Thursday, May 17, 2012
Richard Harris, Omar Sharif, David Hemmings, Anthony Hopkins, Ian Holm, Clifton James, Roy Kinnear, Freddie Jones, Jack Watson, Julian Glover - yeah, that's the line-up for Juggernaut, Richard Lester's terrorist-thriller from 1974. He was actually the third director working on the movie, and the only one that shoot material for it. Surprisingly enough it's still a perfect and very well-written thriller (Lester demanded some script-changes and the original writer refused to have his name on the movie for example) that kept me on the edge of the sofa!
Someone wants to blow up Britannica, a cruise ship on it's way to the
passengers and crew. The unknown terrorist, calling himself
"Juggernaut", has planted 16 oil drums with explosives all around the
ship and if the company owning the boat doesn't pay him half a million pounds
he will blow it up! What's left to do than send bomb-experts Anthony Fallon
(Richard Harris) and Charlie Braddock (David Hemmings) and their team to the
ship to try to defuse the bombs. But it won't be easy... US
Juggernaut is something so rare as a pure bomb-defusing thriller. There's not focus on action or chases, just manly men sweating, smoking and defusing bombs. In the hands of an incompetent director this could have been the most boring movie ever made, but Richard Lester knows how to tell a story and how to give life to the characters. The first ten minutes is spent on mingling with the passengers for example. Nothing dangerous, not red herrings - just establishing characters and doing it extremely well. Hardly without any dialogue, or just the minimum of talk.
I began this review with writing down all the male actors, and it's one of those movies that revolves around men doing manly thing - or just being depressed. Or drinking booze. Or smoking. The women are supporting parts, but lets not forget two masterful performances by Shirley Knight and Caroline Mortimer - Shirley as the mistress of Omar Sharif's egocentric captain and who befriends the Roy Kinnear and Caroline playing the wife of Anthony Hopkins - who have the unthankful part of crying and looking worried the whole time, but she's doing it perfect. Doris Nolan, who plays Clifton James wife is also very funny with her stone face and a fantastic interaction with James.
Shot aboard a real luxury liner, this movie looks terribly realistic and authentic. I'm not sure there was any sets built, but if so they looks extremely real. The beginning of the movie, as mentioned above, is almost documentary and that style - that bleak, nerve-wrecking cinematography keeps up the whole show. We're on that boat and it feels. I also love the aerial shots of the boat when two of the bombs go off. Like taken from a news report. You never see stuff like that anymore.
Juggernaut is a cleverly disguised character-driven drama and without those realistic characters - even the macho-gang lead by Harris and Hemmings, and the bureaucrats sitting in
trying to solve the problem their way - to the odd gang of passengers - it
wouldn't have been so good. It would have been a good thriller, but not a damn
excellent thriller like it is now. London
One of the characters is killed in a very sudden way, and I almost flew up from the sofa - both from anger, fear and shock. I didn't want that character killed. But they did it anyway. That's movie magic, people, that's movie magic.