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dir Luc Besson
scr Rebecca Frayn
prd Luc Besson, Andy Harries, Virginie Silla, Jean Todt
with Michelle Yeoh, David Thewlis, Jonathan Raggett, Jonathan Woodhouse, Susan Wooldridge, Benedict Wong, Htun Lin, Agga Poechit, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Dujdao Vadhanapakorn, Marian Yu, Danny Toeng
release Fr 30.Nov.11, US 12.Dec.11,
11/France Europa 2h07
Take a stand: Thewlis and Yeoh
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
The inspirational story of Aung San Suu Kyi comes to the big screen in the unlikely hands of Luc Besson, better known for mindless action like Taken and The Transporter. This is an emotionally involving film, with terrific central performances.
As daughter of Aung San, founder of independent Burma, Suu (Yeoh) has a place in her nation's heart. She lives in Britain with her Oxford-professor husband Michael (Thewlis) and their sons (Raggett and Woodhouse), and when she returns home to care for her ailing mother, she gets involved in the pro-democracy movement. This terrifies the military junta that rules with an iron fist, so they put her under house arrest just before the 1990 election that her party won in a landslide. Then the military refuses to cede power.
The film traces Suu Kyi's house arrest over the next 21 years, during which she was prevented from seeing her sons and her husband, even as he was dying of cancer in the late-1990s. During this time she won the Nobel Peace Prize (1991) and numerous other international citations, all while Burma's dictators violently suppressed peaceful protests and ignored global pressure. We've seen these shocking events in news headlines and in noted documentaries (see 2008's Burma VJ), so this film centres on Suu Kyi's emotional journey.
And this is what makes the film so engaging, as Yeoh and Thewlis bring a terrific blend of intelligence, humour and steely passion. Sure, both come across as rather saintly, despite half-hearted denials, but they emerge as raw, real people battling against the odds while sacrificing their personal happiness for something much bigger. In many ways Thewlis has the more accessible role as a man who struggles with what happens even as he understands his wife's commitment.
Besson holds the somewhat simplified plot together with sure-handed direction and a beautiful sense of the settings, both in Oxford and Rangoon (shot in Thailand). The contrast between these cities couldn't be more striking, and this highlights the warmth and intelligence of the Burmese people in the face of their government's bald-faced cruelty. But even though the political cause is worthy and inspiring, it's in the personal story that the film wins us over.
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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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