Friday, 21 December 2012

The Untouchables (1987)

Today is the first day of the Christmas holidays, full of gifts, cheer, family and exam revision. I threw the latter two into the wind to celebrate, though, as I first of all braced the bleak and drizzly Edinburgh weather on a visit to Winter Wonderland on Princes Street, then watched Brian De Palma's 1987 thriller The Untouchables.

There is always a happy moment of realisation at the beginning of a holiday when you find that it is, in fact, a holiday, and that means you have time to do whatever you fancy. In my case, this usually involves picking a film off Sky+ to settle down and watch alone. Today was also particularly a cause for celebration as, this being December 21 2012, the rapture decided that we're not quite worth it yet and laid off until the end of the next Baktun. There was nothing for it, a film had to be watched and enjoyed, so I settled for MC Hammer's favourite.

Set in Prohibition-era Illinois, The Untouchables revolves around Kevin Costner's Eliot Ness, a Chicago policeman who decides that the only way to bring Al Capone's violent reign over the city to an end is to assemble a crack team of specialists and keep one step ahead of his exploits. He recruits three others: an accountant, a young sharp shooter just passing through training, and an experienced Irish-American cop with much knowledge about how Chicago operates.

It is a quite spectacular film, in many different senses. The violence is pretty heavy and graphic (a ten year old girl explodes within the first five minutes or so), but it is occassionally also rather touching, shocking in a how-could-they-let-that-happen way rather than the vomit-provoking, eyeball-stomping way. There are parts to bring tears and cheers, and a script with lines that will stick in your head like a trainer to a nightclub floor, including what is one of my favourite last lines from any film.

Connery is, of course, one of the sons Edinburgh is most proud of. This film shows there is good reason for that. While he can't seem to decide whether his accent should be Scottish, American, Irish or Dutch, his acting is superb as ever. He has an ability to make any line memorable, and some iconic. He is the best of a wonderful cast, although Robert De Niro does make a convincing Al Capone and Billy Drago's Frank Nitti is very hatable.

The direction of De Palma and the music of the great Morricone builds up suspense and tension almost to breaking point, making for a very well-crafted and enthralling movie. It holds a well-deserved place among the greatest gangster films ever made.

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