Monday, May 21, 2012

James McTeigue: The Raven

John Cusack, The Raven, Relativity Media, 2012.

Deliciously, audience permitted, forgivably twisting eerie fact with gruesome fiction, screenwriters Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare craft an uneven yet undeniably interesting concoction which melds various genre elements, and in the end is truly an old fashioned biographical thriller.

Director James McTeigue, who displayed his prowess as a visual storyteller specifically interested in creating hermetic worlds within which his stories could unfold, brings the Gothic New England of Poe to the screen gorgeously, despite the script inconsistencies. V for Vendetta and Ninja Assassin were both stringent stylistic exercises. The Raven is more of the same; an exquisite film which only blunders in its blueprinting.

John Cusack gives a thrillingly immersive performance as Edgar Allan Poe, making him a hard to like eccentric; through the audience's connection with Cusack as a movie star, and his imminent gifts as a serious actor, we become endeared to his stubborn, alcoholic, irresponsible Poe. Its a thrilling performance to watch , and pretty much matched by the stunning Alice Eve as Poe's love, Emily. Her eyes communicate terror chillingly. Luke Evans as Detective Fields, also makes a strong impression. His relationship and banter with Cusack as Poe are enjoyable.

Though the notion of a psychopath copycat killing an author's stories is not original, it feels freshly presented here. The camera work by Danny Ruhlmann is evocatively shaded, Frank Walsh and Kerrie Brown's sets are brilliantly constructed, and the costumes by Carlo Poggioli perfectly accentuate the aforementioned art direction.

Although some of the violence goes to over the top, into dreaded Saw territory, McTeigue's The Raven is an intelligent, stylish thriller featuring an excellent lead performance.

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