Thursday, May 10, 2007


... is a good battle of wits, with some excellent acting by Anthony Hopkins.

What’s the story? Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) is an engineer, who discovers that his wife is having an affair with another man. Unable to stomach it, he shoots her in the head, and when the police come, he confesses to his crime, and is whisked off to prison while his wife is rushed to a hospital, where she slips into a coma.
Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling) is a highly successful prosecutor for the government, and is on the verge of getting into a private law-firm, when he is asked to take up this case. With the confidence of his 97% conviction rate, and the strength of a verbal confession, Willy decides to wrap this up before his exit from the government office.
But when he is brought to court, Ted pleads not guilty, and says his confession was forced as the officer who took the confession was the one who was having an affair with his wife, and that his life was at risk had he not confessed. Willy is unaware of this, and having come grossly unprepared, he is shattered to the core. He is left with no more evidence to produce, and his job at the private firm is in danger if he loses this case. Following this, Ted moves for acquittal, as there is no evidence against him, and the murder weapon is not found. The acquittal is granted, and while Ted walks, Willy is flabbergasted by this old man shoving defeat into his illustrious career.

With the newspapers making a joke of his famous loss, and his private job offer retracted, Willy becomes obsessed with the case. He jumps headlong into a search for the murder weapon – thinking hard on where it was hidden, especially when the police had searched the house soon after the crime. Meanwhile, Ted authorises the hospital to pull the plug on his wife, as her condition was not getting any better. A final brainwave occurs to Willy as he realises, in horror, the thorough planning of the crime. A brilliant confrontation makes for the climax.

What’s good in it?
Anthony Hopkins shines through, coming across splendidly as an eccentric old man, who plans out everything. He is lovably irreverent – scrawling NO on legal documents and drawing structural sketches on a notepad when the trial is going on. Ryan Gosling’s acting however, is a tad overdone. The rest of the characters do justice to their roles, their relevance being mediocre to plot or performance. The plot is tight, and the movie moves ahead slickly except for some parts where you wait for the family conversations to end so that the courtroom drama may begin.

The Belgium Trip - 2

Sorry this is late in coming...too many tasks, too less time.

The next day, we got up to a hot shower and some sumptuous breakfast - which was included in the price - and enquired at the reception for tours.

Our breakfast of bread-butter-jam and cornflakes. There was coffee, too :D

The idea was that in the day and a half allotted to Belgium, we would go outside of Brussels on the full day, and the city itself could be covered in the half of the next day. So we took a tour of Ghent and Bruges, to leave at half-eight in the morning, and to return by five. (When travelling with a group for tourism, I make it a point to hit the road by 8 - this helps me in two ways - one, I make good use of the daylight; two, I pull the others out of the bed. It is a different matter though, if you are travelling alone, or are vacationing in Maui, Hawaii, where all you do is ogle and sleep ;) But then, I digress!!!)

The council building at the town center

The first thing that strikes you as you enter Ghent is the size of the buildings - they are mammoth and overwhelm you like no other. The flipside is that, like all of Belgium, it is aesthetically ugly - you have a fantastic piece of architecture, remnant of its glorious Gothic heritage, and just next to it is a glass building with your in-the-face neon lights. Well, that's Belgium for you!!! I'm sure if you ask, they would tell you "hum aisech hain" in Dutch.

There is this beautiful church in Ghent, which houses extraordinary glass paintings. On the outside of the cathedral is a vast quadrangle, having a fountain, statues and benches to sit on. On a perfect morning, you could come there and sit on the benches, eating a waffle and soaking up some sunshine. Or you could come there and sit on the benches, eating a waffle and soaking up some sunshine, and it would be a perfect morning. :-)

A statue in the church quadrangle

Inside the church

The inside of the church has striking paintings, both showing passages of the Bible, and abstract art. Some of the paintings are really breath-taking. They render you so speechless that you forget to let the abstractness sink in. Or maybe that is what being abstract is all about.

Abstract Art :O

But Ghent is more famous for this walk along the canal. I forgot what this place is called, but the buildings you see across are special. Each one of them is built in a style of a different century. From the fifteenth to the nineteenth century styles - you have it all. (This prompted my friend to ask whether they waited a hundred years to build another...).

Ghent has about three tall cathedral towers around the town center, so it is very easy to get lost. So the next time someone yells at you, you know where to come. In fact, this getting lost and not hovering around the guide is a big problem in conducted tours. You get very little time to enjoy the surroundings and NO time at all to capture your "orkut photos" - the ones where you have your face in the foreground and the most recognisable edifice of the city in the background which you upload with a caption "Been there, Done that!!".

Architecture of centuries, standing together in harmony

I saw a lot of middle-aged people walking around with closed umbrellas raised high like an Olympic torch. I looked up. The sky was clear, and the sunshine was pleasant. But before I could wonder any further, our guide held out her umbrella high, and I realised that all those middle-aged people were in fact guides asking their group to assemble. Whew!!! I followed my torch-bearer as she led us through a narrow alley back to where we came from. This walk is famous, they say, for the graffiti on it. I was reminded of the song "Mera rang de basanti chola" from "The Legend Of Bhagat Singh" while walking through this dark winding alley.

In the alley
Another one

The best tip for a tourist here would be to look around - not just at the buildings, but at the cyclists too. They don't ring the bells, nor do they show any indication of avoiding you. If you show some sudden movement, like jumping away in fright, they look at you as though you have come from outer space. The roads are cobbled and give you blisters if you don't have good shoes on. Walking becomes slow and painful on the cobblestones, and as if that was not enough, they have rails on that, for the trams to pass.Cobbled roads...tramways...left-hand drive

A quick circumambulation of the center is done, and we now proceed towards Bruges, and the guide says we will be stopping for lunch. Mmmm :)

Planes make a cross against the steeple of one of the cathedrals in Ghent