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Film Review: Iron Man 3

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Following the events in New York (as seen in The Avengers) Tony Stark is having trouble sleeping. However, when a new foe enters the fray in the form of global terrorist The Mandarin, he must put his anxieties to one side to protect those closest to him.

Some people loved The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble here in the UK) whilst others hated it. No matter how you felt about it, it can’t be denied that it was Marvel’s biggest movie to date, and so it was always going to be a pretty daunting task to follow it up. Fortunately, the task fell to Iron Man and Robert Downey Jr, probably the most enigmatic and popular of the Avengers crew.

Iron Man 3 also sees Shane Black brought in as writer/director in place of Jon Favreau (who still keeps his role has Tony Stark’s muscle Happy Hogan) and he’s done a decent job of building upon the previous two films. Iron Man 3 rattles along at a fair old pace as you’d expect from a Marvel superhero flick, although it does take more time to focus on the man inside the tin can. Here we see more of Stark the man and the film is richer for it; part of what makes the franchise so appealing is Stark’s witty dialogue and there’s plenty of that on show here.

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Now, the Mandarin. I’m no comic book fanboy but I understand that the Mandarin is kind of a big deal. A lot of people were very excited to have him in the film, and, without giving anything away, the direction in which the character has been taken is likely to prove hugely contentious. It’s a bold move and there’ll be some who like it, but there’ll be plenty who are downright outraged. In terms of the narrative, the character works reasonably well although your enjoyment of the film could well depend on your expectations of how the Mandarin will be handled.

Iron Man 3’s other villain is Aldrich Killian played by Guy Pearce. Killian has developed a drug/treatment thing called Extremis (also apparently a big deal in the comics) that can regenerate limbs and also cause the recipient to raise their body temperature to dangerous levels. Killian starts the film as a relatively minor character but gets more and more important as the film goes on. Unfortunately, the character isn’t nearly as interesting as the Mandarin, which when you see where the plot goes, makes the film all the weaker. It’s also not 100% clear as to Killian’s motives, which can make it a little confusing as to the actual point of the whole film.

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There are various other smaller story arcs going on throughout the film, some of which are significantly more successful than others. Stark’s beau Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) gets a much more developed role and the introduction of a kid sidekick for Stark is nowhere near as annoying as it could have been. There is also a rather malnourished side plot revolving around the Vice President and his daughter which could have been pretty interesting had it been fleshed out a little more.

Iron Man 3 may be a little shallow but it’s also a lot of fun. Tonally it sits somewhere between the lighthearted feel of The Avengers and the grittier world of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy but it’s difficult to say it can be held in as high regard as either. However, should this the last in the Iron Man franchise, which it could well be, it’s still a decent note to go out on.

3 and a half pigeons

3.5/5 pigeons

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Film review: The Guard

The GuardThe Guard is a film that really should have attracted more attention. With very little hype surrounding it, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s no more than a throwaway film featuring no-one of note. However, when you find out that it is written by John Michael McDonagh, brother of Martin McDonagh (writer and director of the acclaimed In Bruges), and features stars such as Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle and Mark Strong, you may be surprised the film didn’t garner a little more exposure.

The film sees the unorthodox Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Gleeson) team up with ‘do-it-by-the-book’ FBI agent Wendell Everett (Cheadle) to tackle a drug trafficking ring that has chosen the unusual location of Ireland’s County Galway as its smuggling point. Those are the bare bones of the story but that’s pretty much all you need to get going. There are, of course, other plot points going on, but the basic premise is a very simple one.

To be honest, the story isn’t The Guard’s strong point. The whole ‘straight guy gets teamed up with maverick, they don’t get on but find a mutual respect for each other to fight a common enemy’ sub-genre is pretty specific, but has nonetheless been done countless times before. However, The Guard manages to stand out from others in this area, partly thanks to the film’s location and partly thanks to its excellent script.

First of all, the location. The area of Connemara on Ireland’s west coast hasn’t been the setting for many big films and, to be frank, it’s not hard to see why – there’s just nothing much there. Set most other films there and they’ll disappear into dreariness, but set a dark comedy filled with drug smuggling, grizzly murders, wild shoot outs and prostitute threesomes in the picturesque but somewhat dreary locale and it turns out to be a masterstroke. The counterpoint of the film’s subject matter against the Gaeltacht backdrop is something that really sets the film apart.

Gerry Boyle and one of his favourite hobbiesThe script also helps to give the film its unique voice. It’s clear that writer John Michael McDonagh is from the same writing mould as his brother as the dialogue is very reminiscent of In Bruges, and it wouldn’t be too difficult to imagine some sort of collaboration had occurred between the two. The script is packed full of quotable one-liners and witty interchanges between characters that help turn a pretty standard story into something much more memorable. There are plenty of sharp exchanges, especially involving the three drug smugglers, with Mark Strong’s Clive particularly good.

However, it’s Brendan Gleeson’s Gerry Boyle that is the film’s driving force and, as you’d expect, it’s he who gets most of the best moments. With a weakness for prostitutes (two at a time) and happy to take a tab of LSD from a fresh corpse, Boyle likes to do things a little differently but is nonetheless passionate about catching the bad guys and saving the day. From his casual racism to his insistence he was an Olympic swimmer, Boyle is somewhat of an enigmatic character and one that everyone seems to abhor and adore in equal measure. Despite his don’t-give-a-shit attitude, we are also allowed to see Boyle’s more human side as he cares for his terminally ill mother. This doesn’t really do much to further the story in any way, but it’s nice to see the other side to Boyle’s character.

The film’s western-inspired finale gives the film a fitting ending and is a lesson in how to do an open ending with just the right amount of closure but enough of a chance for the audience to draw their own conclusions. The Guard isn’t a film that is going to revolutionise a genre, but it is one that can stand proudly amongst other similar films. The witty script, unique location and diverse characters all combine together to help a film succeed where it may otherwise have paled into mediocrity.

Words: Chris Thomson

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