Tag Archives: Rory Kinnear

My Thoughts on: Men (2022)

*Note: this review was originally published for subscribers on Patreon in May

*minor spoilers below*

Well, it was bound to happen sometime. After seeing over ten movies in theaters (so far) this year, I’ve finally seen a movie that completely disappointed me and that is Alex Garland’s Men

What really hurts about this is I was genuinely excited, if slightly nervous, about seeing this movie. I’ve been a fan of Garland’s directorial work since his debut with Ex Machina. I also saw Annihilation in theaters and I liked that film quite a bit (though Ex Machina remains his best work). Based on that history, it seemed reasonable to assume that I would enjoy Men to some degree as well.

Well….that didn’t happen.

The biggest issue is, I sat through the entire movie and I still can’t tell you what Men is supposed to be about. This didn’t bother me for most of the runtime, because I figured a last act twist was coming that would explain everything. Well, there were some last act twists all right, but they did absolutely nothing to explain what the BLEEP was going on in that movie. I don’t mind when movies don’t completely spell everything out for you (Garland’s first film Ex Machina is a prime example) but Men doesn’t come close to explaining what is happening or why.

An equally grievous fault is that Men is trying way too hard to be clever about its subject matter (whatever that is). It’s almost like Garland thought that by filling the movie with lewd, disgusting men who are *minor spoiler alert* ultimately defeated by a woman, that he would find a receptive audience. But, if anything, the male characters in this film were a complete turnoff for me. Perhaps if Garland had done a better job explaining what was going on in the story, it might have been more palatable. But as it is, we were subjected to a litany of offensive comments that at times had the audience commenting out loud about how offensive they were (especially when the priest character tried to justify the spousal abuse that the main character suffered). That moment disgusted me and in hindsight I probably should’ve walked out at that point.

For a time, it almost seemed like the film had an interesting premise going. It seemed to me that our heroine was encountering the manifestation of an ancient pagan god (depicted on an ancient basin used as a baptismal font in the village church) who was interested in acquiring a mate because, well, that’s what fertility gods do. But then, as I alluded to earlier, there was a last act twist that not only blew that theory to ribbons, it also completely confused me because it seemed to come completely out of left field.

I will say this much for the film: Rory Kinnear puts on the performance of a lifetime in this movie. I lost count of all the characters he played, but there’s such a wide variety it’s stunning to think that he pulled them all off himself. I also enjoyed Jesse Buckley’s performance as Harper, especially in the latter half of the film when the action starts ramping up.

The only other detail of this film that I thoroughly enjoyed was the music. As with Garland’s previous films, the music was composed by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow and it is superbly done. Indeed, had the music been not so good I don’t think I could’ve made it through the film.

I can’t in good conscience recommend going to see Men. It was overall a complete disappointment for me and it is far from Alex Garland’s best work.

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My Thoughts on: The Hollow Crown ‘Richard II’ (2012)

There are many film adaptations of Shakespeare that I enjoy, but my favorite would have to be The Hollow Crown, a BBC production of Shakespeare’s second tetralogy of history plays. The story begins with the reign and downfall of Richard II (grandson of Edward III) and concludes with the reign of Henry V as he attempts to conquer France. The series features an all-star cast and is a must see for fans of Shakespeare’s history plays.

Richard II stars Ben Whishaw (the new Q in the James Bond films) as the titular king in the last few years of his reign. Richard, in my opinion, believes that he is a good king, but his actions are so ruled by his whims that it eventually drives the kingdom into rebellion against him. This rebellion is led by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke (Rory Kinnear), the future Henry IV, who is incensed that, after his father John of Gaunt (Patrick Stewart) died, King Richard ransacked his estate to pay for a war in Ireland. Henry returns from exile ostensibly to claim his birthright as Duke of Lancaster, but it quickly turns into an outright war for the throne of England itself. Stewart’s role as John of Gaunt (a younger son of Edward III) is well-played but ends rather quickly. It’s a shame, because it’s a pleasure to see Patrick Stewart performing Shakespeare.

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The contrast between Whishaw’s Richard and Kinnear’s Henry could not be more striking. Richard is presented as preening, elegant, almost effeminate. For most of the play he wears immaculate white robes, and on the one occasion that he does wear armor, it’s gold-plated (not exactly practical for fighting). Henry, by contrast, is burly and muscular, not afraid to get dirty if the job requires it. It is emphasized that Henry does not want to hurt Richard (who is his cousin after all), but is only doing what he believes is best for the kingdom. In the course of a monologue, Richard finally concedes the crown to his cousin and Henry is crowned Henry IV of England.

There are several liberties taken with the depiction of certain characters, most notably with Richard’s queen. Presented here as a grown woman, in truth she was only 10 years old at the time of Richard’s death (they got married when she was 7). There is also an appearance by David Bradley (Walder Frey in Game of Thrones) in the small role of a gardener.

In conclusion, Richard II is a good start to The Hollow Crown, one that I highly recommend. If you’ve seen Richard II, what did you think about it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day 🙂

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See also:

My Thoughts on: The Hollow Crown ‘Richard III’ (2016)

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