Sunday, November 22, 2009


Rating : 7/10
Release Date : Nov, 2007
Time : 109 minutes
Director : Robert Zemeckis; Writer : Neil Gaiman & Roger Avary (based on an Old English tale); Music : Alan Silvestri
Starring : Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, Robin Wright-Penn, Brendan Gleeson, Alison Lohman, Angelina Jolie

Some legends invoke feelings of heroism, adventure, make goose-bumps come all over and entice you to prance around with swords and helmets, slaying imaginary dragons. This tale is one of them. For added incentive, its ‘motion-capture’ animation leads to as life like imagery as animation can get and its star-studded ensemble cast, including the likes of Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins and Brendan Gleeson, not only lend voice, but also form and faces to the characters.

A monster named Grendel (who interestingly only speaks in Old English), terrorises the kingdom ruled by Hrothgar (Hopkins), an ageing king who loves mead (wine), women and the occasional party. However, the noise from his merry-making is exactly what provokes Grendel to visit, thus making his mead-hall also a place of sorrow. Along comes Beowulf, a Geat warrior, one of the true adventurers and slayers of several creatures. Overcoming Ungerlaf’s (John Malkovich as the kings advisor) scepticism (“tell me, is it true that you lost a swimming match vs Braac ?”)and also putting aside the obvious admiration of the lovely queen Whealthow (Robin Wright-Penn), he now prepares for the battle with Grendel by opening up the mead-hall and getting his men to sing, loudly.

We witness fights with not only Grendel, but also Grendel’s vengeful mother (Angelina Jolie) and a fire-spewing vicious dragon. We see the ice-cold, frigid countryside being lit up by these amazing battles. And we see some fascinating relationships, how Beowulf copes with advancing age and responsiblity, his relationship with the steady, even-headed queen, the exchange between him and the king Hrothgar and finally, his camaraderie with his fierce and trusted lieutenant, Wiglaf (Gleeson).

There are moments when you have to blink and remind yourself that you’re watching animation – the characters are so life like, with true skin colour and the actual faces. And it’s a gripping story, not letting up for even a moment, enveloping you into its world and not slowing down – either you’re involved in the action or a fascinating relationship progression.

A great music score and a superb ending only serve to enhance the film. Excellent, almost impassive, performances by Winstone and Gleeson, as well as Wright-Penn stand out in our memory while Jolie’s little cameo lends the film its undeniable oomph factor…our first glimpse of her, as she steps out of the pool, her form encased in liquid gold is hard to forget. John Malkovich’s role wasn’t totally fleshed out, too little was made of this. Also, didn’t totally understand the significance of the Golden Horn. But neither distracted from the enjoyment of the film.

It’s a bit vicious, gory and dark, especially in the first half hour, but once it picks up, there’s no stopping the roller coaster ride. This one is ‘A’ film and definitely unsuitable for children, both for its extreme violence as well as for its sexual overtones and imagery. I’ve grown up watching animation features from Disney and Pixar, but even for me this was a new experience. One I’m not going to forget in a hurry…

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