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Trailers for May 2020

Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Review of the film Sabotage


Exciting, but not the most appropriate title for the story. Sabotage was called Ten, before they settled on Sabotage. Apparently, the subject has had title issues right from 1943, a few years after Dame Agatha Christie wrote the multiple murder mystery novel. It is, after all, her most adapted piece. In '43, it was staged as a play under the book’s original UK title, Ten Little Niggers, but only after changing the ending. In 2005, Kevin Elyot, screenwriter for many of the Poirot and Marple episodes, wrote a new version of the play, restoring the original ending of the novel and using the US title, And Then There Were None. The first film based on Ten Little Niggers was released in 1945, directed by René Clair. In 1949, And Then There Were None, was broadcast on the BBC. ITV produced its own version in 1959, and an American TV version was also made. More recent adaptations include the 1965 film by George Pollock and the 1974 version by Peter Welbeck.

The hit Hindi film Gumnaan, directed by Raja Nawathe and starring Manoj Kumar and Nanda (who passed away on the 25th of March, the day I saw the preview of Sabotage!), in 1965, had dances by Helen and comedy by Mehmood as populist ingredients. It was not a legal adaptation, in any case. W. Germany, France, Cuba and Russia made their versions too. 1989 saw another US film, Ten Little Indians, directed by Alan Birkinshaw. Sixteen years later, it was made into a PC game in by The Adventure Company, the first in a series of Agatha Christie games. In 2009, Harper-Collins, released a graphic novel adaptation, and in 2010, BBC Radio 4 produced a 90 minute dramatisation of the novel

Time Magazine has called it ‘One of the most ingenious thrillers in many a day.’ Few can argue with that verdict. But is the 2014 Hollywood version worthy of such praise? Is it a 'close to the book adaptation'? No!

In the novel, ten strangers arrive on an island invited by an unknown host. Each of them has a secret to hide and a crime for which they must pay. One after the other, they are murdered. Here, an elite Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Operations Team (SOT) takes on one of the world's deadliest drug cartels. When the team successfully executes a high-stakes raid on the cartel’s den, they get greedy. Soon afterwards, not only do they find their loot missing, one-by-one, the team members are killed sadistically. As the body count rises, everyone is a suspect. Is the cartel getting back at them, or is one of their own gang responsible?

Co-written by director David Ayer and X-Men Origins: Wolverine/A Good Day to Die Hard, The A Team’s screenwriter Skip Woods, the film has some real high-voltage action and a couple of well-held secrets that cannot be guessed. But, in turn, a couple of loose ends and some rapid-fire/heavy accented dialogue pieces leave you confused about the unravelling, which is more clever than smart. There are loads of obscenities, some deleted by Indian censors (I saw a censor certifed copy in India), while others generously allowed. The scene where a druglord tortures and kills Breacher (Schwarzenegger)'s wife is probably patched over and over again, to compensate for the cuts imposed by censors. Little justification is offered for the gory deaths of the victims, with body parts strewn all over the place, including the ceiling.

David Ayer obviously loves police tales, though he began his career writing the submarine drama, U-571. But it has been all crime and punishment since: Training Day, The Fast and the Furious, Dark Blue, S.W.A.T., Harsh Times and End of Watch (2012 hit). In terms of technique, he tries alternate cutting between an event of the very recent past and a current event at the same location, which is, no doubt, stylish cinema. It, neverthlesess, causes confusion. By the time one really get into it, the scenes are over. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent films, Escape Plan and The Last Stand, were far from hits. Sabotage is not likely to break that run. He is okay, though a little heavy in talk and walk, and not in his prime. Others playing members of the SOT are Australian Sam Worthington (Avatar, Wrath of the Titans), Mireille Enos, Terrance Howard, Joe Manganiello (Spider Man 2002’s villain, Flash Thompson), Josh Lee Holloway (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Battle of the Year), Max Martini, Kevin Vance and Mark Schegel. It is difficult to register performances when there are ten action heroes (one dies some five minutes into the film) and the bullets and bazookas are choking the sound-track, with them either on a killing-spree, or getting killed. But watch out for Mireille Enos, the SOT member with a drug addiction. From the others, British actor Olivia Williams (The Postman, The Sixth Sense, The Ghost) does a neat job as the homicide investigator, with her own share of swear-words. As she said in an interview, “Not many women have had the opportunity to tell the Terminator to put his f------ gun down.” Her British accent appears odd in the context, and her part in the story seems to have been first expanded and then contracted, to accommodate other aspects of the screenplay.

Sabotage plays around too much with the original in order to accommodate contemporary references and come out all guns blazing, thereby sabotaging its chances of turning out an edge-of-the-seat suspense thriller.

Rating: **1/2


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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