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INTERMISSION

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Colin Farrell, Shirley Henderson, Kelly MacDonald, Colm Meaney, Cillian Murphy
Director: John Crowley
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: MGM
Features: See Review
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: October 19, 2004

"The thing of it is, see; you just never know…what's going to happen."

Film ***1/2

Intermission; perhaps the most defining title a film of this sort could ever hope to have.

The narrative structure in films seems to become more challenging and daring as years go by. Such breakthrough films like Pulp Fiction and Memento have broken the rules of how a story can be told. Even films like Go, which was no doubt influenced by Tarantino's film, have taken cinematic storytelling to an entirely new level. Not only have American films acquired this technique, but it has surfaced overseas, as Intermission genuinely illustrates.

Not only is Intermission composed of the winning elements of Pulp Fiction, but it's very reminiscent of such overseas triumphs as Snatch, Trainspotting and even the recent Love Actually. It offers dozens of surprises along the way, not to mention quite a bang of an opening scene, where a charming conversation leads to an unexpected incident. The balance of tone is something the film achieves very greatly. This is quite possibly the first film I've seen in quite some time that balances violence, love, and humor perfectly.

The story interweaves an assortment of characters in and around Dublin, mostly involving petty lowlifes, cops, and others who are experiencing a crisis in their lives, mostly involving relationships. At the heart of the dark side of the story is a hood named Lehiff (Colin Farrell), whose associates are John (Cillian Murphy) and Oscar (David Wilmot), two hapless employees at a town grocery store.

John has just broken up with longtime girlfriend Deidre (Kelly MacDonald), and is currently having second thoughts about his actions. When Deidre begins dating bank manager Sam (Michael McElhatton), a much older man, John is entirely certain he made an error and attempts to win her back. Sam, as it turns out, left his wife for Deidre. A few nights later, the newly abandoned wife hooks up with love-starved Oscar at a singles bar.

Have I confused you already? Promise me when I tell you that it'll all make sense when you watch it.

Other central characters include the reclusive Sally (Shirley Henderson), who has just experienced a traumatic relationship outcome. As if that weren't enough, she is constantly being heckled for the slightly noticeable mustache she has obtained. Lastly, there's Jerry Lynch (Colm Meaney), an egotistical Dublin cop who wants to expose his image by having a documentary film crew shoot his exploits, much like the show Cops.

The crucial story point that will eventually tie everything and bring the assorted characters together, for more reasons that one, is a kidnapping/bank robbery incident. Without giving too much away, it all involves a complicated plot constructed by John that will help him win back his former love, even though at this point he isn't using his head. The series of events which follow the execution of this incident occur in such an unpredictable manner, that I was seriously unaware of what was going to happen next.

First time director John Crowley and screenwriter Mark O'Rowe have made quite an impressionable debut feature. Credit Crowley for knowing how to guide the audience through such an extended maze, and O'Rowe for being able to create so many memorable characters while at the same time maintaining a fast pace, frenetic whirlwind of a story.  And lastly, the entire cast should be commended for a marvelous job well done.

As far as the cast is concerned, I'd like to focus on Colin Farrell. Although this is a supporting role, it's purely riveting to witness Farrell, who's played countless American roles and is now a leading man here in the states, rip into his thick Irish accent to play such a ferocious character as Lehiff. I remember seeing Farrell in his first film, Tigerland, where he played a hard case soldier with a southern dialect, and thinking to myself that this is the most talented southern actor I've ever seen. When I found out Farrell was Irish, I couldn't believe it. Other than maybe Daredevil, I don't think he's ever donned his original accent. To be honest, I'm sure many people have forgotten that he is an Irish lad. His intense work in Intermission is a pure reminder of that.

If anything, Intermission is an engaging, head spinning achievement, visually crafted and superbly executed. It's probably the single best Irish import to come around probably since The Commitments in 1991. One thing's certain, if you're seeking some variety in a movie, look no further than this, because you'll probably get every ingredient you so desire.

Video ***

This anamorphic presentation from MGM is well handled, especially when you take into account the movie was shot in the Super 16 format, which has its limits when transferred to this format. The setting of Dublin looks nothing short of astonishing, with beautiful countryside landscapes providing elegant scenery. Some shots have obtained of level of murkiness and slight grain, but that's all clearly attributed to the film stock. In short, this is quite a well made presentation.

Audio ****

Like the film itself, the audio presentation delivers the unexpected. The 5.1 mix ranges from moments of subtlety to moments of explosive sound. In addition to individual sequences of violent tension, the music plays a vital role in the sound performance. Among the songs played are U2's "Out of Control" and "I Fought the Law" by Colin Farrell, are extremely well received by channels. The all around presentation, dialogue delivery and all, offers a surprising feast of dynamic range where you would least expect it.

Features *1/2

Featured are two deleted scenes and a trailer, as well as bonus preview of additional MGM releases.

Summary:

Intermission is without a doubt an enjoyable movie experience to remember. It's a film that balances tones so well, and throws so many unexpected and hair raising turns, that in the end it will definitely feel like a cinematic ride at high speed.

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