Director: Taika Waititi
Verdict: Good enough
No this film isn’t about the hunt for Billy Wilder
From writer/director Taika Waititi, (What We Do in the Shadows, The Inbetweeners, Flight of the Conchords), comes a refreshing change of pace, going from witty dark comedies like What We Do in the Shadows and The Inbetweeners to this, also very funny but much more dramatically focused and heartfelt chase film that’s a really weird little independently spirited offbeat gem. It’s flawed but very entertaining and definitely worth your time.
Just getting all my skeletons out in the open, (not my literal skeletons although I do have a couple of them), I love What We Do in the Shadows, I think it’s one of the most consistently funny, witty, inventive, and actually really professionally made films in quite some time. This film doesn’t quite have that level of laugh-a-minute quality, but it’s going for something much more dramatically focused, although I do feel like something got lost in the transmission. The film has this synth laden score that juxtaposed the film’s natural setting and completely not synthesised atmosphere and I think the score is misstep and it doesn’t work. I also think the way of carrying over the many chapter style of structuring from the book, doesn’t work. It makes the film become episodic, and what that leads to is repetition of similar gags, and it gets actually kind of boring. The funniest bit in the film is actually when the director himself shows up to do a Rowan Atkinson awkward priest and suddenly we’re back in What We Do in the Shadows territory of jet black humour and it works and it’s slick and hilarious but the rest of the film it does kind of feel, comedically flat.
To counterbalance that the dramatic element is very good, the chemistry between Sam Neil and Julian Dennison is really really good and tangible and layered, and they each work very well as individual elements to the film, Dennison isn’t making his debut but it’s his first role in a big movie and he’s really good, and funny and engaging as a dramatic element and Sam Neil is giving his best performance in a long time and there are several moments where I was just blown away by him because he is genuinely really good in this film.
The cinematography is also very good, it really utilises the beauty of the sort of landscape poetry of the New Zealand jungle in the same way as The Lord of the Rings, although I did get slightly bored of all the shots of people running across the tops of mountains that gag did get a bit repetitive.
All that being said, the film is dramatically engaging, and throughout that there are nice jokes sprinkled that work and are funny, I just would have wanted more of them to give the film some spark. This film does however show that Waititi is versatile and can handle a lot of different elements, I’m looking forward to his take on Thor: Ragnarok.