Tag Archives: Mads Mikkelsen

Doctor Strange (2016)

Not quite sure how it is possible that I watched Doctor Strange when it first came out but have been too busy to get around to the review until now. Luckily, I have a good memory when it comes to movies (terrible memory for everything else).

The latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was considered a risky one because of the relatively unknown character and all the mystical mumbo jumbo the studio feared could turn people off. Further, it’s directed by Scott Derrickson, whose most notable films up to that point were Sinister, The Day the Earth Stood Still and Deliver Us from Evil. And on top of that, some people lost their PC minds and accused Marvel/Disney of whitewashing when Tilda Swinton was cast as the Ancient One.

Of course, all fears were unfounded. This is the Marvel juggernaut we’re talking about! After so many incredibly successful films, Marvel has figured out the winning formula that continues to elude DC. It’s all about fun, excitement, spectacle and giving audiences a great time at the cinema. Doctor Strange is no different.

Benedict Cumberbatch is perfectly cast as Dr Stephen Strange, a brilliant neurosurgeon who is, frankly, a bit of a dick at the start of the movie, especially to his colleague and ex, Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). Following a devastating accident, Strange embarks on a journey of healing and character development through learning the mystic arts in a place called Kamar-Taj from the Ancient One, a beautifully bald Tilda Swinton. It’s very important, because a traitor by the name of Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) is hell bent on at wreaking havoc on the world.

Doctor Strange is a great example of how to execute a superhero origins story. You get a clear idea of who the character is at the start of the film and follow them on their journey to becoming who they are destined to be. The technical stuff is explained in a simple and understandable way that doesn’t get bogged down in the details. The training sequences are interesting and packed with out action so as to not be too boring, and our hero isn’t too powerful right out of the gate because he needs room to grow. There are good laughs along the way and the action is creative, inventive and spectacularly choreographed.

What sets Doctor Strange apart from the previous Marvel films is the psychedelic, mesmerising visuals and special effects. If you’ve seen the trailers you’ll know there’s all that world-folding and morphing stuff that feels like Inception on steroids. And it’s not merely eye-candy either, as the ever-shifting worlds and parallel universes blend in seamlessly with the action and the storyline.

The cast is easily one of the best in the Marvel franchise, with established names and Oscar nominees galore. As I said already, Benedict Cumberbatch was perfectly cast, exuding the initial arrogance and the later shift in his character wonderfully, without taking himself too seriously or coming across as too goofy. Rachel McAdams redeems herself from Southpaw and really adds to her character, while you can never go wrong with Mads Mikkelsen in any role. His villain is admittedly a little weak, as are most Marvel villains, though he does the best he could with the material he’s been given. Stealing the show are Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One (laying to rest some of the whitewashing complaints) and Benedict Wong as…Wong, a master of the mystic arts who protects their secret books and relics. On the other hand, I personally thought Oscar-nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor overcooked his performance as fellow mystic warrior Karl Mordo. It’s good to show some emotion, but there wasn’t any need for 12 Years a Slave emotion in a Marvel movie.

On the whole, I really enjoyed Doctor Strange, though I certainly wouldn’t put it near the top of the Marvel films to date. Great cast, solid execution, nice action, and a visual feast at times, but nothing really extraordinary to elevate it to the level of the top solo films of the main Avengers (I’m talking Iron Man, Winter Soldier, Civil War, etc). The final confrontation was also somewhat anti-climatic. I’d put Doctor Strange at around the same level as Ant-Man — ie, a second-tier Marvel film but great popcorn fun nonetheless.

3.75 stars out of 5

PS: Apparently, Doctor Strange will make an appearance in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok.

Movie Review: The Salvation (2014)

salvation

After Hannibal, it’s difficult to watch great Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen these days without thinking that he’ll start eating everyone on screen. But such is his awesomeness that I almost forgot this when I saw him in The Salvation, a good, old-fashioned Western about a man’s quest for vengeance.

Directed and co-written by Danish filmmaker Kristian Levring, The Salvation tells the simple story of two Danish brothers who immigrate to the US in search of a better life. Seven years later, Jon (Mads — what an awesome name) finally brings his young son and wife to the country, but a stroke of fate ends up shattering his Amercian Dream. What follows is a brutal tale of revenge that will bring Jon face-to-face with a notorious gang leader played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and his damaged sister-in-law, played by Eva Green.

There’s not much to The Salvation in terms of plot or character development, but that doesn’t stop it from being a highly watchable film. That said, while I was expecting a violent rampage like Taken, The Salvation actually has more depth than that. It’s one of those films where you have to keep watching the protagonist suffer — whether it is pain, loss or injustice — with the unspoken promise that he’ll eventually turn things around in the end and get his “salvation.”

It’s far from an original concept, though when executed well it can still be darn entertaining. The Salvation succeeds in doing that thanks to the aesthetically pleasing cinematography (certain scenes look like paintings), the grounded direction of Levring, and of course Mads’ mad performance (I’ve always wanted to say that). Keeping in mind that he’s an immigrant in 1870’s America, Jon is a man of few words and expressions, but you can sense his pain beneath the stoic surface because that’s the type of nuance Mads can deliver.

Notwithstanding that there was less action — especially less stylised action — than I had anticipated (not to mention less cannibalism), The Salvation is a gripping and satisfying Western fuelled by a master performer at the peak of his powers.

3.75 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (2009)

I just saw an advanced screening of Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (advanced for where I’m from, anyway), an erotically charged French drama directed by Jan Kounen.  It’s based on the book “Coco & Igor” by Chris Greenhalgh, which chronicled the relationship between fashion icon Coco Chanel and married Russian composer Igor Stravinsky in turbulent 1920s Paris.

(This film is not to be confused with Coco avant Chanel, the Anne Fontaine film released around the same time starring Audrey Tautou (which I haven’t seen).)

I must admit, I did not have very high expectations for the film, because I usually don’t have a thing for relationship-based dramas set in the past (though there have been a few exceptions).  And I suppose those low expectations were somewhat justified in the end.

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky is a finely crafted film.  You can tell director Jan Kounen has skill, and everything from the classical music to the meticulous sets to the costumes were all first rate.  The performances were also terrific, with Mads Mikkelsen (he was the villain in Casino Royale and is also in Clash of the Titans!) as the tortured genius Igor and Anna Mouglalis (French actress and Chanel “muse” who does promotion for the brand) as Coco.  Mouglalis in particular was amazing.  I didn’t know much about Coco Chanel, but it feels like Mouglalis really brought her to life, from her voice and demeanor to that high-powered “cold hard bitch” vibe she exudes so effortlessly.

However, while the film is well made, there’s really not a whole of lot of substance.  Given the title, there is a certain inevitability throughout, and the film progresses like a slow-moving train wreck.  You know what’s going to happen and accordingly there’s not a lot of excitement.  The sexual tension and family turmoil is there, so it kept me from switching off completely, but the story simply isn’t compelling enough to make me want to keep watching.

It was also very difficult to connect with these two “titans” of their respective arts.  Neither are very likable, so it was hard to care about what happens to them.  Consequently, the ending, which I think was intended to be emotionally powerful, didn’t work at all for me.

So yes, a good effort, but not enough to be entertaining or emotionally engaging.

2.5 stars out of 5