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This is a review only of the film as seen in the cinema as it's a current release so I can't comment on any DVD extras etc.
Directed by John Madden.
Starring: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson , Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Dev Patel
12A certificate and 124 minutes long.
Is this an enjoyable movie?
I have to say it depends who you speak to. I really loved it. Mr T-o-T found it totally boring 'waiting for the story to begin' and fell asleep, but then he is more an action movie chap.
It's a rewarding and enjoyable film if you'd like a gentle story with a bit of humour, a little bit of an edge here and there, the chance to see some of our finest British actors delighting the audience, sumptuous landscapes and settings, and like the sort of story where you are interweaving several characters lives rather than having a straightforward A-Z plot.
The hotel was the biggest star to me - I'd be there like a shot if it were for real. It redefines shabby chic or faded colonialism back to the original 'grotty but characterful' idea - dusty, mouldy, decrepit but oh how I want to live in one of those 'shacks on the roof'. The characters, while dismayed at first, come to appreciate the charms of the place and its manager Sonny, played by Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire).
Each of the characters has a reason to abandon the UK at their retirement - and in most cases they are grasping at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as a straw to rescue them from what has gone wrong in their lives. Some of the characters are not very likeable, and all the more realistic for that, and they all struggle to find their way in their new Indian environment.
In a way they all have a quest, and the only thing that disappointed slightly about the film was the fact that they all eventually found what they were looking for, although in some cases it was more a case of finding what they needed rather than what they wanted. So it was a little predictable.
It was easy to tell that this was adapted from a novel as it had a very chapter-like structure and I would now like to read the book as well.
Update: It's now March 2012 and I'm still not smoking. These definitely helped.
It's that time of year again, new year's resolutions...dirty looks from the other half....freezing everything off standing banished in the snowy garden having a late night fag...I'm on my second attempt to give up and this time round I'm using this gum to help me.
NiQuitin gum comes in two strengths, 4mg for heavy smokers, or 2mg for lighter smokers (under 20 fags a day, I think, or those who can wake 30 minutes after waking before that first smoke). I'm using the 2mg strength. It is allegedly mint flavour, but honestly, not like any other mint gum you've ever tasted. I'm buying it in packs of 12, which cost me £1.95.
Inside the pack is a blister pack with small pieces of gum, and instruction leaflet, and a credit card sized card with details of Click2Quit, where you can get a free tailored stop smoking plan, which is a helpful addition and a nice little touch.
The product is designed to help you give up smoking by giving you a nicotine 'fix' while you work on giving up the habit of smoking, then gradually weaning you off the nicotine.
How to use
They suggest a schedule of 3 steps to gradually wean yourself off nicotine, starting with 8-12 pieces a day for 3 months, then reducing, then only using in emergencies. I have to say I'm not using according to their plan exactly, I don't use that many pieces each day so maybe I'm not as nicotine addicted as many smokers. I even only use half a piece of gum sometimes.
The idea is to chew the gum slowly then 'park' it in a corner of your mouth, between your gum and your cheek for example. somewhere that the nicotine can be absorbed by the lining of your mouth.
Take care: the instructions say you should not use the gum for more than 9 months, if you are under 12 years old, or if you are allergic to nicotine. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding you should see your doctor first.
What do I think?
Generally I do think this is helping me a bit, as I said, I wasn't a heavy smoker and I don't think I had a really bad nicotine addiction, my smoking was more habit/stress-relief. So I didn't have too many giving up smoking symptoms to relieve (like bad temper), but I do appreciate having something to fill the gap when my mind was shouting 'I WANT A FAG!'.
It's an odd sensation, it doesn't taste of mint, as far as I'm concerned, but you do get that 'cold' sensation that you get from other gum where it is touching the inside of your mouth. It's not an unpleasant taste once you've got used to it after the first one or two chews. I'm now quite adept at tucking it away between my gum and cheek in various favourite spots. I move it around every couple of minutes as I find the sensation on my gum/cheek starts to get a bit too intense otherwise.
I have to be careful not to forget and treat it like ordinary gum: give it a good chew, produce a lot of saliva and swallow it, and ouch, my throat is burning! Accidentally swallowing too much nicotiney saliva makes me cough too. I shouldn't be surprised by that, it's what cigarettes do to you as well...
You don't get that 'buzz' that you get from a cigarette but I do feel some slight effect of the nicotine physically.
Yes, I would recommend giving this a try. Different things work for different smokers at different times. I also tried some nicotine lozenges (review coming) that didn't suit me at all, and I don't think I can make do with just willpower. A heavy smoker might need something a bit more than this gum, though, so explore various options. There's nothing to stop you using the gum plus something else to help. Whatever works for you has got to be worth it!
good luck and congratulations to anyone who is giving up smoking now, or thinking about doing it. Join me in becoming healthier, less stinky and considerably heavier in the wallet department!
OK. Great invention. Sort of . But they don't half get manky in there. Especially when you have an other half like Mr ToT, whose 'helpful' contribution to dinner every evening is to take all the dirty plates and crockery and glasses and stuff back to the kitchen and put in the dishwasher. Trouble is he has some kind of psychological aversion to rinsing them first. A quick scrape of the leftovers into the bin and straight into the machine they go, along with all the stuck on gravy, rice, odd peas (very odd some of them), chicken skin, what have you. And as we are only the two of us, the dishwasher only gets run a couple of times a week. So by the time it does....minging!
It's bad enough having to scrape the foul sludge out of the filters once a month or so (does he do that? Ha! You have to ask?) but the whole machine gets a wee bit greasy and grimy inside. I used to give it a good wipe out once a week but when I saw an instant lazy way to clean the machine on the supermarket shelf, I thought I'd give it a go. We live in a very hard water area too so the fact that it is supposed to remove limescale is a bonus and should add to the life of the machine.
Enter Finish dishwasher cleaner.
Finish is a well-respected brand in dishwasher thingummies, in fact, their range is getting comically obscure with balls, power, tabs, additives, all sorts just to confuse us, but there's just the one cleaner, thank goodness.
250ml of dishwasher cleaner in a 100% recyclable bottle, and the active ingredients are 100% biodegradable too. I don't know about the inactive ingredients, doesn't say, but why do I have to have lazy inactive ingredients lounging idly around my dishwasher while the motivated little ingredients do all the work anyway? Reminds me of my office...
It is designed to clean all areas including the hidden ones you'd never get to yourself, for example the pipes, drain and water pump. It removes grease and limescale and is recommended by all major dishwasher manufacturers.
How to Use
In an empty machine, pull off the label that seals the cap, and bung the bottle in to the bottom tray, upside down. Then run the machine on a long, hot programme of at least 65degrees. They recommend once a month.
What do I think?
I think they are having a laugh saying once a month, unless you have more money than sense, but I've been happily using it once every few months since that first time.
The machine is definitely a bit brighter and cleaner after the cycle and although I can't see inside all the little nooks and crannies and pipes, I take their word for it that it is removing grease and limescale there. This not only makes me feel that my crockery will be cleaner, but that the machine should live longer before choking on our horrible hard water.
The machine smells nice and fresh and is very shiny after this has been used and it saves me from having to spend time cleaning the racks etc, they are fine just with this every now and then. The major difference in results is that the rinse function is much better and glasses come out noticeably cleaner and less streaky after the machine has been cleaned, and this lasts for quite a few weeks.
Ah... those ads. Cute little plastic cows, pirates and a cyclist jumping around in slightly whacky ways with silly voices...all to promote a new type of milk here in the UK. The ads are certainly eye-catching - but is this just clever marketing of a bog-standard product?
I bought this for the first time over christmas in that usual ridiculous Christmas panic (not aided by this year's snow) that we might all collapse and die if we ran out of a pint of the white stuff during the one day that the shops actually shut. I admit it, I went a bit mad over milk! I bought 4 big bottles even though I didn't have room for them and there was only going to be 3 of us at home most of the time. But I figured it could sit in the snow in the garden just as well as being in the fridge....and it was worth giving this premium brand a try to see if its claims of lasting longer were justified.
Until Cravendale came along, the only way to have longer lasting milk was to go for the disgusting UHT long-life stuff that doesn't even need refrigerating. Or when I was a kid you could buy 'green top' milk, which was sterilised, and also tasted so disgusting that I think they'e given up on that idea completely.
I love a glass of milk, me, but once it starts to 'turn' - no way! And getting a mouthful of sour milk is sickening.
What are the claims?
That it lasts twice as long as ordinary milk - 7 days once opened. It is filtered before pasteurisation to remove bacteria so is purer, and aswell as making it last longer, they say it tastes fresher too.
How does it taste?
I buy semi skimmed milk and I do like the taste of this. It still has that slightly creamy taste but somehow lighter and not as 'claggy' as normal milk. Is claggy a technical phrase? No, but you know what I mean. It doesn't seem to coat your mouth and throat as much as usual. The very best milk for taste I've ever had was when I used to be able to get hold of fresh from the farm untreated unpasteurised stuff, heavenly, but this definitely comes second.
Does it last?
Yes, without doubt. In the fridge it lasts over a week once opened and the stuff out in the snow - obviously unopened - did extremely well too. I didn't have to throw any away despite over-buying and I've only just finished off the last bottle.
For taste and flexibility - yes. If you have a large family and get through your milk quickly anyway, probably not worth the few extra pence. But as a couple whose milk use varies from nothing on some days, to a couple of pints on others, this saves us a lot of waste.
I cannot believe the price of petrol these days. It hit home the other day when I had to completely fill my tank.
When I bought my car 7 years ago, a complete fill right from down in the warning zone (last minute everything, me) used to cost me £25.
In December this year it cost me £48.
I find this doubling of price really shocking and it makes me have to think twice about using my car.
I know that we need to move away from oil-based fuel but what are the alternatives? Getting a diesel and running it on veg. oil - but how available is the oil? A duel -fuel vehicle, which are all quite new ones, so beyond my budget. Electric cars - is that still a serious option?
I wouldn't mind paying all the tax on petrol if it went towards funding research into a cheaper, univerally- available viable alternative. There MUST be other options - how can anyone manage at these ever increasing prices?
This was given to me as a gift this Christmas and I've tried it out on quite a few items of clothing, but I can't comment on it's long-term reliability/performance.
It's not the sort of thing I would have bought myself - too many gadgets just end up sitting in a drawer - but now I've got one, I'm really pleased with it and I'm sure it's something I'll dig out and use every couple of months or so to help maintain my clothing.
It's a white plastic gadget that clips the 'bobbles' from clothing, and it needs two AA batteries. It fits quite comfortably in your hand and glides quite smoothly over the clothes. I laid my items flat on a table before giving them a good going over. There isn't too much vibration as you use it, I have some nerve damage in one of my hands and I find some items uncomfortable to use with that one, but this is fine. It does make a bit of noise but not unbearable, just don't do it while someone else is trying to watch the Eastenders Christmas Omnibus at the same time, that's my advice learned the hard way!
It really does transform older clothes. You don't realise how tatty/worn they look when they are all bobbly. I don't even notice the bobbles usually. But as soon as I started using this the jumper I was working on looked like an advertising before and after pic - 'virtually good as new' versus 'old and uncared for' looking.
This will help a lot in smartening me up, especially for work stuff as they'll stay looking new and smart for much longer.
I've owned one of these for several years: the old one was bought about 10 years ago and had to be replaced last year as the battery just wasn't charging up enough and it was getting a bit weak and wimpy. However, if the new one lasts just as long then it'll be on average 9 years use per toothbrush by 2 people twice a day, which is pretty good going as far as small electrical items go. So this review is based on LOTS of use.
Originally I bought one of these for my son and me to share. We wanted electric toothbrushes and the easily--available changeable heads, and cheap price, made this an obvious choice.
When I moved in with Mr ToT, he scoffed rather at it, thinking that it was a lazy way to brush your teeth, but his dentist recommended he start using an electric version and once he tried it, he was hooked.
A fairly basic model, no sonic doodads or whizzy whatsits, with an electric toothbrush handle that you stand on the separate charger when necessary. You can buy replacement heads at most supermarkets and the great thing about these is that they come with a selection of coloured rings so that you can identify your own toothbrush head among your the rest of your familys'. You can choose from a couple of different types of toothbrush head depending on your needs. The blue and white colour fits well into most bathroom decor schemes.
You know when it needs charging as the toothbrush will get slower. We find that we charge ours about twice a week and it doesn't take very long, about an hour and it's back to full steam ahead.
This does a perfectly good job of cleaning your teeth thoroughly in a couple of minutes. At first you have to adapt to letting the toothbrush do the work for you; you no longer brush up and down but just move it gently from tooth to tooth every few seconds, working your way round all the fronts, all the backs, and all the tops.
It has cut down on our toothpaste use as you only need the classic 'pea sized amount' to get a good lather going and do all your teeth.
I also run it round my gums and over my tongue at the end and it helps to keep your whole mouth feeling fresh. It's gentle enough to use in these areas without being uncomfortable or causing damage, and dentists recommend this practise.
It cleans up nicely with a good rinse under the tap and the handle gets a wipe over with the bathroom cleaner every couple of months or so to keep it looking good as new.
Reliable, long-lasting product that 'does exactly what it says on the tin'
So we all know what a sandwich toaster does - toast sandwiches! But Breville were one of the first brands on the market (or even THE first) and I've stuck with them through the years as I've always found them durable and good quality. This is the second one I've owned.
You can get a choice of 4 colours (the chrome version usually costs a couple of pounds extra, so not worth it in my book).
How to use
The plates are easy to clean and the whole thing looks smart with just a wipe over with a damp cloth. First you make your sandwich. Now, I find it easier to make the sandwich in the machine rather than make it totally and lift it in. Butter the bread while the plates are heating. When they are hot, open the machine and put the first slice in butter side down. Then add a pile of filing and top with the other slice of bread, butter side up. Then slowly close the machine and lock in place. The machine cuts and seals the bread so that you end up with two triangular toasted sandwiches.
Ideal for lunches, suppers, after-school fillers and quick snacks, while I wouldn't recommend living off them (too much fat, on my ones anyway!), they are a very quick and easy hot food and great for families.
These are my favourites
Cheese and onion. Simple but classic and delicious!
Jam. These are great but be careful - that jam gets scalding hot. Be extra careful if giving to children.
Roast dinner. Sounds disgusting but finely chopped leftovers - meat, potato, veggies, with a small drop of gravy to moisten, makes a fab sandwich.
This is one of our office printers and I'm reviewing it after nearly 2 years of use.
This is a compact basic mono-only laser printer. It has no fancy features or gadgets and produces straightforward black and white printing.
Specs (the boring bit): A4 paper feed, up to 20 pages per minutes, paper tray capacity 150 sheets, connects via USB, print quality is 1200dpi x 600dpi.
In use: A nifty little printer that is networked up and serves about 6 people quite adequately. We use it for 'internal' printing where we don't need colour or photos etc, so stuff for use within the office rather than to send to clients. For this it is perfect: very economical on cartridges and does the job well. It takes different thicknesses of paper okay, and we also use it to print label runs, so it can cope with slightly awkward papers that some printers choke on. It is fairly noisy though: I'm glad it's not next to MY desk.
The only downside is that the printed sheets soon pile up on top of it and once you get more than 20 or so, they start folding up and jamming the printer, so if you are doing a lot you have to have someone on standby to keep taking a batch off the printer.
A good budget printer for home or office.
Update: March 2012 - well it was ok, but it's now packed it in, the paper keeps jamming and there's something wrong with the feeder that we can't fix, we had two of these and they both went wrong in the same way. So ok for a cheap machine, but don't expect it to last for more than a couple of years of office use.
One of Lush's long-term products: I love this and have been keeping a bar by the bath for years (not the same bar, obviously!). It's a regular on my list for Father Christmas.
As mentioned elsewhere I suffer from dry and flaky combination skin (yum, eh?) and I need a good quality exfoliator that will shift all the dead dried skin without scratching and scraping the nice sensitive skin. I've found this soap has the perfect combination of scrubby with moisturising and it helps keep my bod in tip-top condition. I use it about 2-3 times a week.
The soap is a rather blah beigey colour, but I don't care about that myself, with inset leaves and fig seeds. The seeds are the scrubby bit, a nice size and smoothly rounded, they are small enough to get into those little nooks and crannies (fab at that awkward bit at the side of your nostrils) and plentiful enough that you aren't chasing the same few round and round. They exfoliate very well without scratching or soreness.
As for the moisturising, once moistened well the soap creates a creamy textured 'foam' and the coconut oil and glycerine moisturise nicely without making your skin greasy. You still get that squeaky clean feeling without the dry skin that normally accompanies it.
The soap also contains fig decoction, aloe vera, and a couple of essential oils for soothing your skin.
The only thing I don't like about this soap is that it can take a couple of minutes to rinse all the seeds out of your bath once you've finished, and the leaves just disintegrate into bits to start off with, so I find it better in the shower.
Frankly, as long as it can boil some water I don't care what my kettle looks like and I live in a kettle-killer area; very very hard water. So I always go for cheap and cheerful as I know I'll need a new one every year or so.
These can be picked up at Asda for around £5 I think these days and are a great budget option for those who favour function over form. I just don't see the point in spending a large amount of money on something that hides in the kitchen and gets used for a few minutes a day for my morning and bedtime cuppa.
It's a standard white plastic kettle with a clear pale blue insert so you can check the water level inside, with recommended minimum and maximum level markings. The on/off switch lights up when it's on so there's no doubt about when it's in use.
It's a cordless design so it's flexible and you can use it all round the kitchen. The cord for the base unit is a decent length too, which is handy for me as my kitchen plug points are in a bit of an awkward spot.
I have found that this kettle does develop damage around the spout area after a couple of years dealing with our very limescaley water. I'm on kettle number two now, as the last one ended up with spout area just sort of crumbling away in the end, and this one is starting to look a bit dodgy now.
Funny fact: did you know electric kettles are virtually unknown in the USA?
Update: It's still going strong two years later.
This is one of the four Tate galleries (the others are Tate Modern also in London, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives (guess where they are).
Situated on Millbank, it's about a ten minute walk along the River Thames from Westminster area, so it combines nicely with a look at Big Ben, Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
Entry to the Gallery is free (although there may be a special exhibition for which there is a charge), although there are boxes around for you to leave a donation. It is open every day, 10am to 6pm, with a late night opening until 10pm on the first Friday of each month. The only closing dates are 24, 25, and 26 December.
It houses British art (but not all the artists are British, if that makes any sense to you) from 1500 to the present day, so it is a fantastic gallery to visit if you want a taste of a variety of eras and styles. Few other galleries have such a wide range, from 16th century portraits to the sort of modern installations that make me stand there scratching my head.
Most of the works are grouped by artist or era so you can also just hone in on the areas of interest to you if you want a shorter visit. You can get a good general wander round in a couple of hours, dive in for a quick cultural treat for 15 minutes or so, or spend hours gazing at one piece of art. There are plenty of seats and benches around, along with a cafe and gift shop, and we checked out the toilets too (nice and clean).
We visited on August Bank holiday but it wasn't too crowded, which was surprising, but very welcome. The gallery runs a programme of talks and introductory tours, has a audio tour for hire, and also has a family trail through the galleries with activities for children. for example, in one room, they could listen to noises through headphones and had to decide which painting they related to.
We are very lucky to have access to such fine art, free of charge, in the UK and I'd recommend this as an excellent 'starter' gallery for those who haven't been to one before, as well as to the real enthusiasts.
UPDATE: This attraction is now closed, as at June 2013.
A local family attraction in Kent, this farm park with attitude not only opens up to family visitors every day, it also holds special events including its own music festival in the summer!
Located in Paddock Wood, Kent, it took us about 30 minutes to drive there from the M25, and there is lots of free parking. Apparently the number 6 bus stops at the gates as well.
Open 10am - 5pm February till December
These are the on the gate prices but there are discounts for booking online before you go
Child (3-14) £12.50
Family 2+2 £46.50
Family 2+3 £59.00
It looks all quite full and exciting from their map, and while there is a lot there...at the same time there isn't a lot there, if you see what I mean. Most of the attractions are quite small and don't take a lot of time. Don't go expecting a big theme park type set up.
There is a Shire Horse Centre, a petting farm, indoor and outdoor play areas including giant jumping pillows, hop museum, maze and waxwork display, among other things. Lots of open areas for kids to run around in. There is a tea room and a pub/restaurant on site.
What did we think?
Much of it a bit tatty and seen better days I'm afraid, especially the display and museum areas, which were all a bit 'Blue Peter' in presentation and quality.
The outdoor and play areas were a lot better. I really liked the 'jumping pillows', which are like giant inflatable bouncy castles but the floors only, with soft areas all round. The kids loved boinging along those.
The Petting farm was ok, the animals all looked well cared for, and you could get 'hands-on' with goats, ponies, rabbits and so on, but it was quite small.
The Shire Horse centre was a huge disappointment for me. If you just want to go and pat a horse, ok, (and they do offer wagon rides) but I'm a bit of a working horse buff and was expecting something a lot bigger to justify the name 'Centre'. I was thinking a lot more horses, worked and bred and shown perhaps, along with demos and lots of equipment to see. That the 'centre' was nothing but two Shire horses standing in stables didn't quite fulfill my expectations here...
There are other attractions there that you can pay for (high level climbing area for example) but we didn't really look at those.
We had a snack and cup of tea, which were adequate, nice enough but not anything special.
I wouldn't say it's worth the entry fee. Very expensive for a family just to pat a few animals, have a play area, and look at some crumbling museum displays.
You are better off going to a proper farm park....this place seems to be trying to be a lot of different things, and not quite pulling any of them off properly. Having said that, it's somewhere to keep smaller children quite well entertained for a couple of hours, but is that good value for money?
So who needs a disposable in this day and age of cheap digitals?
You might be surprised...
I still grab a disposable camera now and then.
1)They are perfect for letting the kids have some fun with something it doesn't matter if they drop/smear jam on/try to poke down the dog's throat.
2) Kodak have a great range: I've bought their panoramic pictures version for landcapes and the underwater version to take on holiday a few times. The picture of my son swimming underwater in the ocean is one of my favourite ever, and takes pride of place on my hall wall. Mind you, it was a bit hit and miss. I hadn't factored that I can't open my eyes underwater. I had to get him to swim up and down in front of me while I ducked underwater and hoped I got the camera pointing vaguely at him. He then followed my instructions to swim towards the camera and I guessed when he was in the right spot. One shot came out amazingly well. Couldn't do that with my digital. Also a lot safer for the beach in general.
3) Great for events like weddings and birthdays as you can leave them around for guests to grab and take informal snaps as a memento for you.
4) If you have an arty bent, there are all sorts of interesting things you can do to manipulate the results on film. Yes, I know you can just photoshop digital pics, but it's not the same!
5) It's nice to have a set of prints to hand round because let's face it, who bothers with all their digital snaps?
So why Kodak?
Although Kodak are a little pricier than some of the less well known brands, you know you are getting a good quality product with good quality film inside. Kodak were always one of the market leaders back in the old days when we all used film. The range has a lot of different option so that you can find the right one for whatever you are aiming for. Prices range from about £4 for a standard 27 exposure up to about £9 for a waterproof one.
All are very simple point and snap cameras with automatic focus and flash. Once you've used up all the exposures you need to get the film developed - lots of high street places do it (try Boots), supermarkets or there are cheaper postal services. Even with these cameras you can choose the option of having the photos put on a CD for you, so you can still get digital versions to print at home/email/facebook/whatever.
UPDATE: 2013 Two performed very well on holiday in Turkey in temperatures of 30 degrees plus and blinding sun/glare.
Having seen the number of awards this film scooped up and the adoration poured on it, seemingly universally, from US audiences, I added this film to my rental list and last night we settled down on the sofa to enjoy what we thought would be an action war movie.
That was the plan anyway.
Mr ToT fell asleep after the first 45 minutes or so and I was tempted to join him, but decided to see it through to the end, thinking there must be SOMETHING of merit here. By the end of the two hours, yes, I did finally appreciate the movie and what it was trying to do, but I wouldn't want to watch it again, if you see what I mean.
Well...that's the point. There isn't one really. It's a glimpse into the daily lives of a US 3-man bomb squad in Iraq, counting down days and events towards the end of that tour of duty. No overall narrative. No sub-plots. Complete lack of 'story' - just moving from one incident into another. This made it a difficult film to get interested in.
So what DOES happen?
It starts with the original leader of the team getting blown up (ha, yes that WAS the actor who used to be in Neighbours) and the replacement Sargeant James, joining Sargeant Sanborn and Specialist Eldridge. They deal with several bombs and one attack (with a group of rather weedy Brits they come across). There are some scenes around the army camp.
The problem I had with this film, once I'd adjusted to the premise of no actual story-line, is that the characters are very 2-dimensional and we really don't start to get to 'know' them until quite late in the movie. If we make no connection to the characters, we are not that interested in what they do or what happens to them. They might as well have been robots for most of the movie. Finally, in the last third of the film, they start having a few scenes where the personalities and motivations and histories start coming out, and it makes a huge difference. At last I could stop seeing them as actors moving around on screen and believing in them as people. It's a shame this happened so late.
The style of the movie was quite strange as it kept randomly swapping between documentary-style shaky cam, and normal filming. At times this happened several times within one scene at the start of the movie so I got the impression we were getting a viewpoint of a character through a video camera or something, and was waiting for this off-screen character to reveal himself, but no. I really dislike that 'shaky cam' effect being used just for some obscure effect in the director's head.
What did I like?
It took a while to get into it, but then the film was recording the squad's slow decent, as a team and as individual's into a chaotic mind-set as the work they do, and the environment they live in, has more and more of an effect on them. In this way, it has a lot in common with the Vietnam movies of the 80s, and I think they were trying to produce a modern day version of those, but didn't quite pull it off as we didn't get to love the characters and care about them, and the action is quite slow paced. Yes, bomb disposal is a slow and steady job, and the film does a great job of expressing the tension of this work, but it gets a little monotonous to watch.
It is a film that has you holding your breath at times and the scene with the reluctant suicide bomber was both poignant and full of nervous tension. The count down worked well and the changing relationships between the team members was the main depth of the film, albeit one that took a while to get going, and it would have been a much better movie if this had been developed earlier.
I don't quite understand why this won so many awards. It's an ok film, definitely not an 'action movie' nor is it quite a 'buddy movie' so it leaves you feeling ultimately a bit unsatisfied.
Update: I have yet to meet anyone who liked this movie.