I’ve given up on the miniseries versions, if they’re even still making those, so I think I’m missing some important shots of amazing food. Besides this disappointing shortage of food footage, this is my fave of the Trip series so far… gets on with what we came to see, and saves the bulk of the wallowing for the end. I watched with subtitles while clattering about, assembling the shelves I hadn’t pieced together during Endgame, and was disappointed that all the Spanish – including names of dishes! – are subtitled “(speaking foreign language)”. The subtitlers never even figured out that this language was Spanish. Complaints aside, this movie had some choice exchanges:

Coogan on his new script: “It’s about a man looking for his daughter.”
Brydon: “This’ll be the follow-up to your film about a woman looking for her son … He should be looking for something else, you know, to avoid the comparisons. Maybe man looking for his car.”
C: “The thing is you can do man who’s lost his car. European filmmakers use huge, overbearing thematic metaphors all the time, so it could be a guy looking for his car, but actually he doesn’t realize… he’s looking for something much bigger than that.”
B: “A van.”
C: “Yeah, but the van of life.”

Steve Coogan’s possibly-ex-girlfriend is in the States, so he gets fellow TV comic Rob Brydon to join him for a would-be-romantic road trip to high-end northern England restaurants. Along the way, Steve makes anxious calls to his girl, to his agent (an American cable series is offered, with a seven-year commitment) and to his ex-wife and son. Rob’s only phone usage is for a nightly phone-sex appointment with his wife. Steve fusses over his career, wonders why he’s not the star he considers himself to be, and constantly puts down and one-ups Rob.

The fun of the six-episode series (which I watched since the movie version isn’t out yet) is in the often hilarious, somewhat bitter but always ultimately comic conversations between Steve and Rob, plus the great scenery and food. The movie aspires to more, though, and it’s more successful with its portrayal of a complicated friendship than with the time given to Steve’s personal and professional unhappiness. Each episode ends with him sighing heavily after an unpleasant phone call, looking unhappily into the distance, trying to make himself look younger in the mirror, and imitating Rob’s TV characters which he derides in public. I get the intent, to make Coogan a deep, sad character, but it comes off as repetitive and slightly self-indulgent. Brydon is given less depth, just a satisfied family man who loves doing the celebrity impressions that made his TV career. Coogan has a point that Rob gets annoying in large doses, but Rob confidently holds his own against Steve’s constant jabs.

The AV Club reviewers liked the film version in general, had some complaints I can’t disagree with. N. Murray: “While I liked the movie, there’s no reason why this couldn’t have been something I loved.” S. Tobias: “The choices [Winterbottom] makes in the editing room (and perhaps on set, too) seem off here … there are scenes that are allowed to go on too long or repeat a scene earlier in the film.”

Slant: “Its wry pricking of supercilious egos suggests a more self-aware version of Sideways.”

Daaamn. A mean, helluva movie. I liked Winterbottom’s Code 46 then was on the fence after 9 Songs and 24hr Party People, but this one redeems him (for its intentions alone, but I thought it was well-made). And this is a movie with intentions… it has a definite and righteous goal.

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Interesting how people call this (like Touching the Void before it) a documentary when it’s mostly re-enactments with voice-over. Three guys went to afghanistan, got caught up in the al-qaeda retreat by mistake, and got captured by the US forces. Or that’s what they say happened… whatever truly happened does not matter, because it’s what happens next, their imprisonment and torture, that really counts. Seems like the US forces can do whatever they want without repercussion, so I’m surprised they even let these guys loose to tell their stories, despite their innocence. Took ’em two years to do it, though. My favorite part is the Americans and Brits pointing at zoomed-in photographs and grainy videotapes, pointing at blurred heads in the crowd and saying to these guys “this is you, admit this is you at an osama bin laden rally”). It’s not them, and our guys have proof they were in Britain the entire year in question, but all the inquisitors want is a confession (of anything at all, however false)… and apparently all middle-eastern people look the same to them.

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As an expose of the post-terror guantanamo system, it’s a horribly necessary film. Sad, mean and awful, but with a purpose, an anti-torture agenda. Winterbottom’s a minor hero for actually travelling to Afghanistan and Iran to shoot this. The story continues, since some of the film team was detained on the way home from winning prizes at the Berlin film festival and “asked if they intended to make any more political films” Scary.

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