Sunday, 15 October 2017

Blade Runner 2049 by Fancher, Green and Dick

What a relief to report that this long awaited sequel — which could so easily have been a disaster — is terrific. You should rush to see it on the best screen available, and I do mean, rush, for reasons we will get to...

Discussing the origins of the new film in a Radio 4 interview, Ridley Scott modestly declares "I'm fundamentally the whole basis of the idea." These are words to fill one with dread. Because, however great a director he might be, Scott is a notorious destroyer of scripts.

However, in this case we owe him enormous thanks. Because, having had his fundamental, whole and basic idea, he was then responsible for hiring Hampton Fancher to write the film.

Fancher is the man responsible for bringing Blade Runner to the screen in the first place, back in 1982. He optioned the Philip K. Dick novel and wrote a fascinating and vivid script. Later rewrites were done on the 1982 version by David Peoples, another superb writer, and the result was the original movie we love today.

This time around, according to Scott, Hampton Fancher wrote a 100 page novella which was the essence of the new movie and then a writer called Michael Green (Smallville, Logan) came in to develop it into a script.

Judging by the final credits, though, Fancher then came back and rewrote Green. But however the process worked, the results are outstanding. And at least Philip K. Dick gets a decent screen credit this time, instead of having his name buried in the fine print at the end of the film (as was the case, reprehensibly, in the original Blade Runner).

Meanwhile Ridley Scott was too busy to direct the movie — he was preoccupied with creating the awful Alien: Covenant — and so Denis Villeneuve was hired. Which is great news.

Villeneuve is a wondrous director, and he was responsible for the drug thriller Sicario — one of my favourite movies of all time — and Arrival, a thoughtful and impressive science fiction film. 

Villeneuve is a Canadian. As, oddly enough, is Ryan Gosling, who does a superb job in a similar role to Harrison Ford in the original.

Indeed, Gosling has an odd and very effective resemblance to Ford. There are similar — and eerie — echoes with other members of the cast, notably the excellent Mackenzie Davis (another Canadian) who, in the role of the replicant "pleasure model" Mariette, strongly recalls Daryl Hannah as Pris in the original.

Gosling's portrayal of 'K' is really quite moving. The nameless K is a Blade Runner and a replicant and he is despised for being both these things. The one ray of light in his life is his 'girlfriend' Joi (Ana de Armas). But she is just a piece of software...

The movie has been taken to task for Joi: she's said to be a typical piece of male wish fulfilment and objectification of women. But I read her character very differently.

K's life is desperately empty and meaningless. The fact that Joi is the only good thing in it — and she doesn't even exist — makes him a genuinely tragic figure.

The cast is impeccable.  Robin Wright plays K's ruthless, predatory boss. And Barkhad Abdi, who showed immense star power as a Somali pirate in Captain Philips, here provides a delightful, brief appearance as the wonderfully named Dr Badger.

Sylvia Hoeks plays an unforgetably deadly female replicant called Luv, and has a truly wonderful scene — and the best line in the film — when she saves K's ass while having her fingernails painted. She unleashes a remote drone strike on a bunch of assailants and, as a shaken K struggles to get back on his feet, she mutters disgustedly, "Just do your fucking job."

And of course, it's no spoiler to tell you that Harrison Ford himself is back to do an agreeable reprise of his role as Deckard. He also has a very nice dog (I can't find the dog's name to credit) who likes to drink whiskey...

Jared Leto, however, is wasted as Niander Wallace, an all powerful billionaire who runs a business which is the equivalent of the Tyrell Corporation in the original. He has a couple of dull and pretentious scenes where he yacks on about how godlike he is.

I suspect these scenes were Ridley Scott's big contribution to the movie. Because they are virtually identical to dull and pretentious scenes with godlike billionaires in the last couple of Alien pictures.

For some reason Scott has an obsession about this.

But this isn't Ridley Scott's film, it's Denis Villeneuve's, and Scott is to be congratulated for giving Villeneuve the freedom to do it in his own way.

Denis Villeneuve is a visionary film maker and he really delivers the goods here. He has some fascinating observations on the process of making Blade Runner 2049, and you can hear them in that same radio interview

For one thing, he makes the interesting point that  in the the 1982 movie Ridley Scott reimagined Los Angeles as a kind of London — grey and pouring with rain.

And so Villeneuve has created a futuristic LA based on his native Montreal — desolate and covered with snow.

The visuals in the movie are utterly extraordinary. It's photographed by Villeneuve's regular cinematographer Roger Deakins and the "visual futurist" Syd Mead, who was responsible for so much of the look of the first film, is back again helping with the design.

It's a long film — very nearly three hours — and although I balk at this kind of duration, I wouldn't say that this movie is ever actually slow. When it's not giving us action, it's providing thought provoking, and sometimes heart breaking moments.

Utterly wonderful stuff. But I have to warn you, both times I've seen it so far has been in a virtually empty cinema.

So you should hurry to see it on the big screen. Because it looks like Blade Runner 2049 is not a hit... But then neither was the original.

(Image credits: more posters than you can shake a replicant at, at Imp Awards.)

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Kingsman: The Golden Circle by Goldman, Vaughn and Millar

It's always a relief when a sequel isn't a disaster, and Kingsman: The Golden Circle is far from that. I thought it was great fun and a likable and faithful continuation of the first film

It has its flaws — it begins with what is now a tradition for comic book blockbusters: a big loud opening action sequence which is utterly ineffectual because the audience hasn't had a chance to warm up yet. 

But the movie soon finds its footing with savage robot hounds and the cheerful grinding of a drug dealer into hamburger. Plus it cheekily introduces us to Kingsman's American cousins, the US secret service.

And a terrific villain in the form of Poppy, played by Julianne Moore. The most fascinating aspect of the film is the way that Poppy’s evil scheme — to legalise drugs throughout the world — is actually a sane and sensible reform. 

And it’s blocked by a wicked US president who is willing to see millions die rather than end prohibition. This adds a layer of wit and even — dare I say it? — a suggestion of profundity to what is otherwise a jolly, glossy, bloodbath. 

I suppose that's the embarrassing aspect of these movies... They're so unapologetic in their depiction of slaughter as a form of comedy. And I can't deny that I'm laughing as loud as anyone.

However, there is  a moment of genuine artistry here when some butterflies painted on a wall come to beautiful, surreal life. And the same poetic imagery comes into play again at the end when the golden circle of the title turns out to also refer to the wedding ring which our hero Eggsy (Taron Egerton) gives his beloved.
This sequel also scores in the way Elton John puts in an amusing cameo as himself and gets to do action scenes and swear a great deal. 

And we’re reminded again that Taron Egerton can really act, as of course can Colin Firth. In a scene where they watch a friend sacrifice himself for the greater good, we can really feel their pain and loss, and see it on their faces. 

Speaking of sacrifices, this is the big flaw in both these movies. Last time they killed off Firth's character, Harry Hart, and realised that it was such a huge mistake they have to bring him back to life for this sequel. 

But they still haven’t learned their lesson and at the beginning of this movie they casually wipe out Roxy, aka Lancelot (Sophie Cookson), an excellent character and one who deserved a better fate. Roxy also got short shrift in the first film, where her story just trailed off instead of paying off.

This is because Kingsman is essentially a boys' club and girls aren't allowed to play. In the new movie Halle Berry is given very little to do. She's promoted to full secret agent status at the end, but I doubt anything will change come the third movie in this series.

I'm still kind of looking forward to it, though.

(Image credits: Plentiful posters at Imp Awards.)

Sunday, 1 October 2017

The Hitman's Bodyguard by Tom O'Connor

Once upon a time, being on the Hollywood Blacklist was a very bad thing. But these days the Script Blacklist is quite different; it's actually a good thing. It's the nickname for an annual summary of the best unproduced screenplays making the rounds.

So if you end up on it, there's a very good chance that next year your script will be produced. And that's what happened to Tom O'Connor with his screenplay, The Hitman's Bodyguard.

And it was when I heard about the Blacklist connection that this movie went from 'Get thee behind me satan' to 'Hmmm... maybe I'll go and see it after all.'

And it's not bad, at all. Admittedly I hated the dumb, lazy names of some of the characters — I mean, Asimov? Kurosawa? (And not just Kurosawa, but Takeshi Kurosawa — that's two Japanese film directors, if you're counting.) 

But there’s much more to this movie. And it’s often genuinely funny, and indeed even genuinely thrilling. There's a three sided chase — cars, motorcycle and speedboat in an Amsterdam canal — which is the first effective car chase I’ve seen in quite a while. 

Unfortunately it's followed by a long and tedious car chase and shoot out en route to the Hague. But after that there is a very effective foot chase and hand to hand fight scene in a kitchen and a tool shop to the strains of Chuck Berry’s ‘Little Queenie’. 

The European locations for the movie are very refreshing and a true bonus — and I believe they were cunningly concealed in the trailer so as not to frighten the horses; or rather the American teenagers. 

Of course, there is the ludicrous fact that the plot concerns Interpol agents running around everywhere with guns and flak vests, like a kind of European FBI. 

As I understand it, Interpol doesn't even have any agents and is just a clearinghouse for information between different national police forces. 

And I’m pretty damned sure they don’t have a giant headquarters in Manchester or ditto detention centre in Amsterdam. 

But at least this is a movie which acknowledges that Manchester and Amsterdam — and the Hague and Coventry — exist. 

And Samuel L. Jackson’s foul mouthed, violent love affair with Selma Hayek is actually rather touching. 

Which brings us to the cast, which is surprisingly top drawer. Besides Hayek in a supporting role we also have Gary Oldman as the big bad bad guy. 
Oldman's performance, and indeed O'Connor's writing for his character, elevate a cardboard villain to something rather more vivid. 

If you want some undemanding and bloodily violent summer entertainment, this will fit the bill while actually being a cut above the usual action movie fare.

(Image credits: A plethora of posters at Imp Awards.)

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Wind River by Taylor Sheridan

Newsflash, folks. This is a genuinely wonderful movie, my top film of the year so far, and you should rush out and see it now.

Because, although it's a solid box office success, it's unlikely to be the kind of huge hit which lingers in multiplexes for months.

As soon as I learned of the existence of Wind River, I had a hollow feeling of profound excitement in my stomach — and also a hint of apprehension.

Here's why I was excited... Wind River is written by Taylor Sheridan. 

Sheridan is my screenwriting hero. His first script was Sicario, a magnificent and brutal tale of the drug war across the US/Mexican border. It was the best film of 2015.

His second was Hell or High Water, a beautifully wrought story of brotherly love and bank robbery in a modern day Texas ravaged by corporate greed. It was my top pick of 2016.

This explains the excitement. But why the apprehension? Because that was one heck of a track record to live up to. Two supreme successes. Was a disappointment now in wait? 

Or could Taylor Sheridan possibly pull off three great scripts in a row?

Yes — Yes, yes, yes. 

Wind River begins with the body of a young woman being found on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. She has frozen to death while fleeing half-clothed from a sexual assault.

The girl, Natalie (Kelsey Asbille) has been discovered by Cory Lambert (impressively played by Jeremy Renner), a government Fish & Wildlife Agent who specialises in predator control — in other words, a professional hunter, tracker and sniper. 

Corey's special skills become crucial as the story develops. Young FBI agent Jane Banner (the wonderful Elizabeth Olsen) is called in to deal with the case because the FBI has jurisdiction on the reservation.

Naturally, up here in the frozen wilds, our city-girl Fed is a fish out of water. At one point she suggests they should wait for backup. Ben, the tribal police chief (played with sardonic humour by Graham Greene) replies, "This isn't the land of backup, Jane. This is the land of you're on your own."

Nevertheless, Jane begins to learn how to survive in this new and ruthless environment. She teams up with Cory to track down the human predators responsible for Natalie's death, and this superb story develops and unfolds and gradually discloses its secrets.

Taylor Sheridan's writing is wonderful not least because of the research he does and the authentic feel of his stories.
And he understands procedure. Sicario hinged on the fact that Emily Blunt's FBI agent (yes, another one) was needed as a fig leaf for a CIA black ops team — because the CIA can't operate on US soil without the affiliation of a domestic agency.

In Wind River, there's a tense moment when the whole investigation looks it will fall apart because Natalie has died of exposure to the cold rather than being directly killed by a person. And, you see, if it's not homicide, then the FBI can't take the case...

I just love that Taylor Sheridan took the trouble to learn about these facts of procedure — and could see the dramatic potential in them.

Wind River — like Hell or High Water — is a riveting thriller studded with brutal action which is simultaneously a powerful drama of real human beings facing up to the contortions of their lives.

It also features one stupendous flashback sequence which is utterly beautiful in its quiet simplicity, elegance and coherence.

All through the movie I was curious about the identity of the director. Because no script is so good that it can't be spoiled by the wrong director. Whoever made Wind River was obviously the right director, but who was it?

In the modern manner, the credits didn't roll until the end of the film, so I didn't find out the name of the director until then...

Taylor Sheridan. 

Having now turned director Sheridan has clearly learned a lot from his previous films. Two of the actors in Wind River have appeared in earlier Taylor Sheridan scripts — Jon Bernthal was a dubious cop in Sicario and Gil Birmingham played one of the Texas Rangers in Hell or High Water.

The music for this movie is by Nick Cage and Warren Ellis, who also did the soundtrack for Hell or High Water.

And there's a moody helicopter shot of a convoy of vehicles rolling to an uncertain destination which is powerfully reminiscent of the lethal excursion to Juarez in Sicario.

Sheridan has learned from the best, and he just keeps getting better.

There was one thing I disliked about this film, though. At the beginning we see a wolf menacing a flock of sheep.

The wolf is shot dead. It's a bloodily realistic shooting. I stayed until the very end of the movie desperately hoping the credits would say something about "no animals were harmed in the making of this picture."

Nope, they killed the wolf.

(Image credits: A blizzard of cool posters from Imp Awards.)

Sunday, 17 September 2017

"Deadly, cunning innocence:" The Girl in a Swing by Richard Adams

I know, I know... "Girl on a Swing", right? I suppose it's a case of English idiom, and an archaic one at that. 

Anyway, the thing to note is the name Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, one of my favourite novels and definitely the best epic adventure ever written about rabbits.

Given how much I love Watership Down, it's odd that I've never read any of Adams's other fiction. But I've bounced off The Plague Dogs and Shardik without finishing either of them, and I guess I'd resigned myself to being limited to his brilliant debut.

But then Centipede Press, a small publisher of beautiful limited editions, brought out a deluxe volume of Girl in a Swing, Richard Adams's fourth novel. (It's the grey cover with the embossed skull on it, depicted here.)

Now, I'm a sucker for this kind of thing, and so I splashed out for the special edition... then thought, what have I done? Well, there's nothing like spending a large sum on a book to motivate me to actually read it.

And, to my delight, Girl in a Swing grabbed me immediately. It's the story of Alan Desland, a dealer in ceramics in an idyllic rural English town called Newbury.

All the detail about ceramics in the story is absolutely fascinating, but what immediately hooked me is that Alan has a gift for ESP which surfaces unpredictably and randomly through his life.

These paranormal sequences give an eerie undertow to the story and promises harrowing things to come.

Alan is a bit of a prig and a stuffed shirt and mummy's boy, self described as "rather staid and old-fashioned." Which means he uses spellings like "Esquimaux" and "Mahometans."

And also in Alan's world words like 'bus, 'phone, 'fridge have to begin with apostrophes to indicate their primordial origins in omnibus, telephone, refrigerator.

Worse yet, there's a tedious tendency to stick in numerous quotations in a variety of other languages and if proles like you or I don't understand them, to hell with us. (But Adams's desire to show off his wide ranging literacy seems a lot less annoying when later on it includes Ambrose Bierce.)

Of course, these are more Richard Adams's defects than Alan Desland's, but I'm willing to forgive them because Adams tells such an engrossing story and he writes so well:
a Chien Lung dish is described as "glowing from its ebony stand like a Chinese pheasant on a nobleman's lawn."

The Girl in a Swing is addictively readable. The description of the ceramics trade and Alan's early psychic experiences set the scene for the turning point when our hero visits Copenhagen (Or "København", as good old Alan insists on calling it) on a buying trip.

There he meets the stunning, mysterious Karin Forster and immediately falls for her. So does the reader. But Alan also describes his first impression of our heroine as "pagan — unscrupulous and ruthless" and having a "deadly, cunning innocence."

Karin is an unforgettable character. The book really comes to life when she arrives on the scene and Adams shows what a terrific writer he is; the scene where Alan and Karin first go for dinner is indelibly vivid.

In his introduction to the book Reggie Oliver is right when he says "she's up there with... Emma Bovary and Anna Karenina."

The love story is tremendously effective. But of course Karin is way out of Alan's league, and he knows it. So when she agrees to instantly abandon her life in Copehnahgen and come back to England to marry him, we fear the worst.

Their honeymoon in Florida is described with considerable sensuality, so unexpected in the tale of a grown man who was still capable of snuggling up with his mother and reading Beatrix Potter.

 And the sequence at Itchetucknee River once again shows Adams's remarkable gift for nature writing. 

Karin has not only brought passion into Alan's life, she has also brought luck. The scenes where they return to England and she wholeheartedly throws herself into helping with his business are sheer delight, culminating in her discovery of the rare figurine of the title.

But soon the honeymoon is over in more ways than one, and the book proceeds with its agenda of building supernatural horror and revealing its dark secrets.

These are heralded by an hallucination sequence reminiscent of another masterful ghost story, Kinglsey Amis's The Green Man. Alone in his house, Alan awakes to hear water flooding in. But of course everything is "dry as a bone."

Water is a source of dread throughout the book, and ultimately we will find out why. The way Adams drip-feeds us information is beautifully controlled. He's a master writer.

And he goes on to conjure a sense of incomprehensible cosmic fear worthy of Lovecraft, although Adams is a vastly better writer: "Human beings in the universe are like dogs or cats in a house. Most of what is happening is really beyond our comprehension."

When we reach the nerve-shredding climax of the book Alan experiences "a terror as much like normal fear as a leopard is like a cat." Hospitalised and sedated, he finally sleeps: "the horrors went cackling down into oblivion."

But Adams hasn't finished with us yet. Worst is still to come.And when the book ultimately gives up its secrets, and Karin's, they are profoundly shocking, and astonishing.

The Girl in a Swing is genuinely disturbing, and it really packs a punch.

So it turns out there's a lot more to Richard Adams than rabbits...

(Image credits: the covers are all from Good Reads even, surprisingly the Centipede Press edition.)

Sunday, 10 September 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes by Bomback & Reeves

Last week I posted about the entire sequence of the Planet of the Apes movies, and I described how my favourite of them all — indeed one of my favourite movies of all time — was Rise of the Planet of the Apes by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver.

This is the second sequel to that film, and although it doesn't quite reach the same stratospheric heights as the Jaffa and Silver creation, it is a great movie, and one which really got to me. 

I cared so deeply about the characters in it that at times I felt sick with fear. It is heart rending, lyrical and poetic... It's also a great action flick. 

The script is by Mark Bomback, in collaboration with the director Matt Reeves. They worked together on the previous instalment in the franchise, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and that was an excellent picture.

But this is in a completely different league. Together Bomback and Reeves have cooked up an amazingly rich and intelligent adventure, and they've made some quite brilliant decisions.

For one, they have Caesar the chimp (Andy Serkis) and his band of apes team up with a vulnerable young human girl played by Amiah Miller. She is mute, but eventually the apes, some of whom can talk, name her Nova.

Now, Nova is the name of the mute human from the second of the early movies, Beneath the Planet of the Apes back in 1970. So Bomback and Reeves may have some interesting long-term stratagem in mind.

But more importantly, Nova is a tremendous asset to this movie, adding a touching and vulnerable element among the tough band of furry warriors. There is a delicately lovely scene where one of the apes puts a blossom in her hair.

This is a startlingly poetic film, and Reeves shows considerable artistry in his direction. He also makes great use of close ups (especially the kid's face). Altogether the movie has a heartbreaking intensity.

For a large part of its running time, this is essentially a revenge Western, something like The Searchers. 

And Bomback and Reeves have the great intelligence and good taste to make it a Western in the snow which adds immeasurably to the mood of the piece.

Then, at a certain point, the movie changes course and begins to borrow instead from Apocalypse Now (the connection is openly and cheekily acknowledged by a piece of graffiti we are shown which reads "Ape-pocalypse Now"!).

Such a course of action could easily have been utter folly. But Bomback and Reeves are at the top of their game, and they actually come up with something superior to Coppola's Apocalypse Now.

That film had a scene involving a long monologue by Kurtz (Marlon Brando) in which he "explains" his motivation. I put the word in quotes because he basically spews a lot of pretentious hogwash. I've always found it ineffectual and unconvincing.

But here we have the Kurtz figure (played by Woody Harrelson), deliver an equivalent monologue which entirely makes sense, and which has a ferociously ruthless and tragic logic to it.

Thus Bomback and Reeves have improved on Coppola's original. And they do much else besides. This is a beautifully plotted movie which does honour to the art of film storytelling. 

And it achieves genuine profundity when Caesar, recalling the villain of the previous instalment, says "I am like Kobo — he could not escape his hate and I cannot escape mine."

There is so much to praise here that I'm in danger of going on for too long. But just allow me to say a word about the superb music by Michael Giacchino. 

In the last instalment he referenced Ligeti. Here it's Carl Orff. But make no mistake, the real musical genius at work is called Giacchino, and he delivers one of the finest soundtracks in a long time.

In a summer with a surprisingly strong selection of blockbuster movies, this is a standout. Please don't miss it.

(Image credits: A profusion of punchy primate posters at Imp Awards.)

Sunday, 3 September 2017

The Ape's Tale: the Planet of the Apes movies by Pierre Boulle et al

I want to tell you about the summer blockbuster War for the Planet of the Apes. 

But I'll get to that next week. (The short version of my forthcoming post is — go and see it!) 

But first, a bit of history about the whole cycle of Planet of the Apes movies.... 

It all began with the prolific French novelist Pierre Boulle. Boulle was working in Malaya when World War 2 broke out and he became a secret agent for the French (and was decorated for his bravery). After the war he wrote a number of espionage novels.

But his breakthrough was another kind of story drawing on his wartime experiences — Bridge on the River Kwai which became an international bestseller in 1952. Boulle would in any case have gone down in history for that one book.

But eleven years later he wrote a novel called Les planète des singes, initially translated into English as Monkey Planet — confusingly and unhelpfully, singes in French means both "monkeys" and "apes." 

And of course they're not the same thing at all. For a start, no ape has a tail and virtually all monkeys do...

But never mind comparative primate physiology. Boulle's novel is of course now known as The Planet of the Apes. It was a brief satirical, sardonic parable. And although certainly science fiction, it was pretty light on the science.

None of that matters, though. It became the basis for the 1968 movie which was co-scripted by the rather wonderful Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone. 

This was a great movie. I saw it at a drive-in when I was a kid, and it blew my mind.

And not just my mind; the movie was a big success. It gave rise to a relatively conventional sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes and then, through the magic of flying a spaceship through a time-warp, a brisk series of very interesting prequels.

These were Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, and Battle for the Planet of the Apes.

All of these spin-offs were written by the fascinating and talented British writer Paul Dehn, previously best known for having a hand in the James Bond movies.

After Battle in 1973, the series (we didn't call them a franchise in those days) was dormant until the remake of The Planet of the Apes in 2001. 

The writers credited on this were William Broyles (Castaway) and the team of Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal. Together they wrote the movie Mona Lisa Smile and, solo, Konner worked on the TV shows The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire.

That movie was directed by Tim Burton. And I've already said too much about it. A terrible disappointment which seemed to have killed off the Apes and their Planet for good...

But then, ten years later, along came Rise of the Planet of the Apes, written by the team of Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver. 

They crafted one of the finest screenplays I've ever encountered and their film was a thing of beauty and a work of genius. 

It starred Andy Serkis as Caesar, the intelligent chimp, and it remains one of my favourite movies of all time.

If you haven't seen it, seek it out immediately (paying the correct fee to the copyright holders, of course. Writers have to eat).

Rise was followed by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 2014, which was written by Jaffa & Silver with Mark Bomback (Unstoppable, The Wolverine). 

It was a worthy successor to that great first movie in what people are now calling the Planet of the Apes "reboot".

Which brings us to this year's War of the Planet of the Apes. And it's a humdinger. Please tune in next week to read all about it...

(Image credits: The movie posters are all from Wikipedia. I know, I know. But I was in a hurry. At least the stylish cover of the Portuguese version of the Boulle book is from Good Reads.)