Sunday 12 April 2015

Seventh Son by Steven Knight et al

Sword and sorcery is a tricky genre and most film attempts at it fail to a greater or lesser degree — including the most recent version of Conan, and the Solomon Kane film, based on another of Robert E. Howard's great creations.

So it's a real pleasure to be able to report the presence of a successful sword and sorcery movie in the multiplexes — Seventh Son.

This is a brisk, inventive, vivid and fun pulp adventure. It even prevails over Jeff Bridges's terribly dodgy accent which almost, but not quite, sinks the enterprise. And some unforgivably bad prosthetic make up on one of the characters.

But the list of good things about the movie is far longer, and far more significant. Most crucially, one of the two screenwriters credited with the final script is the brilliant Steven Knight, responsible for Locke, a masterpiece and one of the very best films of 2014. Here Knight is something of a hired gun, but he's contributed to a fresh and enjoyable script. 

The other major credited writer is Charles Leavitt, who wrote the excellent Blood Diamond. An early draft of the script was by Matt Greenberg, who worked on the dragon movie reign of fire.

The film is loosely based on ("inspired by")  the first in a series of young adult novels by Joseph Delaney called The Spook's Apprentice. In this fantasy world, a Spook is a kind of witch hunter and monster killer. This is the role of Jeff Bridges, complete with his silly accent. Vocal contortions aside, Bridges is excellent as are the rest of the cast. 

Ben Barnes plays the young apprentice with absolute conviction and he is surrounded by talent. His mother is Olivia Williams, his love interest is Alicia Vikander and the big bad witch is none other than Julianne Moore.

Sergey Bodrov (who did the Ghengis Khan movie Mongol) directs with a gift for speed and detail — I particularly liked his use of the dog to warn us something bad was about to happen.

The striking production design is by Dante Ferretti, a regular collaborator with Martin Scorsese and the colourful cinematography is by Newton Thomas Sigel. Marco Beltrami provides a highly effective, outstanding music score.

If you like sword and sorcery don't miss this excellent, unpretentious popcorn movie.

(Image credits: All the posters — rich pickings this time — are from the useful Imp Awards.)

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