Saturday, 20 January 2007

Thank You For Smoking (2005)

Thank You For Smoking

Thank you for Smoking might appear, on the surface, to be a film satirising the smoking industry, but the reality is it's a witty and intelligent take on the art of 'spin'. It's not going to win any Academy Awards, but it's certainly one of the highlight releases of last year. Rarely are 'comedy' films as well-written, well-acted and well-directed as this.

Thank You for Smoking screencap

Aaron Eckhart plays tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor, a spin doctor of the worst kind, and someone we should dislike on principle. His character has an ego the size of Pluto, can twist anything to seemingly support his rather twisted message, and is struggling to build a relationship with his young son who sees him as nothing more than a liar. Eckhart captures perfectly the charm that makes him so successful in his job, and it's a performance perfectly balanced by that of William H Macey, who plays his nemesis - a character we should be rooting for, but inevitably end up laughing at and disliking for his sanctimonious approach to everything and complete lack of any kind of humour.

Thank You for Smoking is a low budget independent movie that manages to appear much bigger than it is, thanks largely to the number of big name cameo appearances that are featured. When a script's this strong it's not hard to see why the likes of Robert Duvall, Rob Lowe, J K Simmons, Sam Elliott and Katie Holmes were attracted to the project and prepared to drop their usual big box office fees. Only Holmes disappoints, cast as an ambitious super-bitch newspaper reporter who'll do anything to get her story, including sleeping with the enemy.

Writer/director Jason Reitman, son of Ivan Reitman who's perhaps best known for directing the mega hit Ghostbusters turns in a tightly-edited and very well-produced film. The picture is somewhat browner than I remember it being on theatrical release, although the director's commentary reveals this colour tone was deliberate to subliminally represent the tobacco industry, and the picture transfer is near perfect. This is very much a script that's based on dialogue and clever words, but Reitman turns in a film that is always interesting visually, and never comes across as the stage play it might have appeared to be if handled by a weaker director. The film deserves a special mention for the title credits, which are the best I've seen for a movie in a long time, perfectly matched to the subject matter and overall theme of the film.

Thank You for Smoking screencap

DVD-wise, I'm a little disappointed with the release. The transfer is fine, but the extra's really fail to deliver.

The Commentary Track is an embarrassing mess, thanks mainly to Reitman's over serious approach, Eckhart's complete inability to say anything at all, seemingly being more interested in watching the film, and the embarrassment that is David Koechner, who's appearance is odd given that his role in the film is so minor. He obviously feels he has been asked along to 'perform' and his constant interruptions, brown-nosing, general refusal to stay silent for more than 30 seconds, and the friction that results from a clearly annoyed Reitman just makes for a toe-curling experience.

The Making of featurette is of the 20-minute marketing material variety, with endless clips padding out the few 'talking head' quotes promoting the film. 13 Deleted Scenes are, for the most part, extended or slightly modified versions of existing scenes that add nothing of any real value to the main feature, and a America: Living in Spin featurette is really just an alternate take on the Making of featurette.

Thank You for Smoking should definitely be high on your 'Films to Rent' list if you haven't seen it. Whether or not it's a purchase is down to how often you think you'll want to revisit a film that is essentially a comedy where the jokes are great the first time, and may get a bit tired the second or third time around. However the film is so well-crafted and written that you might well want to add this to your collection. Recommended!

Thank You for Smoking screencap


Kenneth Todd said...

I think you wanted to say "satirizing" not "satirising" in the opening sentance of your review.

Ian said...

Errm no. I'm British and this is the UK DVD review. To quote the Cambridge dictionary (check it online) "satirize, UK USUALLY satirise". :-P

Anonymous said...

lmao "kenneth Todd dont you sentence not sentance dummy (:

Ian said...

Thanks "anonymous". I didn't even notice that mistake. Oh the irony!