Gut level reaction: This movie had a slow start. That seems to be the common thread for Movie Club so far. What makes this movie worse in a way is that the beginning is so mysterious, and not in a good way. It uses that storytelling technique where the characters are just going about their lives, so there’s no one to explain what’s going on to the audience. It opens on a weird uncomfortable scene where some people are watching pornographic slides together. Nothing here is meant to draw you in, as far as I could tell.
Then, for whispered and not clearly discernible reasons, Michael Caine’s character gets on the train and heads to Newcastle. Just a personal aside, I’ve been on this particular route twice, once when heading to Newcastle, once when headed to Edinburgh. It is a great, scenic ride.
What’s agonizing here is that because of this story telling technique, we have no idea why he’s headed to this town, and what he’s doing now that he’s gotten here. We just have to follow along with him and look at his giant face as the director zooms in on his face in every scene.
We slowly discover that he’s here for his brother’s funeral. That his brother left behind a daughter, and a “bird”, who happens to be married, and a couple of friends who say nice things about him after the funeral. There’s a scene here that perfectly encapsulate this director’s main methodology, the technique that kind of lends an intensity to the film that wouldn’t be there otherwise. Michael Cain is talking to his brother’s coworker, and he gets up to thank him and hands him some money as the other fellow is saying he doesn’t need it, but reluctantly accepts. Except we never see Carter actually take out the money properly in the frame, because the camera is centered only on his face. We don’t see him putting it into the other fella’s pocket because the camera is now focused on HIS face. But even though it happens slightly off camera, we can still tell what’s going on.
This kind of lends itself to a kind of unique frame where I’m constantly leaning left and right and trying to see what’s going on because the director always puts the characters’ faces right there, and quite often films it from an angle where he’s blocking that face sometimes. There’s a scene where we’re introduced to the bad guy who is playing poker. Even though Carter just broke into his house, he ignores Carter and continues to play Poker. The camera stays zoomed in as he plays the game and talks to his fellow players. There’s times when another player’s head is in the way, for god’s sake. So I’m leaning left, trying to get a better look around that guy.
The truth is that this kind of filming technique is what kept the movie interesting and intense for me. The actual story isn’t all that interesting by itself. Carter’s brother stumbled upon the fact that his daughter was used in a pornographic film, and his subsequent objections got him killed by these people, these employers of our lead character.
One movie trope this film goes against is the fact that torture always works. I’m so tired of movies always showing the lead character torturing someone and they spill the beans, which leads them to the next piece of information. In Get Carter, Michael Cain tortures a few people, but it’s rightly a hit and miss technique. He gets people to talk plenty quickly. But sometimes they say something even when they don’t know. Other times they tell him something that’s not true under torture. It was kind of nice to see that, as most movies nowadays just want us to believe that torture always works.
As the movie winds down and Carter slowly gets all the people involved with his brother’s murder and his niece’s filmed sexual encounter, I do love how the actions scenes are very abrupt and to the point and feel very authentic. There’s a few sex scenes in the movie, that I admit are very erotic. There’s a scene in a car where we see Carter look at a lady’s clothed breast, and the movie cuts to a scene of him handling that bare breast. You’re wondering for a few seconds if he’s fantasizing or if the movie is switching back and forth in time. There’s a couple of other sex scenes in the movie that are not as sexy, but I do feel like they knew something about showing sex and sexuality that we seem to have lost in modern times somehow, and yet, I’m not sure what that is exactly.
It never really occurred to me if Carter ever had a real out. Back at the beginning of the movie before you really know what’s going on, he mentions a couple of times to his niece that he’s going to South America, so that’s presumably his out. We have to recall that ourselves though, since he doesn’t mention that in the second half of the movie. He’s a killer who is trying to kill the very people he works for, so he knows it’s not likely he’ll come out of this alive. As the audience I don’t think we grow particularly fond of him either. So I can’t imagine anyone watching this movie and really hoping Michael Caine’s character makes it out alive somehow. So when he does die, it just feels like a convenient way to end the film more than any kind of emotional catharsis or a real pin on the story. Boom, he’s dead, we’re done here. You may now discuss the movie.