We are about to be three episodes deep into Season 3 of the Showtime series The Borgias and so far, it's clear that the world is against Rome. At the end of Season 2, we were left wondering if the Borgia Pope's enemies had succeeded in killing him. But during Episode 1 of this season, we learned that like a cockroach, the Pope can survive just about anything. He even came back to life after facing one of the deadliest poisons known at the time. But just because he is alive and now well doesn't mean that his enemies have given up the plan to take his life. In fact, this season, it seems like even more enemies have ganged up against Rodrigo Borgia and his unholy ways.
At the end of Episode 2, it was clear that Rome is heading towards war. But who is on whose side this week? Because The Borgias' shifting alliances always leave you scratching your heads, we're here to help you track where the battle lines are drawn. Who hates who? And what should their strategies be? Read on to find out!
Rome and Her Allies:
Leader: Pope Alexander, Rodrigo Borgia (Jeremy Irons): The Borgia pope is hated in the Roman Empire for his greed and the use of God to promote his illegitimate family.
Army's Commander: Cesare Borgia (Francois Arnaud) is the Pope's son and a former Cardinal who is now in charge of the Papal army.
Allies: 1. Michelleto (Sean Harris): Cesare's manservant who executes all of Cesare's evil plans.2. Cardinal Sforza (Peter Sullivan): He switched to the Pope's side when the Pope lived after being poisoned. The Pope has used this cardinal to help eliminate the enemy cardinals.3. Possible: Cardinal Farneze: We have yet to meet this character, but since the Pope's affair with Giulia Farneze has come to an end, she has asked him to make her brother a Cardinal — and Giulia and the Pope ended their affair on good terms.4. Possible: France: Unlike last season, France is in bed with the Pope. A new king rules France and is stuck in a marriage to a quite undesirable woman. When the French Ambassador asked the Pope to dissolve the King's marriage, Borgia saw this as an opportunity to create a new allie. Now, he plans on marrying Cesare to a French woman to build the alliance.
Lost Allies:1. Prince Alfonso (Augustus Prew): Alfonso refused to bed Lucrezia Borgia (Holliday Grainger) on their wedding night because he felt jaded by her family's intentions for the union. Alfonso instead spent their wedding night alone and crying as Lucrezia gave herself to her brother Cesare.
Key Tactics and Advantages:1. The Pope plans to pin Juan Borgias' (Rodrigo's second son who Cesare actually killed during Season 2) murder on Caterina. 2. The Pope eliminated the cardinals in the conclave who did not support the Borgia initiative. This was done by stripping them of their titles, riches, and property.
Disadvantages:1. The Papal army is defunct and not well manned.
Leader: Caterina Sforza (Gina McKee) and her family are openly against the Pope and his evil ways.
Army's Commander: Rufio (Thure Lindhardt) is Caterina's lackey who is in charge of building the Sforza alliances.
Allies: 1. Wealthy Families of Rome who hate the Borgias: Last week, Caterina assigned Rufio to start aligning the sons of Rome's prominent families to help her take down the Pope. The division was clearly shown at Lucrezia's wedding during Episode 2.2. King of Naples: Lucrezia's union with Alfonso was supposed to mean that Rome and Naples would be united, but because Lucrezia refused to part with her illegitimate son when she moved to Naples, Alfonso's uncle (the King of Naples) decided to pledge his allegiance to Caterina.
Lost Allies:1. Cardinal Orsini (David Dencik): After the Pope stripped him of his title, Orsini asked for a final confession. During this confession, he tried to kill the Pope. Instead, the Pope took out Orsini.
Key Tactics and Advantages:1. Create allies with all the forces in Rome that hate the Pope.2. By creating these alliances, it's clear that Caterina will have a larger and more dedicated army as opposed to the depleted papal forces.
Disadvantages:1. The Borgias never seem to die.
Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat.
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December 14, 2011 12:53pm EST
Let’s put the cards on the table: I have not read Steig Larsson’s best-selling “Millennium Trilogy” and therefore cannot comment on whether or not Columbia Pictures’ big-budget (American) adaptation of its first novel is a spot-on transfer of the shocking story or if Rooney Mara has lived up to the punk-goth-genius of an anti-heroine he created. This review is about director David Fincher’s craft and the dream cast he has assembled to make The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo one of the most brutal and engrossing films of 2011.
Right from lustrous sexy title sequence evoking torturous S&M imagery to the ultra-cool Karen O/Trent Reznor rendition of Led Zepplin’s “Immigrant Song” the Oscar-nominated filmmaker plunges his audience into a very specific experience. This is not to say that the story itself is notably inventive; Dragon Tattoo is more or less a standard serial killer thriller wherein a pair of investigators attempts to solve a decades-old murder that has ties to other gruesome mysteries and a wealthy Swedish family. It’s the sinister atmosphere and tone he cultivates using color music and lighting that makes this tale so unique and highly watchable in spite of the terrible events that occur throughout.
Perhaps most compelling though is its mixed bag of characters from different walks of life including Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) a recently disgraced financial journalist in need of an assignment Martin Vanger (Stellan Skarsgard) a yuppie-ish corporate tycoon charged with running the family business started by his uncle Henrik (Christopher Plummer) and Lisbeth Salander (Mara) the alpha-outsider and titular character of this eerie epic. All are emotionally scarred and the actors charged with portraying them go the darkest corners of their own souls to make them their own. Mara in particular must be praised for her ghoulish and extreme embodiment of Salander who suffers physical and emotional torment unlike anything we’ve seen in cinema this year. This more than her scene-stealing presence in Fincher’s The Social Network is no doubt her star-making turn; expect to see her name on a marquee soon. Though she and Craig at times struggle with the Swedish diction (the latter’s native British accent slips through more times than I can count) they more than make up for it with their physical personifications facial expressions etc. Yet it’s Skarsgard who is most impressive as the younger Vanger (he’s of Swedish descent) and delivers a stunning and chilling performance that will rival Mara’s in defining this film in years to come.
Still this is a Fincher film through and through and I cannot think of source material better suited for the maker of Se7en and Zodiac than this disturbing chronicle. Visually he’s given the opportunity to create damp decaying interiors familiar to fans of his work but contrasts them with beautifully filmed exteriors including some terrifying whiteout conditions that are sure to lower your body temperature. In terms of form he and editors Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall effectively lay out dual character arcs (that of Salander and Blomkvist) that run parallel but connect in uncanny ways until their eventual convergence resulting in a highly literary feel. Both Baxter and Wall won Oscars for cutting The Social Network and I’m afraid that their penchant for quick transitions between shots has a decreasing effect on the terror; for a film that so closely treads the line between horror-thriller I felt that letting certain shots play out a bit longer could’ve had more dreadful results.
Still in no way I am saying that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo doesn’t come with its share of nail-biting suspense. Fincher takes tense situations to the next level using unconventional camera angles and Reznor’s unnerving score making many sequences in the movie hard to watch. It’s a tiring but entertaining task; one that is a pleasure and pain to endure but the auteur’s masterful methods are quite magical even when being used to tell a story as menacing as this one.
There’s nothing else playing at the multiplex this season that’s quite like it and should you choose to view it you’ll carry its shocks with you for days after.
Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.