One can describe them as slightly exaggerated on the page, and it can work as a reflection of the character’s feelings and perspectives. But then when you move to film, you have to cast a real person and direct their performances. The film generally succeeds here, but just barely.

The warm presence and subtle acting style of Connie Britton as Greg’s mother is the most successful example of an adult here. She is not quite this and too much that (and the hair!), but this most naturalistic of actresses makes us believers in what she says and does. Greg’s father, on the other hand, seems more obtuse and more of an abstraction than a real person. He becomes more of a caricature than a real human, even a human whose characterization we know is colored by Greg’s particular teenage perspectives. His strangeness and imprecision are ultimately too much for the film.

Then there is Molly Shannon as Rachel’s mother. If you had no background with Ms. Shannon, you would look at this as a fairly solid naturalistic and believable performance of a suffering mother who drinks too much and has some boundary issues (at least). But it’s a tough challenge for viewers to put aside the persona of a successful comedienne who’s created such a classic array of Saturday Night Live characters and see this character as the slightly bent mother of a seriously ill child. It’s an acting success, but one that is occasionally hard to receive from Mary Katherine Gallagher.

The smarter-than-most-of-us dialogue is not the only thing this indie film has in common with old Hollywood. Some of the scenes are one l-o-n-g shot in a style reminiscent of studio-era, dialogue-heavy films. The framing is nowhere near the same, but there is a joy in visiting characters over a longer period of time without cuts, allowing us to breathe with them, enjoy the pauses, and experience telling body language. The film always feels fresh, but obviously borrows wisely from the past.

Probably the biggest weakness of the film, and one that comes blessedly early (allowing us to forget it over time) is the initial set-up. Yes, we somehow have to get a reluctant, self-loathing, isolating male teen to aggressively push himself into the life of a reluctant sick female classmate. But the awkward way that happens is just on the edge of believability, and it takes a while for the film to recover.

Happily, it does, thanks mainly to the natural performances of its main characters. What this film has going for it—smart dialogue, characters that seem real, and a quirkiness that is self-conscious without ever alienating the audience—make this one of the “small film” joys of the year. It manages to be funny without being silly, different without being smug, and moving without being manipulative. Young filmmakers—watch and learn. Everyone else, watch and enjoy.

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Judgment at Nuremburg and A Man for All Seasons: The Cinema of Conscience

When I teach my students about editing, I make sure to point out that it has a dual power—to both contrast and compare. Classic scenes of violence cut with scenes of a holy rite (The Godfather, Part One) or violence intercut with entertainment (Cabaret) can create ripples of meaning or suggestion.

Sometimes seeing two films from the same general time period one after another can be a similarly fascinating experience. Films one may have seen before, and especially films one saw as standalone experiences, can take on a whole new set of resonances when viewed alongside another film with similar themes or concerns. The films of the title feature Oscar-winning male lead performances, and both deal with morality and conscience in ways almost completely foreign to today’s films.

The first film “re-viewed” was one that few remember, though it was nominated for 11 Oscars and won a slew of international awards for picture, director, and acting. It’s 1961’s Judgment at Nuremburg, directed by an “issues” director whose reputation is diminishing by the year—Stanley Kramer, once the torch-bearer for a kind of sincere, socially conscious cinema that is classically 20th-century liberal, and tends to come off as unsubtle and dated today.

The film is agonizingly slow—it’s a procedural, after all, always a challenge in terms of speed and energy. It covers the war crimes trials in an American court in Nuremburg of four German judges after the Second World War. Though listed fifth in the cast, Austrian Maximilian Schell won the Best Actor Oscar over his co-star Spencer Tracy for a vibrant and dynamic performance that hasn’t aged a day.

There are certain elements that one could spend many a word on: Overrated actor Burt Lancaster is miscast in a role that Laurence Olivier turned down, sadly. Richard Widmark chews as much scenery as usual. Montgomery Clift has become more of a curiosity in the film, as it demonstrates the devastating effects of his accident a few years before. But taken by itself, it’s a fine performance and one that won him his final Oscar nomination. Judy Garland brings her usual emotional intensity to a straight dramatic role, and like Clift, performs beautifully (earning her own Oscar nomination) if one can get past the fact that she is Judy Garland. Marlene Dietrich seems to step in from another world and another film generation with a look and style that tends to clash with the more modern cinematic look (oh, Marlene, your insistence on 30’s lighting!) and acting style. And yes, Star Trek and Priceline fans will enjoy a young William Shatner in an important role as well.

But what make this three-hour film still worthwhile aside from its cast is its exploration of what is moral and what isn’t. It’s a highly intellectual film, and the thought process and the development of the finely wrought final legal arguments might be challenging for current audiences generally unchallenged by mainstream American film. But the film’s payoff (spoiler alert) is well earned and powerful in its conclusion: that there are behaviors that are immoral and wrong no matter what the German judges thought themselves. “My country, right or wrong” is shot down completely. There is no respect for the current “this is my truth and you need to respect that” perspective. The judges each had “their own truth” about what they did, and the film refuses to let them get away with it.

One wonders how a modern version of the same trial might be played out today. Yes, the great Jean Renoir said, “Tout le monde a ses raisons” but that was in 1939, and that kind of insight, while powerful, wasn’t cutting it after the war. Reasons, sincerity, heartfelt convictions about national loyalty—these were dealt a death blow in the film.

It’s too bad the film is such a difficult one to trudge through these many years later. Kramer does his best with his moving camera to keep things from visually stagnating, but it’s a slow film at best. But what it does is what few films do: lay out a series of arguments, explore a wide variety of perspectives that were real and often deeply held by the film’s characters, shed light on how they could have come to these perspectives, and then still come down hard on what the film presents as a morality that transcends all those understandable feelings and viewpoints.

Most viewers would likely agree with the film’s final judgment (legally and morally), which is a sign of the film’s intelligence, tightly constructed script, and powerful final conclusions. But I wonder how difficult it would be for today’s viewers to receive a film that, finally, refuses to give place to doubt, immoral loyalty and unthinking submission and comes to such a ringing, definitive conclusion.

Just a few years after Judgment at Nuremburg came another film about conscience, A Man for All Seasons. Nominated for eight Oscars, it won six, including Best Picture, Best Director (Fred Zinneman) and Best Actor for a timeless performance by the great Paul Scofield. While Judgment was a sleek black-and-white film in something of the emerging New York style, A Man for All Seasons is a sumptuous color extravaganza in the classic “big fat film” style of the times.

It may be a film of its time, but is nowhere as dated an experience as Judgment. Scofield is a joy to watch and listen to, and Robert Shaw’s Henry VIII may well be the definitive Henry performance, even if it’s a supporting one.

What’s at stake here is another issue of right and wrong, but the film lands on the side of the place of conscience—here the conscience of Sir Thomas More, who fell on the “wrong” side of the whole King Henry/Anne Boleyn catastrophe and lost his head in the process. (For those unfamiliar with the story, More’s Catholic faith prevented him from siding with King Henry in the king’s attempts to rid himself of his first wife in hopes of marrying and producing a male heir with Anne. Henry felt he needed More’s support, which was never granted.) The film virtually overflows with hypocrites and those who seared their consciences by a little or by much, all in contrast to More.

More wasn’t eager to be a martyr, and did his lawyerly best to stay out of the fray, and is portrayed as brilliant enough to talk and reason his way out of trouble for the longest time. But eventually the new order that Henry’s lust, frustration and power grab created could no longer tolerate dissent, and More and his stand of conscience could no longer be allowed to exist.

Of course, what comprises “the other side” in these two films is vastly different. In the first, we have the Third Reich in its vicious, amoral ugliness. The “consciences” of the German judges were declared as understandable in some ways, but evil and wrong nonetheless. The latter film pitted More against a system of power-grabbers, self-servers and a powerful, charismatic leader driven nearly mad by power, uncontrolled sexual desire, and the longing for a son to succeed him.

We can’t track with the skewed consciences of the Germans in Judgment at Nuremburg because there are, the film posits, larger issues of morality that trump the validity of their positions, even though they can rightly plead that they did what they felt was right in their own eyes. One may not quite understand More’s specific points of faith in A Man for All Seasons, but the film presents him as a brilliant paragon of intellectual consistency and virtue. We admire both the logic and the ethics of a man who gives himself no wiggle room in either area, even if it leads him to death as he nevertheless strives in every way he can to survive.

As a former Catholic, I understand where More is coming from theologically, and while I can no longer find myself agreeing with his allegiance to Rome, he is nothing if not a rigorous thinker and a model of living by one’s conscience. The film makes us side with him not only because of the rampant self-serving intrigue swirling darkly about him, and because Henry is so obviously wrong in many ways, but because we admire “a righteous man who swears to his own hurt.”

(Comparing this film to the recent British miniseries Wolf Hall is an exercise for another day, but suffice it to say that it is a superb companion piece ideologically and historically for that more modern take on the whole situation. Wolf Hall focuses on Thomas Cromwell, and demonizes More in the process.)

There are modern films that make us think, of course, even in America. Christopher Nolan is nothing if not a deep thinker, for example. But it seems as if films that come down definitively on issues of conscience and morality, proclaiming a clear right and a clear wrong, are at the moment, artifacts of a previous generation. Few would argue with these films’ conclusions in these areas, of course. And there are films that include a strong perspective on what they perceive as right and wrong as a part of their story. But these two films are ultimately about the whole issue of what is right and what is wrong, and both deal with both the inviolability and, in contrast, the limitations of conscience. As challenging as it may be for young and/or modern viewers to sit through these films, they are both grist for the mill of deep, intellectual conversation and debate.

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