Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Anytime Movies Reloaded: Edge of Darkness

It's Spring-Break for me. Times are busy. The Summer Movie Season is already begun (and I'll be writing about the new ones) and the Film Festivals are grinding away like creaky mills separating wheat from chaff. It's as good a time as any to re-boot a feature I started years ago, when it was suggested I do a "Top Ten" List.

I don't like those: they're rather arbitrary; they pit films against each other, and there's always one or two that should be on the list that aren't because something better shoved it down the trash-bin.

So, I came up with this: "Anytime" Movies.

Anytime Movies are the movies I can watch anytime, anywhere. If I see a second of it, I can identify it. If it shows up on television, my attention is focused on it until the conclusion. Sometimes it’s the direction, sometimes it’s the writing, sometimes it’s the acting, sometimes it’s just the idea behind it, but these are the movies I can watch again and again (and again!) and never tire of them. There are ten (kinda). They're not in any particular order, but the #1 movie IS the #1 movie. And we begin in as contrary a way as possible—so as to avoid any comparison to a "Top Ten." This one is a bonus. And that's not all:

What the hell is this? It’s not a classic movie!

Oh, it’s worse than that! It’s not even a movie! It’s a British mini-series.

Okay, so what’s so special about it that it squeezes into the “Wild Card” position of the “Anytime Movies” list over, say, “
Casablanca” or “Gone With the Wind,” or your favorite film?

1. It’s a police procedural, as steeped in the gritty realism of shabby interrogation rooms and bad neon-tube-lighting as “
NYPD Blue” or “Prime Suspect.”

2. It’s a spy story, with rogue undercover operatives (particularly an eccentric CIA operative by the name of Darius Jedburgh, played in the performance of his career by Joe Don Baker), chases (two stand out--an edge-of-your-seat hacking exercise, and another through an abandoned nuclear facility) and intrigue on the part of goverment, and commerce.

3. It’s a political thriller, with investigations into government corruption and collaboration with a privatized nuclear industry, that involves Union-busting, suppression of environmental groups, and murder.

4. It’s a revenge story, as a police investigator attempts to find who murdered his daughter...or was the bullet meant for him?.

5. It’s a ghost story, as she keeps coming back to advise and inspire her father’s efforts, as he sinks deeper and deeper into an ever-expanding investigation, that he is being encouraged to abandon.

6. It’s a psychological thriller—because maybe she isn’t really there, and is just a figment of his severe grief.

7. It’s a black comedy—it has some of the most absurd sequences ever put to film (a sumptuous dinner in an underground "hot" room), and some of the funniest lines ("He's in the field," but you have to be there).

8. On top of that, it’s a story of myth, although grounded in reality, for, impossibly, one of the main protagonists (and an alarming participant) would appear to be the Earth goddess, Gaea.

9. It has one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, by the hawk-faced Bob Peck (you might remember him as the big game hunter Muldoon in “Jurassic Park.” You don’t? One line: “Clever girl…” Now you know him)

10. It crosses genres, and expectations and always keeps you guessing not only what will happen next, but what COULD happen next. It seems to revel in going 90° from normal at every juncture. It is truly a thrilling film.

11. It has one of the most down-beat endings ever put to film. But it’s okay—it's assured the bad guys will lose. The Good Earth will win.

Sad to say, there’s no DVD release of this thing in the U.S., although it has been released in Britain. For all the crap out there that has been “digitally mastered,” there evidently is no room for this rough little gem of a movie despite its pedigree of being directed by Martin Campbell, director of two James Bond movies and the two Antonio Banderas Zorro films. One should also make note of the exceptional Troy Kennedy-Martin screenplay, and the music by the late Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton. Peck is gone now, as well, and it would have been nice to see him in other things, so good is he in this. But it’s another in a long string of sad eventualities for this odd, crazy, thrilling piece of film-making.

You gotta love the British. We could never do this in the States.

They deserve the Falklands.

Craven (Bob Peck) finds a gun in his daughter's teddy-bear.

Update: Not precisely true, now. Martin Campbell, the mini-series' original director has long held a dream of making a feature of this, and what with his industry power from directing the two best James Bond films of the past twenty years and a studio film being made of the Brit-series "State of Play," Gaea seemed to be in alignment for this. The film version will be released this year under the same title, starring Mel Gibson and Ray Winstone (replacing Robert DeNiro, who walked off-set over "creative differences"-meaning the famous method actor failed to learn how to chip a golf-ball out of a sand-trap for the role!) Fellow fans are aghast that this is being attempted, and seeing how there is STILL no DVD release of this excellent production, there is fear that this will replace the original and we'll never get to see it released. On the other hand, this may force whoever's holding it up to release the original in order to confuse the DVD-buying consumer. That's how it works.

At any rate, it should be seen.

Northmoor - a site dedicated to "Edge of Darkness"

"Edge of Darkness" at the IMDB

Bonus: Edge of Darkness

Tomorrow: Another British film with nuclear concerns, but a bit lighter in tone.

No comments: