The Raven

28 Dec

the raven

 

 

Director: James McTeigue

Writers: Ben Livingston (screenplay), Hannah Shakespeare (screenplay)

Stars: John Cusack, Alice Eve and Luke Evans

Motion Picture Rating: 15

Runtime: 110 minutes

 

The Raven is a well-known and well-liked poem by Edgar Allan Poe first published in 1845. It made Poe famous. He was an author, editor and literary critic as well as a poet, but that dark and haunting poem is arguably his stand out work and fairly in keeping with a catalogue heavy on mystery and macabre. Poe died in 1849 in Baltimore aged 40. The cause of his death remains unknown and that puzzle forms a key plot point in this gothic thriller from James (V for Vendetta) McTeigue.

John Cusack plays Poe as an angry, antisocial and frustrated writer that drinks too much and that has a knack for putting peoples backs up. Early on he describes himself as “broke and out of control” and we see him thrown out of taverns and upsetting the well-to-do father (Brendan Gleeson) of the girl that he is secretly seeing (Alice Eve). Cusack is good in this role. His round shoulders, black eyes and unkempt hair fit the character nicely and his cocky Poe, not unlike Robert Downey Jr’s recent Sherlock Holmes, irritates and intrigues, but ultimately wins you over.

This is a gothic thriller, but it is also a serial killer movie. Poe’s dark stories of science fiction, horror and mystery are being made real by a maniac prowling the gas lit streets of Baltimore. The killer is the craziest sort of fan and police detective Fields (Luke Evans) has little choice but to add Poe to his task force. Thereafter a game of cat and mouse ensues with the killer seemingly taunting Fields and Poe whilst taking Poe’s girl as a hostage along the way.

There is a fair amount going on in this film, but for the most part it succeeds. There are certainly elements of both Seven and the Saw franchise on show and the overall vibe is similar to a number of films about Jack the Ripper (murky cobbled streets, blacked out carriages, rough pubs on the waterfront etc.) That said, the production design and photography are eye-catching. Cusack holds the film together well and Gleeson, Eve and Evans are all fine. It’s not dazzling, but it is has some thrills, it moves along quickly enough and the whodunit angle is handled well. Not bad at all.

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