Oh, no, now we are going to have to wait a whole year, exclaimed a voice from the row in front as the end – credits – rolled on The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Cert PG).
The second part of Peter Jackson’s trilogy based on the book by JRR Tolkien ends with a cliffhanger.
It – continues the adventure of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) – as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and 13 Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) on their quest to reclaim the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the – fearsome dragon Smaug.
And in contrast to the underwhelming Part One we are thrust straight into the action which rarely lets up. The merry band are soon up against a shape-shifting bear, the massive spiders of Mirkwood, not to mention the pursuing army of orcs and archer elves – (Orlando Bloom and Evangeline Lilly, a welcome female spark) who seem to want to be both their saviours and their enemies.
In one of the film’s outstanding – sequences, Bilbo and the dwarves escape from a dungeon inside barrels which career down a river with elves and orcs running and leaping along the bank in ferocious combat.
The grunting orcs are frankly a pain and their CG fighting sequences like something out of a video game are tediously violent and often too fast to follow. But it’s not all effects and action and there’s room for some acting. Freeman is always good as the sensible one surrounded by madness and there are some jolly cameos from James Nesbitt and Ken Stott among the dwarves and Stephen Fry as the petulant Master of Laketown.
But it is really only when – almost two hours in – we finally meet the dragon that the film really takes off. Rising from beneath an ocean of gold coins in all its malevolent glory Smaug (voiced authoritatively by Benedict Cumberbatch) is truly scary as it toys with the terrified Bilbo. And after a fiery battle with our heroes, when it finally takes wing and soars into the sky, it is truly awesome. And, yes, it does seem worth waiting for the final part.
An unusual film in several respects, The Patience Stone (Cert 15) brings to life the horrors of living inside a war zone. For one thing it is told mostly in the form of a monologue and for another one of the principal actors is required to lie lifeless for virtually the whole film.
Golshifteh Farahani plays an unnamed Afghani woman – who dutifully tends – to her husband left comatose after being shot in the neck. Left isolated with her two young daughters, the Woman hangs on to the hope he will recover because without a man she might as well be dead herself in that society.
As she talks to the we learn he was publicly a warrior and privately a – cruel and unloving husband, and she begins to reveal things she could never tell him if he was conscious.
The Man (Hamid Djavadan) has assumed the function of what legend calls a “patience stone”, to which people address – confessions and revelations until one day it shatters and the person is delivered from pain.
Although it sounds a pretty static interior drama, there is constant tension, from bombs and gunfire, the woman’s penniless plight – and the appearance of soldiers threatening rape.
Adapted by Afghan-born writer-director Atiq Rahimi from his own novel with veteran French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, The Patience Stone – moves slowly but maintains an intense grip.