Friday, 21 January 2011

31 North 62 East

31 North 62 East was released in selected cinemas in 2009 and made it to DVD in September 2010 - I got it for Christmas purely because it features former Quizmania presenter Debbie King as a newsreader in one scene, and I'm a fan.

Now, it's worth being honest about the reasons why 31 North 62 East is what it is. It's an independent movie, so it didn't have the weight of the major studios behind it. Its budget was little more than $3 million, if Wikipedia is accurate. But operating on a shoestring, you get a decent amount in terms of plot and production. Filming was spread across the UK and Jordan, while there are plenty of familiar faces - even if some of them are not quite perfect for the parts they play. The plot itself has quite a few phases to it, which keep the pace up in the absence of any proper Hollywood money shots - the big action is always tantalisingly off-screen, obviously for budgetary reasons.

High Points

It would be easy to criticise 31 North 62 East for the weaknesses introduced by its budget, but if you look at it in the context of its independent nature, it's actually not all that bad. John Rhys-Davies gives a decent, and strangely believable performance as a prime minister with more than a passing resemblance to Gordon Brown.

Heather Peace is a strong-willed yet sympathetic protagonist in the central plot - an incident that occurs at the coordinates which give the movie its title. I'm not a fan of spoiling plots, but I will say that the first portion of the film, set in Afghanistan, is the weakest in terms of set design but has more than its share of squirm-in-your-seat moments for the right reasons.

Marina Sirtis is much less two-dimensional in this film than she ever was in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and particularly comes into her own towards the end. And of course, the cameo from Debbie King adds her unique brand of televisual sunshine into what is, at times, a generally dark film.

The Verdict

At its most basic level, there are plenty of strengths to this movie - its plot is no fundamentally weaker than those of, say, Spy Game and The Quiet American. There are a few lines of dialogue that could be better - and one too many phone calls where the audience only hears one side of the conversation and the plot isn't really advanced at all. But the structure of the movie is reasonably sound and it actually is enjoyable to watch.

I would advise that, if you are going to watch 31 North 62 East, you admit to yourself from the beginning that it's not a Hollywood blockbuster - and was never going to be - but instead is a showcase of decent performances from a truly diverse cast, within the limits of the scale of production involved.

Final Score: 68%

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