Sunday, March 09, 2008

Movies: Paprika (U.S. 2007)/The Bank Job (2008)

These movies have nothing in common aside from my seeing them over the same weekend and liking them both. I met multiple deadlines this past week, so perhaps the rosy glow of accomplishment is influencing my opinion. But I doubt it.

All due respect to Brad Bird and the Brothers Coen, but I’d call Paprika a genuine contender for both Best Animated Film and Best Picture of 2007. Throw in Best Adapted Screenplay, too, because it amazes me how well the movie hangs together.

An experimental therapeutic device that allows the wearer to interact with other people’s dreams is stolen. It’s up to a repressed scientist and her lively alter ego to prevent the boundaries between reality and fantasy from breaking down completely.

Paprika looks extraordinary. The dream imagery has a potent logic to it; the recurring “Parade of All Things Under the Sun,” as writer/director Satoshi Kon calls it, still haunts me. But the movie isn’t just about arresting visuals. It’s a dense story that takes on duality, the subconscious, and filmmaking. The last scene is note-perfect. When it ended, I felt – there’s no other word for it – uplifted. And that doesn’t happen often.

Here’s what’s known about the 1971 robbery that inspired The Bank Job. Thieves tunneled into a London branch of Lloyd’s and raided the safe deposit boxes. They coordinated their efforts using walkie-talkies, and those conversations were picked up by a ham radio enthusiast. Breathless coverage of the caper ended abruptly after several days, leading to speculation that the British government had issued a gag order – and that those boxes must have contained something special indeed.

From those facts and a mix of other historical tidbits, writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais cook up an entertaining stew. The ingredients include salacious royals, dubious “activists,” bent cops, a porn baron, and MI5. Or is it 6? It’s an old-school heist movie. Nothing slick here, just hard work and a lot of luck. Jason Statham, a Chez K favorite – news that there will be a Transporter 3 was greeted with song and feasting – has his best role to date. Well worth seeing.

And now, more deadlines. It never ends.