The Establishing Shot: Empire Big Screen Universal Pictures Showcase World First Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, The Raven and Immortals

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 Craig Grobler 0 Comments

Empire's BIG SCREEN Universal Presentation Following on from my walk around the BIG SCREEN Live Quarter, Hollywood Boulevard & Studio City. I headed to the Sky Super Screen for the New Universal Pictures Showcase.

I took my seat; well it wasn't really my seat, it was just a random very well placed seat in the large cinema that I decided would offer a great view of the proceedings. Also I didn't actually take the seat anywhere I just sat in it.

The New Universal Pictures Showcase started off strong with a Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy presentation. But first we were greeted by Gary Oldman, sadly only via video but cool nevertheless. He greeted us, apologized for not being at BIG SCREEN but was busy working on Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.

He hoped that we enjoyed Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - as it was a labour of love for everyone involved. He also spoke a little about what drew him to the film:

- The opportunity to work with Director Tomas Alfredson
- The incredible cast, naming checking most of the actors
- And he got to be George Smiley a British Icon.

He enjoyed working on it with a great team and that he hoped we enjoyed the clips we were about to see.

     Video: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Teaser Trailer  

Then Empire’s Ian Nathan was joined on stage by Peter Straughan Writer and Robyn Slovo, Producer of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy to discuss making of the film but first we got to see, and when I say first I mean we were the FIRST public audience in the world to see these clips from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy footage breakdown Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Writer Peter Straughan teed up each clip prior to us seeing it and gave us a some context to what we were about to see.

First clip from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
The first clip is a flashback, in which we are taken to the stuffy, claustrophobic board room of the Circus (the London headquarters of John le Carré’s British Intelligence) where a heavyweight Secret Intelligence team made up of the head, code name Control (John Hurt), Master spy Beggerman - George Smiley (Gary Oldman), Tailor - Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), Tinker - Percy Allenine (Toby Jones), Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch), Soldier - Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds) and Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) are discussing some startling intelligence (codenamed Witchcraft) delivered to Tinker from an unrevealed source.

 The nature of the intelligence is startling and Tinker has gone over Control’s head to the ministry to keep his source hidden as he is concerned over “too many leaks”. The team is divided by the magnitude of the intelligence, its validity as well as Tinker’s insinuation that there may be subterfuge afoot in the inner circle. The conversation is polite with very clear undertones of friction, tension and lots of politics. Claustrophobic, stifling, tense, dense, rich and atmospheric with power performances.

Second clip from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
The second clip is set in what I assume is Smiley’s (Gary Oldman) garden and he is entertaining Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) who seems to be on a social visit. Turns out Smiley is asking Guillam to get into the heavily secured Circus and stealthily retrieve a log book which would verify someone’s presence at the building, confirming the truth of a story that fits into the bigger mystery of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

However if Guillam’s mission is discovered he cannot mention Smiley and he is on his own. We then follow Guillam as he checks into the building, feigns retrieving some documentation as the tension builds as he goes the mechanics of spiriting the log book away but then complications arise. Another atmospherically tense interior scene steeped in 70s cold war paranoia.

Third clip from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
The third clip was the most revealing as we get to see more of the world that Tomas Alfredson creates. I think the preamble to the scene is that Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) is telling Smiley a story that relates to the log book in the previous clip. The book verifying Ricki Tarr’s location and therefore giving his actions more credibility in the bigger picture. I think.

 Via flashback we follow Tarr to Istanbul, through meeting his local contact in the airport who informs him of a mark, I think Tarr’s mission is to identify and turn a Diplomat. We follow Tarr as he surveils the mark in a seedy Turkish nightclub, identifying that the mark is not as drunk as he is pretending to be and clearly not an ideal mark. Next Tarr’s is in an empty apartment spying on the mark and his bodyguards through binoculars - when the mark’s partner interrupts the him with another woman. There is a rather un-chivalrous confrontation and Tarr identifies a new mark.

The clip ends with Tarr saying something to the effect of “It’s like you taught me, always trust your instincts when it comes to women.” as Tarr and the girl lock eyes through the respective windows. This clip was by far the most revealing and engaging, whilst the other gave us a real feel for the dark, grey undertow of the cold war atmospherics, paranoid dynamics of relationships and intensity of heavyweight performances.

Something that Director Tomas Alfredson is very good at - the final clip opened the Tinker, Tailor universe up and brought an international and big feel to it. It also heightened the sense of danger as we see that the threat of violence is very real and no one is safe. Something else that struck me was the camera work and set ups in the final clip come together in a very compelling way. Whilst showing a grey, drab period of cinema it feels new and looks like it is crackling with electricity.

Performances? Powerhouse. Well we know that with Tinker, Tailor - nothing is what it seems, so I’m guessing we can expect the characters to be full of twists and deception. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy seems to live up to its promise of being one of my most anticipated films of the year. Expect quality edge of seat film making.

Then Empire’s Ian Nathan hosted a brief QA session with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Writer Peter Straughan and Producer Robyn Slovo. Key points from the Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy talk:

Regarding differences between the book and the film
It would have been foolhardy to try adapt the book page for page, although the story is simple but level of detail and architecture is very complex. So we tried to stay true to the spirit of the story but had to change things to make more cinematic like combining characters.

On Tomas Alfredson’s involvement in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Fortunately he approached the Producers when he heard that Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was going to be made. He is a vet visual director and his Nordic background leans towards the drab atmosphere and browns of the 70s. He wanted to film with a long lens which creates an effect of having either a blurry foreground or crisp background and vice versa. Which makes the characters seem disconnected. Gary Oldman commented that it felt like the camera was spying on the actors. Not only did Tomas Alfredson’s want to make a film set in the 70s but he wanted to make a film that felt like it was made in the 70s.

On John le Carré
Ian Nathan asked if he came across as a trained secret keeper? No, just very interesting. When they first met Carré had a list of ideas and I was worried, but after a bottle of wine at the local pub everything was fine.

On Gary Oldman
Gary Oldman is an iconic actor and it makes perfect sense that he would play George Smiley. His performance is very unexpected.

On Casting
Did you have actors in mind for roles when writing the film? That’s an interesting question as I didn’t. No one clicked at all. On the possibility of further le Carré films Yes! But we have to see how Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy does first. On getting studio backing It was a hard sell. Ultimately the film was made by Studio Canal, and Universal have it for America.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6's echelons. Director: Tomas Alfredson Writers: John le Carré (novel), Peter Straughan (screenplay) Stars: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy

American Reunion
The mood was than shifted in the completely opposite direction as The Stifmeister, Stiffler himself Seann William Scott gave us a shout via video. And told us that American Reunion would bring the whole gang back a little bit older but no wiser.

Unfortunately he did not show us any of his sweet disco dancing moves. American Reunion The class of 1999 returns Directors: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg Writers: Adam Herz (characters), Jon Hurwitz (screenplay) Stars: Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan and Seann William Scott
 UK Release date: 6 April 2012

The Raven
Then it was time for a world exclusive as we were treated to the trailer for James McTeigue’s The Raven starring John Cusack. I’m a little undecided on The Raven visually it looks good.

James McTeigue’s The Raven Poster
James McTeigue’s The Raven Poster    

But I’m not entirely sold on period films shot using futuristic hyper stylistic techniques. It is shot in a similar style to Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes and is about a serial killer using the gruesome works of Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) as the source material for his murders.

When the killer threatens Poe’s beloved he joins the hunt and swears that he will stop the murderer. And too be honest who wouldn’t want to protect Emily (Alice Eve). Lots of dark, mysterious hiding of identity, hints at gore, chases and zoom shots.

The Raven A fictionalized account of the last days of Edgar Allan Poe's life, in which the poet is in pursuit of a serial killer whose murders mirror those in the writer's stories. Director: James McTeigue Writers: Ben Livingston (screenplay), Hannah Shakespeare (screenplay) Stars: John Cusack, Alice Eve and Luke Evans

 UK Release date: 9 March 2012

The Change-Up
Over the last couple of years I have noticed that there are a slew of comedies that are fairly similar, not in content but mood and type of humour and usually there is one comedy that leads the way, head and shoulders above the rest.

I’m hoping The Change-Up is that comedy. It has a very personable cast; Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds, Olivia Wilde and the always hilarious Leslie Mann. The switching of Bateman and Reynolds' on screen personas which we assume are similar to their public personas seems to be a recipe for laughs.

     Video: The Change Up Latest Red Band Trailer  

The Change-Up A comedy in which a married father accidentally switches bodies with his best friend, leading to a series of wildly complex difficulties. Director: David Dobkin Writers: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore Stars: Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds and Olivia Wilde

 UK Release date: - 16 September 201

A high action Mark Wahlberg film. Contraband looks like Gone in 60 Seconds (also starring Giovanni Ribisi) if it was shot in the fast paced action style of Joe Carnahan. Hopefully performances will lift this seemingly procedural tale of a brother pulled back into crime when his family is threatened.

A security guard with financial troubles considers a return to his smuggling ways when an associate offers a potentially lucrative opportunity. Director: Baltasar Kormákur Writers: Óskar Jónasson (original screenplay), Arnaldur Indriðason (original screenplay) Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Giovanni Ribisi and Kate Beckinsale
UK Release date: 16 March 2012 

Johnny English Reborn
You know his name, you know his style. Johnny English goes up against international assassins hunting down the Chinese premier. Director: Oliver Parker Writers: William Davies, Hamish McColl (screenplay), Stars: Rowan Atkinson, Rosamund Pike and Dominic Wes
UK Release date: 7 October 2011 

The Debt Is another film I have been waiting ages for in high anticipation. Reminiscent of Munich, The Debt seems to be a quality production delving in the murky world of international espionage from Director John Madden and a top notch cast

     Video: Official Trailer - The Debt  

The espionage thriller begins in 1997, as shocking news reaches retired Mossad secret agents Rachel (Helen Mirren) and Stefan (Tom Wilkinson) about their former colleague David (Ciarán Hinds). All three have been venerated for decades by their country because of the mission that they undertook back in 1966, when the trio (portrayed, respectively, by Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, and Sam Worthington) tracked down Nazi war criminal Vogel (Jesper Christensen) in East Berlin. At great risk, and at considerable personal cost, the team's mission was accomplished - or was it?

The suspense builds in and across two different time periods, with startling action and surprising revelations. Director: John Madden Writers: Matthew Vaughn (screenplay), Jane Goldman (screenplay) Stars: Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington and Tom Wilkinson
 UK Release date: 30 September 2011

Tower Heist
Regular joes plan an ensemble heist and a comedic Die Hard ensues. A Brett Ratner film with a line up that includes; Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller can only hint at another mediocre blockbuster but it may surprise and entertain as it has an experienced team on board.

Tower Heist When a group of hard working guys find out they've fallen victim to a wealthy business man's Ponzi scheme, they conspire to rob his high-rise residence. Director: Brett Ratner Writers: Ted Griffin (screenplay), Jeff Nathanson (screenplay) Stars: Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller and Casey Affleck UK Release date: 4 November 2011 

I have to say I’m looking forward to Battleship. I really enjoyed Peter Berg’s The Kingdom. Combined with an engaging cast; Alexander Skarsgård, Liam Neeson and Brooklyn Decker and the not giving much away trailer hints at greatness. Hopefully it won’t unravel in another by the numbers Man vs. Alien flick.

     Video: Battleship - Global Teaser Trailer  

Battleship A fleet of ships is forced to do battle with an armada of unknown origins in order to discover and thwart their destructive goals. Director: Peter Berg Writers: Erich Hoeber (screenplay), Jon Hoeber (screenplay) Stars: Alexander Skarsgård, Liam Neeson and Brooklyn Decker

UK Release date: 18 May 2012 

The Thing
I’m not one to write off a film just because it is a remake/redux and always try enjoy a film on its own merits. But the bits I have seen so far of The Thing don’t seem to give it a chance. Hopefully this prequel will surprise and flesh out the universe created by John Carpenter’s classic The Thing

The Thing At an Antarctica research site, the discovery of an alien craft leads to a confrontation between graduate student Kate Lloyd and scientist Dr. Sander Halvorson. Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. Writers: Eric Heisserer, John W. Campbell Jr. (short story "Who Goes There?") Stars: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton and Ulrich Thomsen

 UK Release date: 2 December 2011

Next up was some extended footage and trailer from Tarsem Singh’s Immortals. There was a bit of a mix up and can’t remember if we ended up seeing any of it in 3D, so I guess if it was in 3D it wasn’t bad as I would have remembered that. I haven’t seen much of Immortals stuff and too be honest based on the poster telling that it is from the producers of 300, combined with the cast involved; Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, John Hurt I assumed it would be something along the lines of 300. No! Immortals seem to be a mash up of Clash of the Titans and a Super powers film a little like a grittier Thor.

The clip we saw showed what I assume are the Immortals, a group of god like beings dressed in the style of ancient Grecian or Roman gods. There is some discussion about someone Titans (I assume a villainous entity) being trapped in somewhere Mount Tarsus and they will never get out. Then we see the Immortals transported from their Asgard/Mount Olympus to what looks like the inside of a pyramid made up of large block bricks, and the enemy is revealed to be an army of Zombie like burnt ash soldier warriors (Titans).

An intense battle follows - our heroes have lightning fast fighting skills and initially start tearing through the soldiers. All the usual visual tricks are thrown into the pot and the battle scene is a bit like Underworld meets The Matrix. The zombie warriors are no slouches either when it comes to fighting, that combined with sheer numbers the tide is turned and they start brutally killing the Immortals one by one.

Eventually we are down to a woman and a man, and when the woman is wounded the man goes ballistic and starts trashing the soldiers. Carrying the woman he speedily makes his way on top of a block structure and with all his strength starts pulling two large chains towards each other ( it looks like he pulling some large columns down). Then it is revealed that the battle is actually in a mountain and it's being pulled in on itself. If you watch the trailer it's the mountain on the right of the walled city in the battle scene. Some of the battle footage is actually in the trailer.

Whilst debris is crashing down on the him we see him being overwhelmed by the zombie warriors. Then, with the woman in his arms he seems to fly/transported up and away again.
Scrap that the following trailer explains much of the missing bits from my description:

     Video: Immortals - Trailer 2 (Official HD)  

I think the Immortals makers have been very ambitious in what they are trying to create, and Immortals could either be an incredibly tense ancient superhero film or laughable. Being a huge fan of mythology I couldn’t help know that regardless of what happens between now and than I’ll still end up seeing and hopefully even enjoying it.

Immortals Greek warrior Theseus battles against imprisoned titans. Director: Tarsem Singh Writers: Charley Parlapanides, Vlas Parlapanides Stars: Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke and John Hurt

UK Release date: 11 November 2011 (UK)

Empire's BIG SCREEN Universal Pictures Showcase: World First Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, The Raven and Immortals