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Breaking and Entering

August 24, 2010

Breaking and Entering (2006)
Director: Anthony Minghella
Actors: Jude Law, Juliette Binoche, Robin Wright Penn

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Synopsis: An architect (Jude Law) has his conscience pricked in contemporary London when a chase with a thief at his office takes him unwittingly into a world that puts all his old assumptions into question.

Review: I mean the late Anthony Minghella no disrespect, but he didn’t half finish his cinematic career with a couple of stinkers. First there was the colossally dull US Civil War adaptation, Cold Mountain, then this intensely odious, overdetermined piece of claptrap. The shame is that somewhere in Breaking and Entering‘s sprawling mess there’s a decent movie to be made, detailing contemporary London and its changing landscape both architecturally and demographically. Unfortunately Anthony Minghella plays the part of a second-rate dramatist with far too much woefully wooden plot exposition, upon which the film’s ‘state of the nation’ posturings are unconvincingly hung. Instead of feeling real, vital and authentic, the whole enterprise has a strangely disjointed and phoney air. The casting, as in other Minghella films, is especially questionable. For example, the two female leads supposed to represent the dual struggle for architect Jude Law’s heart and mind – his austere Swedish wife and feisty Bosnian amour – are played by those ultra-serious and revered actresses of the American and European establishment, Robin Wright Penn and Juliette Binoche. I know their absence might have made Minghella’s film more difficult to market, but despite ultra-actorly performances, surely less recognisable faces would have lent the film more credibility. The scripting doesn’t help the two actresses – it’s never remotely believable that Law is caught between these women and what they represent to his various personal and professional crises. And as for Law himself, this film marked the end of the spell where, to my mind, he was incorrectly foisted on the public as a ‘charismatic’, romantic lead (he has gone on to become a far more effective support/character actor). As Kenneth Grahame famously wrote: “The last thing the skilled actor shall capture – the natural grace which goes with perfect unconsciousness of observation” and Law’s shallowness mirrors the failings of Minghella’s flawed film as a whole. (November 2006)

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