Written by Films

A Prophet and Up In The Air

What links these two films? Absolutely nothing, although both were showing in the Curzon Mayfair last week, I only saw A Prophet there. For better of for worse, I saw Up In The Air in my local Cineworld. They offer very different cinema going experiences, yet not at a colossal price differential.
I’ll get onto the films themselves shortly, but I really should visit the polite environment of the Curzon chain a little more. The print we saw of A Prophet was digital, and the sound excellent. The only issue I had with the cinema was that their soda machine had broken. This would be a greater problem at Cineworld, but the superior Curzon-goer is more likely to take a glass of wine into their screen. Personally, if you’re seeing A Prophet in the cinema then bear in mind it’s two and a half hours, and you might want to think twice about drinking too much of anything.
At Cineworld, Avatar still seemed enormously popular, with everyone else seemingly wandering around with 3D glasses. Knowing how popular the cinema is, I pre-booked my tickets in advance. Sadly of the three machines printing pre-booked tickets in the cinema lobby, only two were working, and neither would print my tickets. When I asked a security guard who was diligently searching everyone’s bags as they entered the cinema (although had been absent as I walked in with my bag), he told me to go to the front of the long queue where someone printed out my tickets for me. And unlike previous visits to this cinema, the number of people working behind the concessions stand meant that I was served pretty quickly there.
The only downside was that as the adverts and trailers began, it became clear that I as only hearing mono sound from the speakers behind the screen. The speakers all down either wall were off. That might have been a problem with the ad reel, so I waited until the ads ended (including one proclaiming the power of cinema advertising with its flat sound and scratchy print).
When the film itself began the sound problem hadn’t been fixed, so I found the only person available and asked him. He immediately phoned the projection room saying he’d get on the case. I left him to it, since I didn’t want to miss anything. Sadly, the sound never was fixed. I saw Up In The Air in mono.
Final grades:-
Curzon Mayfair: A-
Cineworld Enfield: C+
(And I’m being generous because I think sound is a vital part of any film and far more important than things like 3D).
Onto the films. French cinema is evidently having a good time in making sprawling epic crime dramas. Last year we had the two parts of Mesrine which was excellent although it could have been released as a single film with some length cut. At least the DVD which has just been released contains both films.
A Prophet is one of those films that really is worth going into knowing as little as possible. We follow a young Arab – Malik – as he begins to serve his first prison sentence in an adult prison, starting a six year stretch.
In the prison, are two main camps – the Muslims and the Corsicans. It’s the latter group who grab Malik and tell him he must either murder someone for them or be murdered himself. What follows is based entirely around the choice he makes here. The performances throughout are excellent and with the exception of a couple of scenes set outside the prison I found a little hard to believe, it was all very real.
If you enjoyed Mesrine or the Italian film, Gomorrah, then you must see this.
Up In The Air is something entirely different. Quite light in flavour but with a slightly offbeat humour, we follow the life of George Clooney’s corporate firer. He jets in to different businesses where it’s his job to make people redundant. That’s his only job. But he tells us at one point that he spent 322 days the previous year on the road. And this is his life. He dreams of reaching 10 million frequent flier miles; an achievement only reached by six people previously. He actively dislikes his dismal little apartment that he spends as little time as possible.
As is the way with these things, his world is shaken up when Nathalie (Anna Kendrick) joins his firm and persuades their boss that her video-conferencing firing should be adopted. They’ll save vast amounts of travel expenses. Not something that Clooney’s character wants.
Along the way Clooney has met a kindred spirit in the fantastic Vera Farmiga who plays Alex. Soon the two are having a liaison set in hotel rooms across the mainland USA as and when their schedules collide.
How it all plays out is fun and while it’s not a gag-fest, there are some laugh out loud moments.
There’s one thing I was left wondering: why had American Airlines and Hilton seemingly partnered up with this film since the life is presented as soulless. While both companies are presented efficiently, a scene where Clooney queue-jumps at a Hilton check-in because he’s a high-ranked member of their corporate scheme leaves me cold.
It’s all about the status and getting the “carbon fibre” card. While the film essentially presents it as lifeless, it doesn’t totally paint an awful picture. Clooney’s flights are on time, and there are never any problems with his rooms.
Up In The Air has had some so-so reviews, but I really liked it. And Farmiga is absolute fabulous in it.