Immigrants navigate London’s dark side

Dirty Pretty Things, which opened in limited release July 18, is being hailed as a “thriller” but that word is too limiting to describe this intriguing and suspenseful effort by High Fidelity director Stephen Frears.

Starring Amelie’s Audrey Tatou, Dirty Pretty Things does depict horror, but it is the horror of life for immigrants living illegally and doing what’s necessary to survive in London, England.

“It’s really about the underside of London, where people are forced into situations because of their economic circumstances,” Frears has said.

“I think Dirty Pretty Things is a pretty universal story and the problems that it’s dealing with are common to every country,” said Frears, who also directed Dangerous Liaisons and The Grifters.

The story revolves around the Baltic Hotel, where Nigerian refugee Okwe (Amistad’s Chiwetel Ejiofor) works as the night desk clerk. By day, he drives a cab. He has a mysterious past and there are rumors that he is wanted for crimes in his native country, which is why he desperately seeks a new identity on the London black market.

Senay (Tatou), a Turkish national being watched by immigration officials, works the day shift as a maid. She is desperate to get to the United States, where she has a cousin, and will do anything to get there. This has brought her in contact with an underground smugglers’ ring. Sneaky, the hotel manager involved in numerous illegal schemes, actively preys on newly arrived immigrants.

Because of their “illegal” status, both Okwe and Senay try to stay invisible to the authorities and to each other. That’s not so simple with immigration officers hot on their trail and Sneaky backing them into a corner. There seems to be only one way out – or is there?

– Carolyn Rummel (crummel@pww.org)

28 Days questions humanity

I saw 28 Days Later, the latest film by Trainspotting director Danny Boyle, on the recommendation of a friend. I was promised the scariest, most brutal movie I’d ever seen, the best zombie movie in years. That’s not what I got.

28 Days Later is a psychological thriller that forces the question of what it means to be human. The lines between good and bad, infected and uninfected, humane and inhumane, are blurred and crossed. At times it reminded me of Apocalypse Now; at other times it was reminiscent of 13 Monkeys.

Don’t listen to the reviews selling this as a “gorefest.” While there are some bloody scenes, it’s a beautifully acted and directed mind game. (Though very similar to a recent British Airways commercial, Boyle’s images of a deserted London are stunning.)

This is a great movie. It’s a dark film that is particularly appropriate in a time of war.

)– Earl J. Anthony (pww@pww.org) )

Pirates is a winner

Johnny Depp has never been much of a drawing card for me to see a movie, even though he’s been in some excellent ones. I no longer have an 8-year-old in the house so a movie based on a Disneyworld ride doesn’t appeal to me either.

However, now that I do have a 15-year-old, I know all the teenage heartthrobs all too well and try to avoid movies starring any of them (Okay, I make an exception for Heath Ledger, but then I’m only human). But, I ignored all of my own rules and went to see Pirates of the Caribbean anyway – and I’m glad I did.

Pirates, which stars Depp, Orlando Bloom and Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush, is smart, funny and entertaining from start to finish. Depp is terrific as an eccentric pirate captain, a role that could easily have made him a laughingstock if he hadn’t pulled it off so well. Bloom (Lord of the Rings) breaks a few teenage hearts as a blacksmith in love with the governor’s daughter and Rush “shines” as a buffoonish villain.

You know when the audience applauds at the end of the film it’s a winner and Pirates of the Caribbean is definitely a winner.

– Carolyn Rummel)

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