Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ryan Watches A Motion Picture #45 (I skipped 43!): Capitaine Alatriste (2006)

This one's a 17th century period piece chronicling the Spanish golden age through the eyes of a Spanish mercenary (Viggo Mortensen) known as Captain Alatriste. The 'Captain' title is merely an affectation, since the man holds no rank and is dirt poor. But he can swing a sword with the best of them.

In general,
Alatriste feels a bit too much like TV and not enough like a film. It struck me as the Spanish answer to the Tudors, and even looks to me to be lit like television. It's apparently based on a series of novels, which explains why it feels much too crammed with plot points and characters that never seem to add up with the correct weight. Each scene pushes for too much drama between too many characters that have the pretense of being established, but haven't been given the time to be so. It ends up feeling mostly contrived, presenting the audience with contrived characters engaging in contrived love affairs. Not much has weight in Alatriste. Even the political intrigue of the Spanish court gets delivered by random characters just walking up to secondary characters and whispering what they know, and the information just doesn't feel earned.

Scenes bounce along fairly quickly without much time to invest in what you're seeing, and start to feel like they've been clipped just a bit too much. The acting is mostly not very good, and you might find that there's little facial expression in favour of a Spanish stoicism.

I was interested enough to watch most of the whole thing for a handful of reasons. Firstly, the period. The Spanish golden age is not often looked at outside of 'New World Discovery' movies that make vague mention of a powerful court. Here you actually see that powerful court on its home turf. Secondly, like in the Tudors, the costumes enthrall me. If I could get away with wearing a fancy doublet, I'd probably do it. I'll take a shower to wash the shame off after the review. Lastly, I like that Alatriste, as a soldier, is not an invincible pro. He can get hurt in his fights, and sometimes does. Pretty badly too.

So: If you like the Tudors and wish it had more swordplay, check Alatriste out. If not, there's plenty of other movies more worthy of your time.

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