Tag: Irrfan Khan

Jurassic World (2015)

Chris Pratt rides into action with a pack of velociraptors – it could only be Jurassic World

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Cast: Chris Pratt (Owen Grady), Bryce Dallas Howard (Claire Dearing), Vincent D’Onofrio (Vic Hoskins), Ty Simpkins (Gray Mitchell), Nick Robinson (Zach Mitchell). Omar Sy (Barry), BD Wong (Dr Henry Wu), Irrfan Khan (Simon Masrani), Jake Johnson (Lowery Cruthers), Lauren Lapkus (Vivian), Katie McGrath (Zara), Judy Greer (Karen Mitchell), Andy Buckley (Scott Mitchell)

When I was younger, the most exciting film ever was Jurassic Park. Imagine the thrill of a 12-year-old who loved dinosaurs, seeing these mighty beasts on the big screen. I collected all the stickers, and read the books (not the same as the movie – boo) and everything. In this (but nothing else) I seem to be quite similar to Chris Pratt, who described Jurassic Park as “his Star Wars”. So it’s nice to think I have a kindred spirit in this hugely entertaining, exciting and fun spin-off.

Set in the modern day, the old site of Jurassic Park has been turned into a hugely successful theme park, entertaining hundreds of thousands of guests a year. Two brothers, Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) visit the park, where their aunt Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the operations manager. The park has plans to launch its new attraction – a genetically engineered super dinosaur called Indominus Rex. Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a former Navy Seal who has been working on training the park’s velociraptors to obey commands, is called in to consult on the animal – only for it to escape and to begin to unleash bloody havoc on the island.

The sheer joy of Jurassic World is its familiarity and its freshness. The escape of the Indominus – and the rampage of chaos that follows – is of course completely expected, but the film tells all this with enough wit and wry tongue-in-cheekness that it completely works. It’s a film that wants to entertain and to give you a fun night out in the cinema, but is also happy to present its action and thrills with an honest, old-fashioned joy. It’s even willing to show a bit of restraint – the opening 20-30 minutes of the film largely set out what an amazing place to visit Jurassic World would be.

That’s the trick to the film – it reintroduces that sense of wonder. The film manages to feel very Spielbergian – the slow-build, the clash between the big corporations and the individualist who knows best, the kids as POV characters, the soaring visuals and delight in seeing these marvellous things brought to life – it’s all there. Trevorrow even thows in moments of genuine sadness (helped by the Williamesque score that riffs on the original theme) as the characters look out on a field of slaughtered dinosaurs from the Indominus. The film sets out to remind you why millions of people loved the first film, by letting the film-makers’ own love of that film shine through.

It’s also got quite a neat meta-twist on blockbuster films. The first 20 minutes has several conversations from the park’s suits about how just creating dinosaurs “isn’t exciting enough anymore” – the Indominus being created to make a dinosaur bigger, better, fiercer than ever before. Could this be any more blatant a comment on the arms race of blockbuster films? It’s also a neat continuation of ideas from the very first film: they were so pleased about being able to make something, they didn’t stop to think if they should.

But all this meta commentary (the park itself is an explosion of product placement, including actual Jurassic Park merchandise) doesn’t get in the way of a darn good yarn. And turning the Indominus into a deluxe killing machine – it’s so twisted by years in solitude it basically kills everything it sees – makes it the best villain the series may have had. Of course not only the Indominus chalks up kills – plenty of other dinos get a look in, and one character in particular gets a death scene so completely over-the-top you can’t help but laugh a little (if rather guiltily).

So you can see why rent-a-baddie Vic Hoskins from corporateville wants Owen Grady to send in his velociraptors to take it out. The series’ longstanding terror figures are reimagined here as hazy allies – and seeing Chris Pratt (respectfully) give them commands and pet them immediately establishes his cool credentials. Grady takes on the role of the man humble before nature – he stresses he doesn’t control the raptors, it’s a relationship of mutual respect – as well as being the sort of kick-ass alpha male that Harrison Ford would have played in his prime.

Pratt is pretty damn good in the film – the perfect guy to root for – and the velociraptor action is undeniably cool. Bryce Dallas Howard has a rather thankless part as his uptight love interest (and yes she wears those shoes for the whole film) but she does play the part with a certain wit. Simpkins and Robinson are very good as kids you end up rooting for rather than hating. Most of the rest of the cast fit neatly into deserving dino-fodder or otherwise (and by-and-large meet the expected fates), but Wong is good as a sinister Dr Wu, and Johnson and Lapkus give some good comic relief (including one laugh out loud moment) as technicians.

Jurassic World is such great fun from start to finish I can more or less overlook its flaws. Sure its dialogue is sometimes clunky. Sure logic often goes out of the window. Sure Iffran Khan’s character fluctuates so wildly (one minute he’s a “let’s just have fun” guy the next he’s a “bottom dollar is God” CEO) that you can tell it was probably changed in reshoots after feedback. D’Onofrio’s villain is so straight forward you’ve seen him dozens of times. The film is, at heart, an episodic series of clashes between Indominusand a range of adversaries.

But it doesn’t matter because it is a film that understands – and can speak – the language of movie magic. That can mix thrills with awe. That knows the key to your heart is not offering you bigger bangs, but in working hard to give you characters you care about. It’s a film made by people who loved the first movie but – and this is so rare – also understood what made the first film so good. And who can resist cheering the final few moments as a half-team of dinosaurs and humans take on the Indominus for final showdown? It’s a perfect Spielbergian rollercoaster ride and I’ve seen it dozens of times and I love it. It’s one of my ultimate guilty pleasures.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Dev Patel is the Chaiwala living the dream in Slumdog Millionaire

Director: Danny Boyle

Cast: Dev Patel (Jamal Malik), Freida Pinto (Latika), Madhur Mittal (Salim), Anil Kapoor (Prem Kumar), Irrfan Khan (Inspector), Ayush Mahesh Khedehar (Jamal [Child]), Tanay Chheda (Jamal [Teenager]), Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail (Salim [Child]), Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala (Salim [Teenager]), Runbina Ali (Latika [Child]), Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar (Latika [Teenager]), Saurabh Shukla (Constable Srinivsas), Mahesh Manjrekar (Javred), Ankur Vikal (Maman)

Re-watching Slumdog Millionaire, it’s surprising to think that back in 2008 this film was so garlanded with awards (EIGHT Oscars!) and heralded so quickly as a classic. While it’s a well-made and at times rather sweet (with a hard-edge) fable, it’s also seems slightly less unique and genre-defying than first appeared. Never mind a list of the greatest Best Picture winners, I’m not even sure it’s the greatest Danny Boyle movie. But saying this, it’s still a fine movie – and one I arguably enjoyed more re-watching it almost ten years on then when I saw it in the cinema.

Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) is an eighteen year-old Muslim, a chaiwala working in a Mumbai call centre. He enters the Indian Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, hosted by egotistical Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor), and to the astonishment of everyone is one question away from the ultimate prize of 20 million rubles. Arrested by the police and questioned before his final show, he explains via flashbacks how his experiences allowed him to answer each question. His life-story is one of danger and conflict in the slums and criminal underworld of India, tied closely to his brother Salim (Madhur Mittal) and their childhood friend Latika (Frieda Pinto), whom Jamal has loved his whole life.

Part social-realist tale, romance, family drama and fairy-tale, Slumdog’s main triumph is probably its ability to juggle half a dozen tones and genres so successfully. This is most strikingly demonstrated by fact that so many came out of a film that opens with its lead character being waterboarded and tortured by policemen, saying it was a brilliant feel-good movie! In fact, Boyle’s film is far more complex, touching on themes ranging from child exploitation and prostitution to gangland politics to social corruption, via murder, betrayal and mutilation. How does this a film crammed with this sort of material make you feel rather positive at the end?

Boyle’s, and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy’s, trick is to follow in the footsteps of that other great juggler of urban social comment and larger-than-life characters – Charles Dickens. Dickensian is perhaps the best word to describe Slumdog – it throws the viewer into the slums of Mumbai, glancing at this world with all the keen social commentary Dickens used to bring to Victorian London. As young children, Jamal and Salim are thrown in with a Fagin-like gang boss, while Latika develops an (admittedly much more gentle) Estelle-like connection with them both. Like David Copperfield, our hero moves from place to place (or frying pan to fire!), with an episodic charm, each event adding to the spectrum of his life. It works really well as it taps into a reassuringly familiar story structure that makes us feel narratively safe, no matter how much peril our heroes undergo.

What’s fascinating is placing this familiar material into (for us) a more exotic location. I suspect many American viewers watching were even less familiar with India as such a mixture of extreme wealth and poverty sit side-by-side so naturally (and again how Dickensian does that sound?). Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematography is astounding for its energetic immersion in the streets of Mumbai –it’s like an explosion of Boyle’s high-octane, camera-shaking style seen in so many of his other films. It not only makes the film feel fresh and vital, it also manages to present India as something very different for those only familiar with the country as a Taj Mahal postcard.

The most compelling parts of the film are those in the first half that throw us into the Mumbai of Jamal and Salim’s childhood. Helped immensely by six terrific performances from the child and teenager versions of our three leads, these sequences (just over the first half of the movie) immediately involve the viewer in the fates and feelings of these characters. Perhaps because the film is shot in such an immersive style, you feel as if you have experienced the dangers (and occasional joys) alongside them, and developed a close bond with them. 

Despite the romantic plot of the movie, the true story is the jagged relationship, with its loyalties and betrayals, between the innocent, gentle dreamer Jamal and the more ruthless, realist Salim. The film charts the lengths they will go to protect and help each other – or sometimes in Salim’s case not. Salim is a fascinating character – easily the deepest, most conflicted of the three – who even as a child has a moral flexibility, happy to gain the benefits of a ruthless criminal lifestyle, while still having enough conscience to know what he has done with his life is wrong.

In contrast, the relationship between Latika and Jamal is far less complex. Frieda Pinto doesn’t actually appear until almost two thirds of the way into the movie – and she and Patel have only really one dialogue scene together to establish a romantic link. The romance between them is in fact the standard fairy-tale – two young friends as children who become unknowing sweethearts. The film relies on us being invested in their fates as children to want to be together, rather than building a link between two grown adults. This is the structure of a Prince Charming and a Princess in distress rather than grown-up storytelling – but it clearly works because it taps into our own fundamental first experiences of how stories work.

Dev Patel is a very sweet and highly engaging lead – and how could we not be immediately on the side of a pleasant, gentle young man whom we first see hanging from a ceiling with electrodes on his feet? Patel has a low-key decency about him that becomes more engaging the more you watch the film. Since most of his narrative function is to offer linking scenes to the far more dynamic and exciting flashbacks – and since the character of Jamal has very little real depth to him beyond “he’s a good guy” (again like a fairytale his innocence is untouched by events) – it’s quite a testament to his performance that you end up feeling as close to him as you do.

But it’s clear to me second time around the framing device of the Who Wants to be a Millionaire contest is the most disposable, and least interesting part of the movie. It does have the film’s most outright enjoyable adult performance, a swaggering, ego-filled turn from Amil Kapoor, but it’s still all much more predictable, obvious and functional than the adventures we see as our characters grow up. We know Jamal is going to keep getting things right (and thank goodness each question he answers, he learned the answers consecutively through his life! What a mess that might have been otherwise narratively!), so the fact that Boyle keeps what is essentially the same scene each time seeming interesting is quite something.


The gameshow however is the “quest” of this romantic fairy-tale. And fairy-tale is really what the film is: Jamal is there to try and find and save Latika. So in the end it doesn’t really matter that Latika hardly feels like a character, or that we’ve been given no real reason to think she and Jamal are in love other than the film telling us that they are, or that the plot of the film is really as flimsy as tissue paper. The film is a dream, a romantic fable. The genius of Boyle is to use a whole load of familiar, Dickenisan-style tropes to place this into a social-realist travelogue, a dynamite dance of flamboyant film-making techniques. So perhaps that is the point about Slumdog: on repeated viewings, like fairy-tales, its plot tricks and narrative sleight-of-hand become more obvious. But you get more of a respect for the confidence with which the trick is played.