Category Archives: movie review

Movie Review: How John Huston Killed the Biblical Epic

 

 

It was the age of the epics. Movies that lasted four hours shown in 3,000 seat movie palaces with screens so big you had to sit at least ten rows back to see the whole picture. The movies were usually based on bible stories or stories that were improbably associated with the bible. “El Cid” wasn’t a bible story, but  it was about religious wars, and neither was “Cleopatra,”  but it had Romans and  Egyptians and a story that wasn’t far removed from David and Bathsheba.  At least it seemed that way to an twelve year old kid who had to lie his way past  the censorious box-office girl who insisted that the movie was not for kids although there were no “Adults Only!” signs in the foyer. You have probably seen these movies on television back in the days before cable delivered high definition pictures, or you might have seen some of them more recently on a Blu-ray that looked gorgeous even though it completely misrepresented the original colors and textures of the 35 or 70 mm original theatrical prints.  There is no way to recapture the experience of seeing an epic movie in a 3,000 seat movie palace in the years 1949-1961.  You had to have been there.

I only caught the tail end of the era that began with the arrival of cinemascope with “The Robe” in 1949 and ended with Cinerama’s “The Greatest Story Ever Told” in 1965.  I saw Ben Hur, The Big Fisherman, and Solomon and Sheba in 1959,  Barabbas and King of Kings in 1961,  El Cid and Sodom and Gomorrah in 1962, Cleopatra in 1963, and The Greatest Story Ever Told in 1965.   That was the extent of my religious education. At least until   sometime in the early seventies when I subscribed to a  Luis Bunuel series at the University of Washington.  That’s when I really got interested in religion.  But in 1965 I was through with religious movies, and epic films in general.  I didn’t even go to see The Sound of Music, although it played at my favorite downtown Seattle theater for two years.

So you can probably guess that I had zero interest in John Huston’s “The Bible..in the beginning” when it came out in 1966. And I wasn’t the only one.  That Greatest Story at the Cinerama had tired out the whole city, and nobody wanted to see another religious epic. Their butts were still hurting from the last one. Huston’s take on the opening chapters of Genesis  received bad reviews all around the table, and killed the biblical epic for the next couple of decades.  It never did make a full return to its former glory.  When King David was released in 1985, the film-going public shrugged its collective shoulders and asked, “Who wants to see Richard Gere in a diaper?”

Since the turn of the century, biblical stories have provided either fodder for preposterous CGI revisionism or ultra sincere made for television schmaltz.  Movies like Noah and Son of God make one long for Richard Gere in a diaper.  So I was wondering if Huston’s “The Bible” was as bad as its reputation would have it, and was determined to watch the whole thing from start to finish. I had made several past attempts at watching it on crummy videotapes but had never made it past the garden of Eden.  Now I had a Blu-ray and, what I hoped was, an open mind.

After watching the whole thing, I told myself that the only explanation for such a fiasco was that Huston had challenged himself to recreate the grandeur of Cecil B. DeMille’s silent epics.  It was all voiced-over pantomime and tableau, with Huston playing God, Noah, and narrator.  The dialogs between the off-screen God and on-screen Noah were particularly dysfunctional.  But some of the shots of the animals entering the ark were pretty grand, and later, the ascent to the top of the Tower of Babel, its stairs littered with corpses, was inspired. But mostly it was sanctimonious shit.  Why are actors so knee-bent holy when it comes to enacting biblical passages?  Ava Gardner is one of Hollywood’s most sensuous actresses, yet here when she should be enraged at her handmaiden for giving birth her husband’s bastard son, she shows no passion at all.  It is hard to believe this is the same director who directed her in “The Night of the Iguana,”  where she was fit to kill poor little Sue Lyon for looking twice at Richard Burton’s defrocked priest, and here, where she should be rooty tooty hysterical, she barely raises her voice.

I kept thinking of how much life Pasolini brought to his trilogy of Canterbury Tales, Arabian Nights, and The Decameron. Now here comes John Huston with these tales that have lasted thousands of years, and they are moribund.  Would anyone who had not heard these stories be impressed with them as they are told here?  I don’t think so.  It’s no wonder the stories in the bible were no longer considered suitable for screen adaptation after this.  Huston’s  Reader’s Digest abridgements  were more suitable for comic books than the big screen

Movie Review: Marilyn Monroe Nurtures Clark Gable with her Milky Breasts in”The Misfits”

 

 

At a certain point in John Huston’s film of Arthur Miller’s original screenplay, “The Misfits,”  Marilyn Monroe’s breasts are poised to tumble out of her blouse and into Clark Gable’s hungering mouth. She seems born to the task of suckling this aging cowboy, as well as his two friends, played by Eli Wallach and Montgomery Clift. Without the nourishment bursting from her blouse, these three losers are unlikely to survive for long.  They are predators whose prey is becoming extinct because of their greed, and without prey, the predators themselves shall surely die.  And in these final days in the Nevadan desert, each in turn makes his case for salvation via the milky world of Monroe’s nurturing breasts, now freshly available in the wake of a Reno divorce.

On the surface, “The Misfits” plays as Miller’s screed against masculinity, written in the desperate haze of the disintegration  of his marriage to Marilyn Monroe. He is wild with fear of his marriage being eclipsed by the powerful allure of the men will fill Monroe’s life in his absence. It is the paranoia of competition, which sets man against man in the sexual arena where the best man often loses.  This story of a divorcee who rides into the desert with three crusty suitors is the nightmare of all men who have lost the woman they love.  Beneath the competing passions lie the roots of murder, and since these men are still too civilized to murder each other, they band together to round up a dozen misfit mustangs, and then to murder these equine doppelgangers, and sell them for dogfood.

But the film goes deeper than that. Miller realizes that he is the fourth member of this gang, and no better than the other three.   In fact, these three men are not simply an invasion of masculine force that will determine the future of his dissolving wife, but a harbinger of his own lonely fate.  And she will reject them just as she has rejected him. When men depend on the favors of a woman to perpetuate their own childlike alienation from the rest of the world, they  give her the power of the ultimate predator.  And in they end, as each continues his solitary journey, they will perish, and like figments of a Bunuellian dream, they will grasp for their mother’s breast in their final vertiginous moments.

I have never been a fan of Marilyn Monroe, but her performance in “The Misfits” has stayed with me through the years.  Watching it again today, I see that her acting is really no better here than elsewhere, but Huston captures something in her expressions that I have never seen in her  cardboard airhead roles.  Except in the earlier scenes with Thelma Ritter, who carries  the scenes she shares with Monroe, she is terrible when she has to act.  Her  close-up reaction shots,  however, are often remarkable.  I don’t know if this is the magic of Huston’s direction, or some combustive intuition that manifests itself in the muscles of her face, but it strikes me as real as the projections from Marlon Brando’s id that illuminated the mystery of Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now.”

John Huston is possibly the least brilliant of Hollywood’s pantheon directors.  He batting average is  250, with one out of every four movies being a treasure and the other three ranging from indigestible swill to passable junk food.  “The Misfits” is more Arthur Miller’s movie than his. But Huston does full justice to it. Even Gable’s ridiculous over-acting in key scenes is believable in the hyperbolized emotionalism of Miller’s erotic nightmare. Eli Wallach and Montgomery Clift are excellent throughout, Clift being especially good.  I kept wondering if he were playing out his relationship with Elizabeth Taylor here, as so many of the scenes echoes things Taylor has said about her intimate relationship with Clift.

“The Misfits” benefits from its not being a film adaption of a pre-existing  Arthur Miller play, but a living entity created for the screen, for these particular actors, with much of it being revised and rewritten in the artistic fury of production. Had it been simply the transfer to the screen of a work that had a pre-existing life on the stage, it would not be nearly so complexly alive.

Jennifer Lawrence is Wonderful as “Joy”

 

 

I dislike everything about Jennifer Lawrence.  Except her acting.  But only her acting under the direction of David O. Russell.  Can’t stand her in those “Hunger Games” bores.  Loved “Silver Linings Playbook.” That modest little movie cost  $21 million, which is just $6 million more than Lawrence was paid for the title role in “Joy,” her second film with Russell, which cost $60 million, but shows no increase in production value.  It’s just that the salaries of the cast went up after the first film grossed $132 million.  “Joy” has already made $51 million, and has only been in theatres since Christmas.  I’d say Lawrence was well worth her $15 million.

What is it that makes Lawrence so good?  For starters, no matter what you think of her, her character  wins you over and you stay on her side no matter what happens.  He enemies become your enemies.  Her obstacles become your obstacles.  And her victories become your victories.  Back in Hollywood’s studio era, this ability to win and maintain the audience’s empathy was taken for granted.  Today, however, an actor makes one wrong move and loses the audience.  And when the audience stops caring about the lead character, they stop caring about the movie.

But this isn’t the whole of it.  At least when Russell is directing.  Whatever he asks her to do, she does it.  No more, no less.  For me, this is what great acting is all about.   The ability to carry out a director’s instructions.  If the director is good, then the performance will be good.  This is why she sucks in the “Hunger Games” movies.  Both Gary Ross and Francis Lawrence are horrible directors.  They tell her to do stupid things and she does them.  Can’t blame her.  She is only following orders.

David O. Russell is not only an excellent director, but his writing is impeccable. He has the rare gift of maintaining his originality even when building his story on the most primitive structures.  You might resent him for going down such over-trodden paths, but you have developed such a concern about the characters that you forget that they are imperiled simply because such obstacles are required to interrupt the arc of the story at regular intervals.  In the old-fashioned movies, writers were skilled enough to work such devices seamlessly into the plot.  Today, most writers fumble any attempt  to even put a twist into a predictable line of dialog.

Lawrence isn’t the only viable acting presence here.  Bradley Cooper is as charming as he is devious.  He and Lawrence make such an ideal screen couple that I wish they were paired more often.  Diane Ladd is a gas as Mimi, Joy’s grandmother, who narrates the semi-true tale of the housewife who becomes a millionairess by selling her patented miracle mop on the Home Shopping Network.  “Joy” is a populist fairy tale, reminiscent of Frank Capra’s best work, that has enough heart to convince a dyed in the wool socialist that there is still hope for a rebirth of laissez-faire capitalism, and that realization of the American Dream is still within the grasp of the average person.

Movie Review:  The Hateful Eight – A Great Silence From a Big Mouth

 

 

Remember when John Travolta got killed in “Pulp Fiction” and your inner voice protested, “He can’t die yet; it’s too early in the movie?”  Well, something similar happens in “The Hateful Eight,”   more than once in fact.  When writer/director Quentin Tarantino flips back the clock to give you additional  information concerning a previously enacted scene, you might think Tarantino is back in his golden saddle. Or you might feel he is just cannibalizing himself because he hasn’t any new ideas.   Whatever you think, you are probably just a little bit of wrong and a little bit of right, and it probably doesn’t matter anyway.  “The Hateful Eight” is the floundering director’s best picture since “Jackie Brown,” but that doesn’t mean I like it.  I did, however, watch it twice and wasn’t for a second bored.

 

The first chapter, with its empty, snow white vistas,  put me immediately in mind of “The  Great Silence,” but Tarantino is no Corbucci, and none of his bounty hunters are mute.  Quite to the contrary, most of them, like their creator, have big mouths.  And it is precisely those big mouths that bloat what might have been a tense hour-long Western serial on television in the seventies into a secular passion play that bumps along for nearly three hours.  It is also those big mouths and their ridiculous drivel that  fill those three hours with such unlikely entertainment.

 

Tarantino is one of those guys who, in a sane world, would never be allowed near a movie set.  His writing and directing is so bad that if he tried to be good, he would be hopelessly mediocre. So he lets himself go wild, stealing every idea he can and screwing them up so badly it is as if reality itself  gets twisted in the wind. All this crap comes swirling out of him like a nude astronaut with diarrhea in zero gravity.  He puts on quite a show.   But it is a hateful show.  I felt sick every time Kurt Russell shoved his fist into Jennifer Jason Leigh’s broken face.  This is not the sort of wacky sadism as shocked the world  when James Cagney polished Jean Harlow’s face with a grapefruit in William Wellman’s “The Public Enemy.”  We are not watching a slick director risking a sly transgression of the censor’s rulebook, but a misanthropic pervert acting out his most obscene fantasies. If you close your eyes during such scenes you can almost see the goop dribbling from the director’s hippopotamus jaw in the style of a frame from an EC comic.

 

“The Hateful Eight” is a maelstrom of bad writing and even worse acting. It is the shit and puke of a pre-adolescent delinquent who thinks he is writing “The Iceman Cometh.”  But I think there might be a little touch of that in all of us, which explains why we find it so god damned entertaining.  Tarantino provides a kind of pornographic geography for the inner racist, the inner misogynist, the inner homophobe, that haunts the collective memory of a genocidal empire that is too deep in denial to ever repent and change its ways.

Movie Review: “Trumbo” and the Suppression of Thought in the World of Today

 

 

In most countries, whether they are democracies, dictatorships, theocracies, republics, or whatever else countries like to call themselves these days, the citizens have very few rights.  The rights belong to those with the power, whether it is a consular officer  who rejects your visa application without looking at your  documents and commands you to leave the building immediately or an editor who passes on a story you have pitched, then assigns the story to his girlfriend. If you don’t have any clout, you don’t have any rights.  It doesn’t matter if you are in Chile, North Korea, Iraq, or the United States of America, where a certain dentist  sues a  non-English speaking immigrant for non-payment of treatment to which he never agreed.  Having no lawyer to produce a dentist to challenge the allegations  of the dentist who is defrauding him,  the judge, who is very friendly with the dentist,  rules in the dentist’s favor.  He appeals the decision, but is sent to the wrong office to file the appeal and pay the filing fees, and so the appeal is never filed, and the dentist garnishes his paycheck for the money he has robbed.   And he has a right to do this to you because the non-English speaking immigrant has no power to stop him.

 

“Trumbo” is based on the life  of  Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who, along with nine others, . serves a jail term for demanding his rights in a court of law, and is, upon his release, put on a blacklist that prevents him from employment within the film industry.  The story of the Hollywood Ten, as they were dubbed, is a sorry chapter in US history, one that has been passed down for six decades as an isolated case of shame.   The truth is that more subtle forms of blacklisting were in effect long before Trumbo came along, and  remain in effect to this day.  So the point of seeing this movie should not be to get in a huff over injustices of the past, but to experience this  story from the perspective of current losses of freedom in the service of the miscarriages of justice, and to illuminate the obscure causes of other kinds of writers who are silently but surely being deprived of their rights.

 

Around the world, journalists who go against  the grain are losing their jobs.  Some are political oppositionists; others are arts writers who offended a  corporate advertiser with a negative reaction to a mediocre product. All of them are human beings who depend upon the existence of a free press to practice their livelihoods.  The Hollywood blacklist silenced a handful of left-leaning screenwriters, while the current thinning of the ranks of journalists signifies the beginning of the  intentional, systematic destruction of what I term, for lack of a better phrase, the thinking class.

 

Take the US presidential debates.  The non-thinking class is having a great time following the schoolyard taunts and curses of the fourteen or so Republican contenders, while the Democrats, blindly willing to vote for whatever candidate the party chooses, is not even watching.  So when Donald Trump is vilified for mentioning Hillary Clinton’s tardiness in returning  to the podium after taking a bathroom break, nobody retaliates by mentioning that this is the second time out of three debates that she has returned late, the first time merely delaying the second part of the debate, but this time entering the room while her opponent Bernie Sanders was delivering his response to a question.  Applause from Clinton’s cheering section rudely interrupted the proceedings.  Anybody watching all the debates could clearly see the disturbances were  well planned, part of the Clinton strategy to draw attention to herself and diminish the stature of her opponent.  But if you  did not watch the debates, and had nothing to go on except the reports of Trump making fun of Clinton taking too long in the bathroom, you would be accepting a pre-fab opinion on the event without any real knowledge or insight about it. Meanwhile, the Democratic party is urging its supporters to sign a pledge to vote for whatever candidate is  nominated. If those  who support Sanders sign this pledge, they are sending a message to the party that the support shown for Sanders during the primaries will have little or no effect on voter turnout for Clinton, even if Sanders is the people’s choice.

 

In 1968, the Democrats were not so complacent.  Thousands risked life and limb to protest the nomination of Hubert Humphrey at the democratic convention in Chicago.  The party didn’t want either McGovern or McCarthy, and went with the despised Humphrey, who lost to Richard Nixon.  Big surprise.  But in the sixties, despite the corrupt politics and genocidal foreign policies, there was intelligence on both ends of the spectrum.  Television would broadcast weekly debates between right wing intellectual William F. Buckley and the left wing opposition in the persons of Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer. The country, interested in both sides of the debate, listened to what each side had to say. The country was going to hell, but the intellectual climate was razor sharp.

 

One of the central differences between debate then and now was that both sides would begin with agreed upon premises. The basic facts were seldom disputed.  The differences of opinion grew out of what each side made of those facts, and how one projected their interests would be affected.   Today, approaches taken by  candidates on an issue are likely to represent the demographic they are trying to impress, whether or not that stand reflects their personal views or anticipates what they will do if voted into office.

 

Outside  the immediate political sphere lies the countless mouths that have been shut because those in power don’t like what is being said.  Harvest records signed a two record agreement with Morrissey, then suppressed his first release, “World Peace is None of Your Business,” because they despised it.  Now the record is impossible to buy, because Harvest owns it and refuses to sell it. As a result, Morrissey vows  he will never again perform in the United Kingdom.  Tori Amos is another artist whose artistic conflicts with recording  companies have resulted in suppression of material.  She has finally put all that behind her with the advent of her own recording company. Amos  and Morrissey are two of the very finest writers in the field of popular music, and both struggle in an industry that suppresses intelligence.

 

But maybe I’m getting off the track here.  Back to Trumbo, both the real one and the character portrayed by Bryan Cranston in Jay Roach’s semi-comic bio pic.    Cranston’s performance is good, although he makes Trumbo,  who remained an ardent Stalinist even after it was revealed that his genocidal policies had cost the  lives of between 20-60 million people, into a cuddly curmudgeon. The real Trumbo was a self-centered bastard who would write any piece of shit to maintain the high standard of living to which he was accustomed.    While it was unfair that he was forced to work anonymously for much less money than he was worth,  it is a disservice to the historical record to ignore the fact that he clung to his adoration of the psychotic and paranoid Stalin long after most of the Hollywood communists had left the party.  Trumbo had an essentially morbid nature that received its fullest expression in the one film he directed.  Based on his own novel, 1971’s “Johnny Got His Gun” is one of the most disturbing and terrifying films I have ever seen, its bleak vision of human existence  so depraved that it could only be released to theaters as a horror film by exploitation czar Jerry Gross.  Not that it was bad.  It is a unique, one of a kind film that leaves the viewer as shattered and alone as the unfortunate protagonist in whose head the film takes place. A stronger statement against war has never been put on film.

 

But that doesn’t make Trumbo the winky-eyed saint played by Cranston. Or even the cranky iconoclast who yells at his daughter for coming into the bathroom while he is boozing it up and working on a script in the bathtub.    All this makes an entertaining and heart-wrenching movie, but it is not Trumbo and it is not the Hollywood Ten.  That bunch would invite young people trying to break into the movies to parties that promised industry connections, and what the guests walked into was a high-pressure indoctrination into the Communist party.  Later, when some of these people were subpoenaed and asked to name names, they felt no loyalty to these political evangelists, and became friendly witnesses.  Not that this is any excuse to become a fink, but that is the way it was, and that side of it is never shown in contemporary accounts of the era.

 

Today, young hopefuls in Hollywood face some of the same pressures from  the power elite wearing the red armbands.  And it doesn’t just happen in Hollywood.  And the pressure is not only applied by the leftists.  There are just as many scumbags on the far right, forcing their employees and neighbors to embrace their political views.  Wherever there is somebody who can flip the coin on our future, there is the  threat of the loss of personal freedom.  Every Donald Trump has a mirror image in a Hillary Clinton. The problem is not only what the followers of such demagogues are being turned into, but what they are prevented from becoming.  The individual sacrifices his originality to a mob mentality that pledges, “I will vote for whomever is the nominee of my party.”

 

While watching Trumbo, I was like anybody else, rooting for the maligned hero of history, loving this character who was possessed by genius, yet had to delve into mediocrity in order to survive in a world  that despised greatness.   I bought the whole shebang.  But after the magic of the movie wore off, I started thinking about what is going on in our own time, and thought it more important to share some of those thoughts with you rather than put my thumb up or down on the movie.   If that is the extent of a movie critic’s function, then life as a movie critic is life wasted.

Movie Review: Is “Spectre” the Best of the Bonds?

 

 

We who have been watching James Bond movies more or less faithfully for the last fifty years may never relinquish the belief that Sean Connery  is the real Bond, while all attempts by other actors to play him have fallen short.  Those who have been fans of the character for less than ten years are likely to have a difficult time accepting anyone other than Daniel Craig in the role, and they have a closer understanding of the character than those who have been dragged through the decades of Roger Moore, George Lazenby, Pierce Brosnan, and Timothy Dalton.  Throughout the four movies in which Craig has played Bond, the actor has perhaps come closer than any other to the character as written by author Ian Fleming.

 

In “Spectre,” Craig has brought 007 to his logical end, and I hope he doesn’t compromise this achievement by agreeing to perform in yet another installment of the series, which perhaps will outlast England herself.   If those who own the franchise insist on continuing to milk it, the best thing they could do is to start over from the top, remaking each film in fidelity to the novels, and using Craig’s  interpretation of the character as their model.  I fear, however, they will go in the opposite direction, with more original scripts and a Bond that drifts further and further away from who Fleming described as “an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened.”

 

Before I mention a few of the things that urge the series to be put to bed for good, I’ll warn anyone who even has the word “spoiler” in their functioning vocabulary to stop reading at this point. First off, if Blofeld is resurrected one more time, he will become as ridiculous an adversarial  gimmick as Lex Luther is in the Superman comics. Secondly, at the end of the film, Bond throws away his badge, just as did Inspector Callaghan at the end of “Dirty Harry.”  Four sequels destroyed the brilliant ending of that film.  Let’s not be forced to see the spectacular ending of “Spectre” ruined by Bond’s retaking of the badge.  And if the show must continue, let it be with another Bond, so as to not compromise the closure given by the Craig cycle.

 

Despite my sentimental attachment to the first three Connery Bonds, those films were more about the sixties than the previous decade, in which the novels were set.  “Spectre” achieves a complicated balance between the present day and the fifties era.  While the earlier films sported far-fetched plots, disposable sex kittens,  and comic-book villains, “Spectre” addresses such topical concerns as information monopolies and total surveillance grids.  Our world of today is the science fiction world of yesterday, and both worlds are fused in the old-fashioned world of the government-sanctioned assassin.  The character of James Bond is still as square-headed and strong-jawed as Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer,   except he has developed a conscience over the decades of a world grown so increasingly dangerous that love has become too precious to throw away on casino romance and loyalty is serious business when it starts raining bullets.  Her majesty’s secret service may think it has outgrown the double-0 program, but it is the double-0 operatives who have outgrown the secret service.

 

This is why “Spectre” would make such a perfect conclusion to the Bond adventure we have been latching onto for the last fifty years.  Let the  badge remain where he has thrown it, and allow the poor bastard to retire for once and for all.

Movie Review: “Bridge of Spies” Damning Spielberg with Faint Praise

 

 

The only thing I have against Steven Spielberg is his clumsy and inept work as a film director.  I have nothing against the types of movies he makes, only the way he makes them.  “Jaws” might not be the worst of all monster movies, but it is certainly the dullest.  There is no more annoying science fiction film dealing with aliens, however, than “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,”  unless, of course, it is “E.T.” Spielberg also has the distinction of having directed “Saving Private Ryan,’ the most incompetent staging of the Normandy invasion and its aftermath ever filmed, if not the worst of all World War Two pictures.  Then there is “Lincoln,” the most excruciatingly boring biography of a historical personage I have ever struggle to sit through. “Jurassic Park” brought a new low to dinosaur movies, and “Amistad” left me longing for Jacopetti and Prosperi’s unflinching and uncompromising history of slavery in the United States, “Goodbye, Uncle Tom.”  The only times Spielberg’s movies have any quality whatsoever is when he is imitating another director, such as Stanley Kubrick in “A.I.” and David Lean in “Empire of the Sun.”

 

All this said, I enjoyed his latest picture, “Bridge of Spies.” Granted, it is not much of a movie. It plays more like a 1970’s television miniseries than a feature film, but the writing is tight and the two lead performances by Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance, neither of whom I have liked in the past, are excellent. The picture, however, is not without its problems. Historical and geographical  inaccuracies abound, one of the most glaring being a multiplex cinema, which did not exist in 1958, showing five movies, including at least two that were made in the early sixties. I was especially disappointed with the lies they told regarding the fate of the Russian spy in one of those trite little written epilogs that tell you what happened to the real-life characters after the movie ended.

 

But I’m not going to harp on the movie’s shortcomings.  Not even the omission of an explanation as to why the United States were taking pictures over Russia at 70,000 feet.  Or why curare, the suicide poison the military encouraged their spies to use in case of imminent capture, was mis-identified as cyanide.  None of that really matters when the story is engaging, even when that story is sign-posted with every predictable plot twist in the book.  No, none of that matters  when you are watching a Spielberg movie that is genuinely engaging.   It is something akin how a condemned prisoner might feel after falling asleep in the gas chamber and waking in paradise rather than Hell.

 

“Hey, this isn’t so bad.”