Sometimes if one waits a long time to see a movie, there is a letdown when one actually views it.  I was thinking that might be the case for me with Red. I was happy to be wrong this time.

Red may be a rather typical spy/action movie, since it involves a group of the “good guys” having to figure out why they are being unjustly targeted for assassination.  However, this movie has a lot of charm to it, and it’s not only because of the stellar cast.

Red is story, essentially, about second chances and about people who don’t want to “go gentle into that good night.”  This story plays with the idea that it can’t be easy for former operatives to retire to a simple, normal life.  It’s also a movie about teamwork and friendships, even (especially?) strange ones.

One of the biggest selling points of the movie might very well be the actors, and for good reason.  They are all excellent.  Some–like Bruce Willis, Karl Urban, and John Malkovich–are known for some of their action roles.  Others–like Helen Mirren, Mary Louise Parker, and Morgan Freeman–are known more for drama or even comedy.  I think this eclectic blend of talent makes the character interactions even more interesting and humorous.

Willis capitalizes on his special brand of nice-guy-in-a-bad-situation-who-knows-a-lot-more-than-he’s-given-credit-for charm, while Mirren plays a type of gun-toting, steely-eyed Martha Stewart.  Freeman plays the underestimated, sweet old man, while Malkovich finds a particular groove of crazy and rides it through the movie.  Urban is also good as a young CIA agent tasked with handling the “old guys.”  Parker is also good as a bored pension worker who will do almost anything to get some excitement in her life.

Red is a wonderful movie for any who like spy thrillers, and for many who might not.  I would recommend that you go out and see it if you get a chance!

Ah, the passion of the Russians!

A couple nights ago I watched The Last Station, which is based on a novel of the same title, written by Jay Parini.  The movie (and the novel) is about Leo Tolstoy’s last years, and the fight between Tolstoy’s wife and one of Tolstoy’s “apostles.”  Tolstoy seemed to be somewhat embarrassed by his wealth and position in society, especially when there were so many peasants that didn’t have enough food.  Because of parts of Tolstoy’s writings, some of his followers started “Tolstoyan communes.”  Tolstoy’s wife, Sofya felt that Tolstoy should leave his copyrights to his family (he had thirteen children with Sofya), while Tolstoy’s apostle, Vladimir Chertkov, felt that the copyrights should be left to the “Russian people.”

Chertkov sends in a young Tolstoyan follower, Valentin Bulgakov, to be Tolstoy’s secretary and his spy.  Chertkov wants to know all the details about what Sofya says and does.  It’s not long before Bulgakov is torn between his intense admiration for Tolstoy and his growing sympathy for Sofya.

Part of the excellence of this movie, along with the scenery and the costuming, is the casting.  Christopher Plummer is the beleaguered and sometimes confused Tolstoy, Helen Mirren is the volatile and passionate Sofya, Paul Giamatti is the plotter Chertkov, and James McAvoy is the impressionable and devoted Bulgakov.  On a side note, I found that McAvoy looks a little like a young Anton Chekhov.  It’s interesting that a Scot can look like a famous Russian author!

Some people may think this movie is only interesting to people who like Tolstoy’s writing.  I think, however, that it is interesting because it shows how someone’s teaching can be twisted by those who claim to follow his or her words.  In the movie, Tolstoy says about someone else, “He is a better Tolstoyan than I am.” 

The words of a teacher can be twisted to better suit the ideals of an “apostle.”