Posted 08 August 2007 - 08:59 PM
I must say I was pleasantly surprised. Several odd elements added up to what I thought was really good (bordering on great) television.
Let me say first that if you're looking for historical accuracy, or a precise retelling of actual events, this isn't it. It's based on Robert Littell's book of the same name, which is a highly fictionalized historical-ish saga. There are spies, moles, patriots and traitors, KGB Generals, and all that stuff, only dramatized. Sort of like an abstract summary of the types of things that happened in the Cold War. </disclaimer>
That being said, the DP was Ben Nott, and the director is DP-turned-director Mikael Salomon. (You know: The dude from Denmark who shot The Abyss.)
I thought that the use of shadows, contrast, and diffused light was just spot on for the material. East Berlin looked exactly like I think East Berlin probably looked in the 1950s. (And since I wasn't even born until 1970, am a Westerner, and also have never been to East Berlin before or after the wall fell, I have absolutely no freakin' idea how it actually looked during the Soviet era. But it felt like it looked right. And that's an accomplishment.)
Also, the performances were just spectacular. Michael Keaton is in rare form. Alfred Molina as 'The Sorcerer' just owned that character. Rory Cochrane as Yevgeny Tsipin showed remarkable depth. And remember, this is TV! Oh, that reminds me. Chris O'Donnell was pretty wooden. He did get outclassed by everybody around him. But he wasn't terrible. Just not in the same league as the rest of the cast.
Interesting side note: If all other elements are positive, then does it make the cinematography look better than it really is, just because you have a warm-fuzzy for the production? Whenever I see something that is shot well, but the acting and story are terrible, don't you feel like it's a shame? I do. Does the reverse hold? When you see something that is well acted, and a story well told, but the cinematography was not to your taste (or just plain bad), is that a shame? The reason I go down this long-winded road is: Am I attributing excellence undeservedly, just because I really liked the subject matter? Eh, I love science fiction, too, but I'll pull my eyes out of my head and boil them in whale barf before I watch another Sci Fi Channel movie. . . . and I've digressed.
And I've seen movies with less attention to art direction and details. The cars/clothes/equipment/boats/sets were all well done. Television drama is, at best, good escapist fare. This is that, and in spades.
So did anyone else see it? What say you?
Posted 09 August 2007 - 04:31 AM
How did it look?
Posted 12 August 2007 - 10:40 PM
If I had to characterize the "look," I would say that's it was gloomy, dark, shadowed. There didn't seem to be much detail in the blacks, although that might have been intentional, and the color palette was all greys and earth tones, with few bright colors at all. Very washed out, but not like the bleach bypass of Minority Report; more like someone just turned down the Hue and Saturation during color grading. Overall I think this suited the theme very well.
One thing that struck me as a bit odd was how the lighting and depth of field appeared on some shots. When Jack and Leo are rowing on the lake, the medium shots of the characters against the greenery behind them just seem strange. It almost looked like the characters were shot in front of greenscreen, with studio lighting, and then that footage was composited onto a blurry background of trees. It looked rotoscoped, or faked, somehow. (Of course, I wasn't there, and maybe that's just the shot you get in natural light with the D-20 on a lake, and if so, my apologies. It just didn't look for real.)
As far as content goes, tonight's episode as much more violent and bloody than the previous one, and it recounted --- in its Forrest Gumpian historical way --- the uprising in Hungary and also the Bay of Pigs incident. Again, production values were amazing for television.
I'm enjoying the show. Hope you get to see it in HD somehow. It's worth a look.
Edited by Eldon Stevens, 12 August 2007 - 10:41 PM.