Prometheus Plot Holes

Warning, this post is literally nothing but spoilers for Prometheus. I mentioned in my review that the script had numerous plot holes, and I really need to vent them out, so I’ve listed them below. Do not read this until you’ve watched the film, and if anyone can fill the holes in for me please go ahead. I repeat, do not read this post until you have seen the film.

1.    Why is David riding a bicycle and shooting hoops? Is he trying to impress someone? I understand why he’s developing language skills, as he’s researching things as yet undiscovered, but what’s with the sports? He’s a robot!
2.    When Holloway sees the lines on the planet that prove the alien presence, why does no-one suggest scoping the area out for a while? Even just a little fly around would have been nice.
3.    What exactly are the holograms for? David starts one in the caves and another on the Space Jockey deck, but who are they for? They’re useful for him and us, but who made them? They could be some kind of ship’s log, but if so couldn’t someone have said that in one line of dialogue?
4.    When Shaw, Holloway, David and Ford flee the caves, outside there’s two go-karts and a minibus. Two get on each of the karts, and no-one gets into the bus, yet they all drive off (at the time we assume Fifield and Millburn are in there). Who is driving it? You could argue that there’s a nameless crew member that stayed behind as a driver, and headed off to avoid the storm slightly too early for the others to get in, but there’s no proof of this.
5.    Once David has rescued Shaw and Holloway, Janek mentions they don’t know where Fifield and Millburn are, but there’s a map showing their position! He uses it in the next scene. Plus, Janek seems pretty lackadaisical about two members of the crew being stranded on an alien planet. He practically says LOL. Also, how convenient is it that everyone has a surname beginning with a different letter?
6.    Why does David cave in to Vickers’ threats? He’s a robot, there’s not a lot she could do to him.
7.    Millburn the biologist is supposedly cowardly, as he is easily convinced by Fifield to run away at the site of a decapitated body (understandable), and later when he hears there’s a lifeform somewhere nearby, he says he’s heading in the opposite direction. So why, when he and Fifield go to the vase chamber, does he suddenly want to make friends with the alien there? He can’t even see the entire creature, so for all he knows it’s some giant beasty with a strange proboscis. Why did they even decide to stay in the cave full of weird bubbling vases anyway? It’s the exact room, with the dead decapitated body outside of it, that they ran away from earlier.
8.    Millburn and Fifield die when no-one is watching the monitors, because Vickers and Janek are getting it on in her quarters, right? Firstly, how come Janek didn’t order someone else to watch the monitors, and secondly, even if no-one was there, don’t these guys have TiVo? Just rewind the feed and see what happened. We have it in 2012; I’m guessing it’s still around in 2094.
9.    Why did Janek, the captain and pilot of the ship, go to investigate the disappearance of Millburn and Fifield? Surely he’s pretty integral to the running of the ship.
10.What exactly was David’s plan with the black goo? He gave some to Holloway in his drink; did he know he would have sex with Shaw and impregnate her with an alien? If so, why did he do that too? Was he curious, or trying to kill Holloway? Why?
11.Why did the infected Fifield come back to the ship to try and kill everyone? He was the one character I really wanted to die, and he’s the only one who came back to life! Typical. I thought Millburn would have come back with a chest-burster in him, seeing as an alien went down his throat and Fifield had his face melted with acid. Also, why did they go out and investigate Fifield’s clearly dead body (the helmet is smashed with a deadly atmosphere, and his legs are bent over his shoulders) seeing as there’s no way he could have just turned up there on his own, being dead and all.
12.Why does David tell Shaw she is pregnant? If he wanted an alien specimen, surely telling her will just make her try and abort it, and if he wanted to kill her, then not telling her will result in the alien bursting through her stomach and killing her that way. Being pregnant with a baby alien was probably the last thing she was expecting, especially seeing as she was barren and had only had sex 10 hours ago and not before for 28 months.
13.After she wakes up from being sedated by David, Shaw finds it pretty easy to escape from the medics and run to Vickers’ quarters with no-one chasing her. No-one comes for the entire time she is in there.
14.After the impromptu caesarean I could have done with a scene of Shaw breaking down from the intensity of what she’d just gone through. In the past few hours she’d lost her husband, found out she was pregnant when she thought she was barren, discovered the ‘child’ was in fact a killer alien, had a caesarean whilst fully awake and watching it, had the cut literally stapled shut and then fought the creature that had just gestated inside her. I’d say that warrants a little exasperation.
15.Did I miss a scene where everyone on board found out about, and was cool with, Peter Weyland being on board the ship? After Shaw’s surgery the rest of the crew seems OK with him being there. It was pretty damn obvious he was going to be onboard too, seeing Guy Pearce was highly billed in the opening credits. Stop doing that kind of thing. And making Vickers his daughter is pointless, unsurprising and ridiculous.
16.Ripping David the android’s head off is a nice nod to Ash’s fate in Alien, but is it possible for a robot to survive one of these films? Please?
17.When Vickers and Shaw are running from the crashing spaceship, why in the name of LV426 do they not run sideways? I hate when films do this. There’s something rolling behind you in a relatively straight line, so instead of getting out of the way you decide to race it. Insane. Shaw only survives because she trips and rolls out the way. I did like that the last two alive were the two main women, just like in Alien, and similarly the blonde dies and the brunette survives.
18.Shaw’s air supply is supposedly running out at the end of the film, yet she’s barely been away from the ship. Earlier, Fifield and Millburn were away for longer, and were expected to survive overnight when they got stranded. Yes, they were in the chambers with breathable atmosphere, but they had to keep their helmets up because it was going to get cold, so they must have had to survive on their own air supplies.
19.The alien that Shaw had aborted grows pretty fucking huge seeing as it’s had no organic matter to feed on other than a little blood Shaw left behind.
20.At the end, Shaw is told that there are other ships. Does she check them all for surviving Engineers, or just leave in the first ship she finds? I’d have much preferred that the final shot be of her silhouette, with an axe in one hand and David decapitated head in the other, heading off to take out the surviving aliens.
Wow, I didn’t realise I had so many problems with the script. Am I being too harsh? Or stupid? Was a lot of this explained? Let me know.
*EDIT* Thanks to everyone for all the comments and page views so far, the response I’ve had from this is phenomenal. It turns out my list of plot holes wasn’t quite complete, and many of you have posed a few more. I’ve tried to give credit where it’s due, but apologies if I’ve left someone off. Also, some of these get a bit science-y, and I’ve not researched any of the theories, so please don’t shout at me if they’re wrong. Sections in brackets are from me.
21.   How exactly did they manage to reanimate a head that’d be dead for several thousand years? I’m pretty sure in 77 years time that technology isn’t going to be available. Also, why did it explode? – Anon
22.   Organic molecules do not form in oxygen-rich running water. – Anon
23.    It’d be nice if they’d clarified at some point why the Hell the Engineers wanted to kill humans, and why did they think that the black goo, which creates a completely different, far more dangerous race, would be the best way to do it? (Personally I think it was for sport.) – J/Michael Shaw
24.   The DNA was a perfect match, yet the Engineers are big, bald and pale. (My personal theory is that had the physical differences are due to environmental differences between Earth and LV-223 in terms of gravity, proximity to the Sun, etc.) – J
25.   If the Engineers created humans, did they also create all the other life on Earth? From what, and how are they all different? Did all the different species evolve from that one Engineer? If so, how are we all different? – J/areanimator
26.   The crew are really very unprofessional and lacking in protocol for such an important and well funded mission. (Perhaps these were the only people willing to sacrifice 5 years of their lives for a wild goose chase.) – Anon
27.   Could they not have detected the oncoming storm, seeing as they just arrived from space? And don’t they have larger versions of Fifield’s ‘puppies’ they could send down to scout out the terrain first? (Hell, can’t they send the ‘puppies’ into the caves from the safety of the ship? There could have been aliens waiting just inside the cave for them.) – Anon
28.   You can’t run around after having your body cut open to your uterus, even if the wound was closed with some stitches. Your body goes into complete shock, the stitches cannot make up for the fact tissue was cut and muscles were cut which are essential for your core, and by extension for your body to perform any kind of walking movement. – Anon
29.   The two co-pilots at the end didn’t really need to kill themselves. They say Janek is a bad pilot (really? Weyland paid a fortune for a crappy captain?) but he doesn’t really do a lot of piloting, in fact he even says “Hands off” of the steering to crash into the ship. There’s also apparently a member of Weyland’s security who doesn’t go down to the planet with Weyland and co, who Janek is essentially killing at that point too, but fair enough it’s for the good of humanity. – Anon
30.   Why do the cryo-beds have a function that allows David to see their dreams? (Possibly to see if they’re in distress or suffering some kind of psychological trauma from the cryo-sleep, but that’s a stretch). – Beta Max
31.   Why was the medical machine only male-calibrated? OK, it was probably there to operate on Weyland, but it makes little sense to make machinery just for men or women. – Anon
32.   How did the Engineer survive the toxic LV-223 atmosphere without a helmet when he attacks Shaw at the end? He must have needed the helmet to breathe, yet made it from the crashed ship to Vickers’ crashed pod pretty easily.  – Anon
33.   Why was it a secret that Weyland was on his ship, and why was it pegged as a surprise reveal that Vickers’ was his daughter? (Hollywood tension-generating bullshit.) – Anon
34.   Why did the Engineers point all the ancient civilisations towards a military installation? (My guess: the Engineers thought we might have come back all guns blazing, so sent us to a battle-ready moon/planet instead of their home world.) – Anon
35.   Once they discover that the Engineers have the same DNA as humans, they don’t make the logical connection that what killed the Engineers will probably kill the humans too, and no extra quarantine methods or safety precautions are put in place. – Areanimator
36.   The Engineers were running away from something, yet ran towards a room full of deadly black goo that presumably they manufactured. (The room had the giant stone head in, meaning it could be of religious importance, and they thought prayer was their only option at that point. Alternatively, they may have been running towards the room to trap the black goo inside.) – Areanimator
37.   The hologram of Earth resembles modern Earth, rather than how it looked at the damn of man. –The Movie Waffler
38.   Why did Weyland think he could just rock up to an alien moon, have a nice chat with the Engineers and that they could give him immortality? (He was nearly dead, so was probably grasping at whatever straws he could reach.) – Anon
39.   Apparently the Engineers were trying to leave LV-223 because it had all gone wrong, but how? There was no trace of active aliens on the planet. (They may have been trying to seal off the experiment going wrong into the cave with the vases, but one Engineer tripped and got decapitated by the door?) – Lisa
40.   After decapitation, David’s head manages to stay pretty damn close to his body, even after takeoff, crashing and rolling all over the place. Seems pretty unlikely unless the white ‘blood’ is a damn good glue. – Christophe Abi Akle

Oh, and for those of you looking for a more informed, science-based look at the gaping holes woven together to form the net of this film, check out Stephen Gaskell’s post over at Creepy Treehouse.

Prometheus

Don’t ask me how, but I managed to get a ticket to the Cast & Crew Premiere of Prometheus at the Empire Cinema in London’s Leicester Square last night. Though it was disappointing not to see director Ridley Scott or the cast, who are probably saving themselves for tomorrow’s red carpet Premiere (a part of me was hoping I’d get to sit next to Charlize Theron, you can probably guess which part), the experience of going to see a film with nothing but film fans and people who respect the art, in a stunning cinema, was amazing, even if there was a bit of a post-movie crowd crushing to retrieve handed-in phones afterwards. Plus, I saw it three days before the rest of the general public, which makes me feel special. 
 In 2089 a group of scientists, led by Shaw and Holloway (Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green) discover ancient cave paintings on the Isle of Skye depicting giant humanoids reaching up to 6 orbs in the sky. The drawing matches others found all over the world, and point towards a distant planet that may hold some key to the origins of mankind. Four years later, the scientists arrive at the planet LV223 as part of a 17-man crew aboard the Peter Weyland-funded ship Prometheus. Once there, the crew find traces of alien life, but are the answers they receive the ones they were hoping for?

Through A Glass Darkly

I rarely watch a film I literally know nothing about, and I must say it’s an unsettling experience. I’ve witnessed people walking up to a cinema and asking “What’s playing today?” in shock and awe. “How can these people not know about the film they’re going to see? Who are these people? Have they left the house just to see any film, rather than planning, sometimes weeks in advance, to go and see a specific film?” are often thoughts that run around my head and occasionally out of my mouth as the clerk at Odeon reels off a list of the current blockbusters and horrors  for the third time to a pair of elderly women in front of me in the queue, clearly looking for something starring Clark Gable. On occasion, and as happened recently with Time Regained, I will pause a movie I know nothing about some way into it, to have a quick check online or in the 1001 book, to give me some idea of what I’m supposed to be watching. If I do this, it’s not generally a good sign, as a) I’m as yet unsure of what the film is about, and b) I’m clearly bored. This was not an option with Ingmar Bergman’s Through A Glass Darkly though, for I watched it streaming via LoveFilm, and I find that if I pause it for more than a quick toilet break, the damn thing refuses to load unless it plays from the beginning, so I had to sit it out and find out what I was watching afterwards.


We open with four people swimming gleefully towards a deserted island. Amongst them is Karin (Harriet Andersson), who suffers from some kind of mental illness that she doesn’t know is incurable, but her father David (Gunnar Bjornstrand) and husband/doctor Martin (Max von Sydow), both also present, do. David is a writer of novels, who has been away recently and plans to leave again after finishing his current book. Also along for the trip is Karin’s 17 year old younger brother Minus (Lars Passgard). These four make up the only characters in the film, which takes place entirely on and around the island, yet the film never really feels claustrophobic, just a little muddled.

Karin’s illness leaves her with no desires to sleep with her husband, yet she has acute hearing, leaving her to wander around the house late at night (pretty much no-one ever sleeps in this film) and at one point she seems to reach an intense state of ecstasy whilst alone and unprovoked.

All four people have fairly strained relationships with one another, especially the children with their father, who is self centred and has a robotic detachment of emotion towards his daughter’s potentially fatal condition, so much so that he is morbidly interested in documenting her deterioration. His son Minus feels especially distant, feeling that he is completely unable to talk to his father.

Frustratingly, the film offers only the minimal amount of closure, as Karin’s condition worsens to critical levels. I’m always impressed when directors overcome extreme limitations – usually set by themselves – for example here with the restricted location and cast quartet, but I feel that a great deal more could have been done. Director Ingmar Bergman has many films on the List, and this is only the second one I’ve watched. Winter Light disappointed me a little, but this was a definite improvement. Bergman seems to be one of the most notable directors of all time List-wise, and regularly comes up on many people’s greatest lists, so I’m looking forward to seeing some of his better works in the future.

Choose life 5/10

Invictus

South Africa, May 1994. Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) was released from prison 4 years ago, and has just been elected as the country’s president. Amidst a nation-wide racial clash, Mandela believes that the key to a united country could lie within the national rugby team, the Springboks, and their captain Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon).
Mandela’s plan, it seems, is for the Springboks – a team so despised by the black population that they instinctively root for whoever is playing against them, and who hadn’t been doing terribly well before Mandela got involved – to win the Rugby World Cup in less than a year’s time, though experts believe they’ll get no further than the quarter finals at best. The Springboks, with only one black player and a uniform of apartheid’s green and gold, find themselves in a position where their president wants them to be cheered on by the entire mixed nation, so embark on a PR campaign involving playing and teaching rugby to the poor black kids from the slums of the country. Going in, I thought his plan would have been to create a team comprised of 50% blacks and whites, thereby creating animosity as to whether the players were recruited for their skill or the colour of their skin, but in effect his plan was… nothing. Other than some inspirational speeches, standard marketing techniques, a slightly more intense training regime and an admirable cause, the aim seems to be just to will the team to win. Much like Million Dollar Baby, I could have done with some more time spent on the reasons behind the success, not simply showing it.

The subplot involving Mandela’s begrudgingly mixed race security team being forced to work together, eventually bonding over the rugby matches, was well played if predictable, but ably showed the success of the president’s plans. I’d have liked more time spent on Mandela as a person, maybe depicting his rise from prisoner to presidential candidate in an extremely racist country, as opposed to skipping through it in an all-too-brief opening montage. The man behind the title is hinted at – his broken family, way with the ladies and fondness for afternoon tea – but such a prolific, historical figures surely deserves a full biopic that doesn’t spend half it’s time on the rugby field. But then Eastwood’s recent biopic, J. Edgar, has received largely negative reviews, so there could be a reason for why he didn’t do the same here.
The closest the film comes to spectacle is in the rugby matches, and I’m no sports fan. Every modicum of emotion that can be wrought from the game has been, but those unfamiliar with it’s intricacies (I’m only just out of this category) could believe it to be simply about mid-pitch wrestling matches and kicking a ball between two posts.
Morgan Freeman has been trying to play Mandela for years, eventually getting the project off the ground with his Million Dollar Baby/Unforgiven director Clint Eastwood. He does a great job with the accent and the performance, but his casting was such an obvious choice that it dullens the impact. There is no-one else that could have portrayed the character better, and its doubtful that were someone else casting the film they’d’ve asked anyone else. If Freeman weren’t involved, the project probably never would have gone anywhere, and perhaps that’s how it should have been. Damon is good too, and it shows the notoriety of Eastwood as a director that Damon, one of the most outright and capable leading men working in Hollywood today, is willing to take a supporting role just to work with him.
Some plot points are clearly superfluous – much attention is put on Chester, the Springbok’s only black player, injuring his hamstring so he is unable to play a couple of matches – and far too much time is spent on the less interesting sports aspects over the far more captivating figurehead at the heart of the story.
Choose life 5/10

Last Tango in Paris

This is one of those films that I’ve often heard mentioned, but never knew anything about, other than it had Marlon Brando wearing a long camel coat, and some degree of nudity. This is true on both counts, though ‘some’ could be something of an understatement, as barely a scene goes by without flesh being exposed, love being made or pleasure being administered by a character to themselves.
 
Our leads are Paul (Brando) and Jeanne (Maria Schneider, at the time a somewhat inexperienced actress). After several near-meetings and glimpses on the street and in a bar, she goes to rent an apartment that he has already entered. Without knowing one another’s names, or anything else, the two engage in a burst of passionate, impromptu sex, before embarking on a relationship centred around the apartment, despite troubles in their personal lives and an obvious age gap of at least twenty years.
 

The most annoying thing about this film is the dialogue, specifically Brando’s. He’s not known for his eloquence with enunciation, and here he excels himself with his mumbling. If it weren’t for the subtitles in some of his earlier scenes, I wouldn’t have known he was talking at all, and my constant need to keep readjusting the volume become tiresome after only a short while, and downright infuriating at the end, for almost everyone else speaks at a normal level (though Schneider has a go at mumbling too) and the score is at an average volume, but I had no desire to annoy my neighbours by keeping the sound at a raised level. This made for a very unpleasant viewing experience.
 
The script is scarred with hideous puns and double entendres (“What’s that for?” “Your happiness, and my hap-penis”) as well as enough crudity and sex scenes to make anyone blush. The scene where Paul rubs butter into Jeanne’s anus before raping her from behind is beyond uncomfortable (especially for her), as is the fact that she stays after the deed is done. Later, he seduces her by saying that he wants to get a pig, have the pig fuck her and vomit on her, then she eats the vomit and the pig dies whilst fucking her. I have no idea what that means, nor do I have any desire to, and in fact I’d have been happier had that been part of the dialogue I hadn’t heard.
 
The relationship between the leads is interesting, as it provides something segregated from their everyday, troubled lives, but it seems to bring about more problems than it solves. Schneider is shot attractively – the camera all but making love to her exposed thigh in an early shot in a phone booth – and the colour palette is full of sumptuous browns and ochres. Jeanne’s subplot involving her boyfriend making a semi-documentary film about their relationship was distracting and irritatingly confusing.
 
I wasn’t sure what I’d make of this film before going in, and I’m only slightly more sure of what happened during it now that it’s thankfully over. If Brando, who admittedly is excellent, hadn’t been in the film I doubt it’d be on the List, and the audio problems, lack of a fully structured plot and unnecessary diversions make this more annoying than entertaining.
 
Choose life 4/10

Ring

I always seem to end up watching horror movies on my own. Very few of my friends, and definitely not my girlfriend, actually like scary films, and though my Dad likes a couple my Mum always essentially banned them from the house (Carrie is her least favourite film of all time, possibly the main reason my Dad still has it on video back at their house). And so it was that I ended up watching Ring, the Japanese 1998 original, alone. It’s subtitled, which rules out the only people I know that would have been willing to watch it with me, but as I was expecting something thoroughly disturbing, bordering on terrifying, I made sure to watch it first thing on a bright and sunny Saturday morning. I even left a curtain open to stream in some sunlight, just not the one that gives glare on the screen.
 
I’ve seen the remarkably successful Gore Verbinski US remake of this film and found it thoroughly underwhelming and forgettable, so much so that going in I couldn’t really remember much about it, other than the basic plot and at some point it involved a well, so I was actually largely looking forward to this viewing, to see what all the fuss was about.
 

The premise is delightfully simple – there’s an unmarked videotape that, after you watch it you receive a phone call, and exactly 7 days later you die. A group of friends watched the video a week ago from the start of the film, and they all die, with no cause of death. Two were even found in a car locked from the inside, their faces similarly locked in a mask of terror. The aunt of one of these victims is Reiko Asakawa (Nanako Matsushima) a newspaper journalist working on a story about the tape. Believing the story, she sets out to discover the truth. That point right there is where I get annoyed with the plot. I know traditionally the characters in horror films aren’t always the brightest bulbs in the box, but this is ridiculous. Reiko believes that if someone watches the tape, they will die in seven days, so when she discovers a mysterious, unmarked tape found in the youth’s cabin, she gleefully sits down and watches it, then takes it with her and shows it to her ex-husband Ryuji (Hiroyuki Sanada), thereby damning him as well. She even makes him a copy! I’d understand if she was depicted as sceptical or downright disbelieving, but from the start she seems genuinely on board with the idea that a video can kill you. Oh, and it’s not that big of a spoiler to say that she leaves it around the house for her young son to find and watch too; now that’s good parenting. I’m still not sure why, at any point in the film, no-one took a claw hammer to the video and smashed it to bits, as had this been done directly after Ryuji had seen it, the outcome would have been roughly the same, but without the need for any future work.
 
 
The video itself is quite disconcerting; a series of seemingly random images and clips of a girl combing her hair in a mirror, writing characters rearranging themselves, people crawling around on the floor, a blinking eye, the aforementioned well and a man standing by a large body of water with a hood over his head, pointing. The grainy footage and eerie soundtrack add to the feeling of discomfort, but it was nowhere near as disturbing as I was expecting. In fact, and this may be because of my immunisation by dumbed down, mainstream US horrors, I was actually disappointed that the film wasn’t more disturbing. There is a rising sense of dread throughout, but it’s not until a scene near the end that this comes to a head, and the only really scary image, the weird overly bulging eye from the disc cover, is briefly glimpsed. The point at which some characters revealed they were privy to psychic powers also took me out of the film a great deal.
 
I foolishly watched this film on a morning when I was expecting a phone call, and sure enough about an hour in the call came, but I did not jump out of my skin or cower in terror as I thought I might, but it did raise the question as to how many people out there have received a call mere moments after the film has finished, just like after those that watch the video in the film? Chances are there are dozens, if not hundreds of people out there who have experienced this, and, for a little while at least, have maybe feared for their lives. That’s the great thing about the premise; once you’ve watched the video, there’s not a lot you can do about what’s going to happen. It’s a fear of the inevitable. There is no killer, not of this world anyway, so there’s no bargaining, no reasoning, few would believe you if you asked for help and there’s nothing they could do anyway.
 
A lot is done with a little in the film, with almost no special effects and most of the film being characters worrying or performing an All The President’s Men style investigation into the tape. The conclusion though is hurried and uses a hastily arrived at, unproven theory that happens to fit the one scenario in the film, yet is taken as the only logical solution. This, along with the other plot annoyances, took me out of the film too much, but I’m very glad it didn’t ever resort to cheap surprise shocks.
 
Choose life 6/10

Million Dollar Baby

The second part of my Clint-Eastwood-directing-himself-and-Morgan-Freeman-in-a-supporting-role double bill see Clint take on a genre he’s never really (that I know of) looked at before, the sports movie (please feel free to let me know if he has, I’m often wrong about these things and he’s been working for an awfully long time).

If there’s two criticisms that can be lauded onto Eastwood, it’s that he doesn’t direct happy stories or portray more than one character. He’s not renowned for making lighter films with happy endings or playing people who aren’t grumpy, stoic curmudgeons with their trousers too high, and his streak continues here. I know he’s made a few lighter films (Paint Your Wagon, Every Which Way But Loose) but I haven’t seen them, and I’m guessing he plays the grumpy, stoic, possibly singing straightman to a comically messy primate who never stops annoying him. Again, please let me know if I’m wrong and recommend any films where he flashes a smile, once.

Here, Eastwood plays Frankie Dunn, a knowledgeable, best-there-is boxing trainer who can’t seem to get it together to be more than the owner of the run-down Hit Pit Gym. His latest fighter, Big Willie Little (Mike Colter) has a promising career ahead of him, with Frankie having gotten him almost to a title fight, but alas he leaves for a more prolific manager, leaving Frankie high and dry. Meanwhile, self-proclaimed white trash  Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) has joined his gym and is looking for a trainer, though Dunn is adamant that he doesn’t train girls. Her pluck and commitment eventually wears down Dunn, assisted by persistent advice from his assistant, Morgan Freeman’s retired boxer and former recipient of Dunn’s training, Eddie ‘Scrap-Iron’ Dupris.


The story is a little corny and at times downright predictable. It’s clear that Maggie and Frankie will work together, each filling a void in the other’s life (Maggie’s father is dead, Frankie’s daughter has fled and refuses to acknowledge his efforts to contact her), and once they get going her rise through the ranks is unbelievable, especially as she never received any training until she was 31, but the delivery is spot-on. Heartstrings are at times shamelessly plucked, but justifiably so, and there’s a blindsided moment I genuinely didn’t see coming on first viewing. This isn’t your average rags-to-riches underdog sports movie, and it’s proud of this. There’s moments of humour, most noticeably from Dunn trying to talk to Maggie (“I’m going to try and forget the fact that you’re a girl”) and from Jay Baruchel’s simpleton wanna-be-but-never-gonna-be boxer ‘Danger’ Barch.


Swank is, expectedly, brilliant, earning her second Oscar as she all but becomes the downtrodden heroine. Her family has never stopped putting her down (look out for Garfunkel & Oates’ Riki Lindhome as her welfare-cheating sister!) but she retains a dogged sense of determination, saving up all her money from waitressing jobs where she has to steal half-eaten steaks to survive, just to buy a speedball for training. The outcome of her trying to do something nice for the family that’s never done anything for her is genuinely heartbreaking. Eastwood is good, but it’s well trodden ground for him, and Morgan Freeman is wonderfully understated – until he gets a chance to show off some moves later on.


There’s a lot to recommend about the film, but not a lot to bring you back. It’s certainly worth watching at least once, and I took a great deal away from it, but most of that was that I didn’t want to go through the harrowing gut-punch of an experience of watching it again any time soon.


Choose film 8/10