Feb 19, 2008

New Spy DVDs Out Today

It's a week for dreary, serious spy movies on DVD...

Lust, Caution

Ang Lee's Big Serious wartime spy movie won top honors at the Venice Film Festival, made headlines for its graphic, NC-17 sex scenes (which play more clinical than erotic, frankly), and then fizzled on arrival at the American box office last fall. If one wanted to be mean, one could call it the porno version of Shining Through, but it's really much better than that, if still far from perfect. Lee is a masterful director, the film looks beautiful, the score is fantastic and the performances are great, but ultimately something's missing. I can't quite put my finger on what, which is probably why I never got around to writing a full review when it came out. Lee certainly takes a visual cue from Bernardo Bertolucci's masterpiece The Conformist, which shares a similar plot but very different themes. Be sure to pick up the legit NC-17 version, though, and not the cut-down, compromised R-rated version they're passing off for Blockbuster.


A citizen is hauled off to a secret location, possibly by his own government, for intensive interrogation comprised of questionable techniques. Think of it as The Prisoner for the post-911 generation. Like most things of this generation, though, it doesn't look like nearly as much fun. Director Gavin Hood's Rendition probably deserves a watch as one of the first movies to take on the very current issue of the CIA's practice of extraordinary rendition, but it looks so thoroughly depressing that I couldn't bring myself to see it in the theater. Roger Ebert called it "a perfect movie," though (apparently) and the cast is good, so I'll probably take a look on DVD. Still, for entertainment purposes, I prefer my rendition with lava lamps. Jake Gyllenhaal (as a reluctant CIA agent), Meryl Streep, Alan Arkin and Reese Witherspoon star.

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