Arctic, Roman Holiday, Titanic, and Nostromo – Four short reviews

Time for some more bite-sized movie reviews…two 1953 classics, one costume drama, and one survival drama!

Arctic (2019)

Plot

Mads Mikkelsen plays Overgård, the lone survivor of a plane wreck in the Arctic.  He spends his days in tedium, catching fish (which he eats raw) and sending out hand-cranked radio signals in hopes they’ll get picked up. When the rescue team he has been waiting for finally arrives, their helicopter crashes, and he is left suddenly tending to another survivor, a young woman with terrible injuries.  Overgård resolves to set out on foot for the nearest outpost, to try to save both their lives.

Thoughts

The trailer pulled me in many months ago…later I discovered it on Prime, and I’m glad I finally saw it.  Polar exploration nerds will soak in the stunning cinematography, filmed in Iceland (no CGI snowcapes here!), plus the human drama surrounding Mikkelsen’s character.  In spite of the plot’s simplicity, there is plenty of suspense, all the more unsettling in its realism.  It’s not all action-adventure, either – the psychology of loneliness and survival instincts play a central part, leaving you questioning what you would do in the same situation.

If I could think of one criticism, I would have liked to see more dialogue, even if it’s just Overgård talking to himself.  There was such an absence of verbal thought process, my mom and I started giving him advice as the movie went on, much to my brother’s exasperation…  Other than that, this is a pretty solid movie and good for older families (one instance of the f-bomb and some medical gore; otherwise family friendly).

Roman Holiday (1953)

Plot

Born into a life of duty, Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) has become fed up with her rigid schedule of royal visits, boring dinners, and meaningless speeches.  She suffers a near-mental breakdown in Rome and, to everyone’s horror, goes missing.  Journalist Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) finds her sleeping on the sidewalk incognito and the next day promises to give her the best holiday of her life, seeing the sights in Rome like any ordinary person.  Ann jumps at the chance, not realizing that Bradley has recognized her and is scheming to profit from the great story it will make.

Thoughts

It’s easy to see why Roman Holiday is a classic – it’s a kind of reverse-Cinderella story, with a wonderful 50s aesthetic and innocence, and even more anguish. I was going through some emotional stuff before I started it, so by halfway I was bawling.  The plot doesn’t end well, at least from my perspective, although it could be argued it is a “good” ending. Overall, I thought it was a good movie, and I was happy to see my actor crush Gregory Peck in another fascinating role, even if his character was a bit of a jerk. 

Titanic (1953)

(Yeah, not that Titanic. :))

Plot

Like the more famous 90s film, Titanic (1953) focuses on human relationships playing out on the last days of the vessel.  Young love takes back burner here, however, as the main focus is a breakup between a married couple and its effects on their children. A host of supporting characters portray the diversity of the passengers on board, from a Basque mother to a drunken ex-priest, all unknowingly about to share one terrible experience in common.

Thoughts

This was the first serious attempt at a Titanic film, told through a personal drama and following main points of accuracy.  I thought it was a mostly well-crafted film.  I don’t personally care for Downton Abbey-esque drama, which this is, but if you like that, then you will appreciate the story.  I can’t compare it with the Jack and Rose romance, because I’ve never seen that one; if I were to guess, I’d say a shipwrecked marriage is a better analogy to fit the events.  On a side note, I was happy to see Richard Basehart, AKA Ishmael from Moby-Dick, as the priest, whose character was very compelling and ought to have had more development.

Nostromo (1996)

To my great amazement, it turns out BBC and Masterpiece Theatre released a 3-part series of Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo back in the glorious 90s.  It’s not available on DVD, and only second-hand on VHS.  Somebody very kindly uploaded it onto YouTube, which is how I watched it.  (It reminded me, too, how much I miss Russell Baker’s intros.)

The plot follows the book very closely.  It starts out with a flashback to the death of Charles’s father, then covers all three parts of the book. Colin Firth and Albert Finney look nothing like I pictured Charles Gould and the doctor (respectively), but they are both excellent in their roles. Some reviewers felt the casting of Antonia and Martin was poor; personally, I thought Martin was well cast – his downward spiral was very convincing. There were some grim and violent scenes, but even as a squeamish viewer I thought it stayed within the realm of PG-13. I loved the music, costumes, and landscapes/sets; no CGI here!

My parents and brother were unfamiliar with the story but they also enjoyed it.  My dad thought it was a bit hard to follow in places and the script could have been stronger, and I think the main weakness of the adaptation is its length – it was too short.  For more organic dialogue, and without cutting scenes, you need more time.  The last episode was probably the strongest and led to some discussion among us afterwards.

Overall, a surprisingly good adaptation of a Conrad novel – true to plot, setting, and spirit.  I would watch it again!

4 thoughts on “Arctic, Roman Holiday, Titanic, and Nostromo – Four short reviews

  1. I did not know that Nostromo was ever adapted to film. I will give that a look on YouTube. I thought that the 1953 Titanic film was weak. I may be in the minority, but I thought the 1997 film was good but overrated. If you have not seen it, I thought that 1958’s A Night to Remember was outstanding and by far the best Titanic movie. It entirely consisted of supposed true incidents. It was based on Walter Lord’s non fiction book of the same name which I also thought was excellent.

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  2. @Mudpuddle – Nice… I'm jealous of anyone who got to see these older films on the big screen! :)@Brian – Thanks for recommendation, I'll check that one out from the library!@Cleo – My two Conrad \”starter books\” would probably be Heart of Darkness and The Shadow-Line. They're both short and, IMO, some of his best writing.

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