Monday, 25 October 2010

Movies don't need to be long to be good

I haven’t seen a mainstream movie for a long time, which wouldn’t benefit from being trimmed by ten to twenty minutes or so. Perhaps it's something to do with seat prices – maybe movie makers think audiences will feel short-changed if they don’t get around two-hours and more for their pounds and dollars.
I read somewhere that the economics of book publishing favours the writing of doorstep-thick novels. The same seems to be happening to movies.
Of course some films will drag whatever their length – like Angelina Jolie’s Salt (100 minutes) and Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz’s Knight and Day (109 minutes).
This thought was brought home to me when catching up with the excellent Mexican gang movie Sin Nombre on DVD the other night. It said all it had to say in a taut 96 minutes.
Gone With The Wind (238 minutes) and Lawrence of Arabia (216 minutes) are worth every second of their running time. So too with an excellent film closer to today Daniel Day-Lewis's There Will Be Blood (158 minutes) but his Gangs of New York (167 minutes) outstayed its welcome. Into The Wild (148 minutes) could have shrunk a little with no loss of quality.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (152 minutes) tested my patience, while The Girl Who Played With Fire (129 minutes) had an exaggerated view of its own worth.
When character and plot come together, I put my trust in the hands of the director and if he or she can tell their tale succinctly then so much the better.
Looking across the decades and genres High Noon was just 85 minutes; Brighton Rock 92; 12 Angry Men 96; Annie Hall 93; Dead Calm, Tremors, and Juno all 96 minutes.
It would be nice to think that with more compact storytelling there could be – as when I was young – room for a second feature. Failing that, short films – say, of 30 minutes duration – could find a showplace supporting the main feature.
Before reaching The End of this blog I’d like to make a special case for Vacancy, a 2007 thriller/horror flick directed by Nimrod Antal and starring Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson. It’s a little gem at just 85 minutes. An about-to-separate couple become stranded at an isolated motel, which doubles as a snuff movie factory.
The shocks arise, as we will their survival against murderous assailants. The whole satisfying enterprise is undertaken with the minimum of gore and the maximum of tension.
Kate Beckinsale de-glamorised for the role; a position I’ve restored to her to adorn this post.


  1. Very good. GC.

  2. Hey ! GC. If it is Kate Beckinsale as pictured on your blog, then make it a 3 hour film ! says Jaffa.

  3. It is Kate as I say in my closing sentence. Glad you approve. GC

  4. So, gc. how will you handle the 5 hour version of the new film on Carlos, the Jackal. Probably you won't see it?


What do you think? GC