Never Let Me Go - The future is now, and in the reality of Never Let Me Go, (spoiler alert!) children are bred and raised for the sole purpose of being organ donors. Kazuo's Ishiguro's novel by the same name unfolds slowly into a tale of three such children who fall in love with each other so desperately that their predetermined journeys through life cannot help but be heart-destroying. Those complex relationships being the soul of the tale, I have to conclude that director Mark Romanek and screenwriter Alex Garland didn't really get what was going on. Together they team up to strip away dimensions Ishiguro had crafted so carefully in his book, turning Kathy (Carey Mulligan, fantastic) and Ruth (Keira Knightley, meh) into mild rivals vying half-heartedly for the affection of Tommy (Andrew Garfield, looking like he's waiting for Santa Claus to show up), who bounces between lovers in the slowest ping pong match of all time. Sounds exhilarating, right? It isn't, and that's because the men behind the movie let this sci-fi world define (and confine) its characters where Ishiguro lets the characters reveal, degree by painful degree, the nightmare world they inhabit. Perhaps that's the advantage of a novel and having enough pages to let the people and their emotions spread out. Still, I get the feeling that these two guys didn't trust their source enough; they want to tell us what's going on and plop a flaccid love story into the middle of it.
As for the acting, the film seems infused with a certain stuffiness that constrains its players (the exception is Mulligan), so that even a pro like Charlotte Rampling appears to be fighting the effects of mild sedatives. The lethargic score, like a garage full of carbon monoxide, does nothing to awaken this tale. Only on the operating table does NLMG ever find its potency, but Romanek's best work comes all too late to spark this dud.
It would be so easy to give away too much of what you should discover by reading. Just trust me when I say: devour the book first, or risk having Ishiguro's masterpiece of emotional devastation spoiled irrevocably. 2.5 McBones
Red - If you're anything like me and you like the idea of seasoned vets Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Brian Cox portraying a band of aging master spies in contest against young whippersnappers, and if you think it's much more interesting to see Russians and Americans on the same team for a change, and if you've been just pining for a chance to watch Helen Mirren spray everything she sees with machine gun bullets, then I've got the movie for you! Red is the story of a retired CIA agent (Willis) who has been given a death sentence from his former employers. On the run, he snags up Mary Louise Parker, his social security rep with whom he has struck up small (but potent) phone romance. Sound absurd? It is! Who cares? The actors have a blast as director Robert Schwentke piles on the fun and laughs. Just see it. 3.0 McBones