Earlier this summer, entertainment news types were reporting the upcoming James Bond movie, the 23rd in that venerable franchise, was falling apart at the seams and it seemed the series may be coming to an untimely end. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the news. Where was I going to get my espionage fix? Fortunately for me, 007 isn’t the only good-looking, gun-toting spy-type out there. Rave Reviews scouts out two other great undercover thrillers, Inception and Salt.
Inception has been on my radar for a few months. Christopher Nolan of recent Batman fame is a favourite director of mine, particularly following his earlier success with Memento. Nolan is a rare breed of writer/director that can bring a story alive with an even balance of darkness and light. This ability has worked to the benefit of many of the fantastic actors that Nolan has directed, the cast of Inception being the latest in this fortunate club. The Oscar buzz is already on for Inception, and my money is on Joseph Gordon-Levitt to get a supporting actor nod. Gordon-Levitt plays the perfect straight-laced, straight-edged straight man to Leonardo DiCaprio’s tortured, soul-searching hero. The cast is rounded out with excellent performances by Ellen Page, Marianne Cotillard and Cillian Murphy. The tight, quick-moving story introduces the possibility of entering a person’s dreams in order to steal their best-kept secrets. The layers of plot are punched up with some incredible special effects, the end result being a mind-blowing thriller that’s sure to be on everyone’s award show list.
Some of the best spy movies out there are the ones with the taut, lean storylines, clipped dialogue, and a looming air of dread that hangs over the whole thing. Flabby, over-the-top cheesefests like a few of the Pierce Brosnan Bond movies could never compete with the force of one of my favourite underrated spy films, Ronin. Salt doesn’t quite make it to the top of my list, but I enjoyed the Cold War feel and the whodunit tension that played out between leads Angelina Jolie and Liev Schreiber. Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a C.I.A. agent accused of being a Russian spy. The accusation sparks a 24-hour chase that brings the world to the brink of a nuclear episode. There are twists and turns woven throughout this story, some the viewer is meant to see coming and some that will slap you upside the head and leave your jaw in your lap. This highly entertaining thriller is a great summer escape that’s worth the cost of admission.
Spy movies are definitely not dead. Although Hollywood insiders are pointing to troubles at MGM studios and wringing their Bond-loving hands in despair, espionage fans won’t be left out in the cold. If Inception and Salt are any indication of what good writing, directing and acting can do, spy lovers will be well taken care of for many years to come.