The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

THERE’S time for a cou­ple of scary films about the end of the world be­fore the yule­tide spirit takes over, and Foxtel has duly obliged. In Steven Soder­bergh’s Con­ta­gion (Sun­day, 8.30pm, Movie One), hu­man­ity is threat­ened by a deadly virus and it’s prob­a­bly too late to do any­thing about it. Gwyneth Pal­trow, re­turn­ing to Min­neapo­lis from abroad, seems to have a mild cold; she has sex with an old flame be­fore re­turn­ing to her hus­band, Matt Da­mon, who is seem­ingly im­mune to the virus. Mean­while Kate Winslet, an author­ity on pan­demics, sets out to in­ves­ti­gate. What makes the film so fright­en­ing is its com­bi­na­tion of coolly un­der­stated sci­en­tific au­then­tic­ity and its vi­sion of so­cial break­down — panic, loot­ing, cities in quar­an­tine. Screen­writer Scott Z. Burns con­sulted the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion and sci­en­tific au­thor­i­ties to get the de­tails right. The fi­nal se­quence shows how eas­ily a deadly virus can spread. The mes­sage seems to be: avoid ba­con and bananas.

The events de­picted in Soy­lent Green (Wed­nes­day, 8.30pm, TCM) seemed com­fort­ably re­mote in 1973, but 2022 feels a lot closer to­day. Richard Fleis­cher’s dystopian sci-fi fan­tasy en­vis­aged a world rav­aged by over­pop­u­la­tion, pol­lu­tion and cli­mate change. Charlton He­ston plays a New York cop in­ves­ti­gat­ing a mur­der and Ed­ward G. Robin­son makes his last film ap­pear­ance. The end­ing, for which plenty of hints are pro­vided for alert view­ers, still packs a hor­rific punch.

Tinker, Tai­lor, Sol­dier, Spy (Sun­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Pre­miere) is an­other film with echoes of the 1970s, thanks to the splen­did Bri­tish TV ver­sion of the story with Alec Guin­ness, made in 1979 and for many still the best ac­count of John le Carre’s clas­sic spy novel. To­mas Al­fred­son’s film proves a more than wor­thy suc­ces­sor, with Gary Old­man in su­perb form as the melan­choly Ge­orge Smi­ley, who is brought out of re­tire­ment to track down a Soviet mole in the Bri­tish se­cret ser­vice. Cere­bral, aus­tere, glacially slow, suf­fused with gloom and dis­en­chant­ment but wholly ab­sorb­ing, this fine film pro­vides the per­fect an­ti­dote (if one were needed) for the glam­our and ex­cite­ment of the Bond movies.

Matt Da­mon and Gwyneth Pal­trow can be seen again in The Tal­ented Mr Ri­p­ley (Wed­nes­day, 8.30pm, Movie Greats), based on a 1955 crime novel by Pa­tri­cia High­smith, whose ear­lier novel, Strangers on a Train, was filmed by Al­fred Hitch­cock. The Tal­ented Mr Ri­p­ley is an eerily beau­ti­ful film that works as a thriller and an en­gross­ing study of a so­cio­pathic killer’s rise through a world of wealth and plea­sure. Tom Ri­p­ley (Da­mon) is pen­ni­less, poorly ed­u­cated and charm­ing, and gets his big break when a busi­ness­man asks him to keep an eye on his shift­less son (Jude Law), who is savour­ing the high life in Italy. But Ri­p­ley wants the high life too. An­thony Minghella’s film is funny and dis­turb­ing.

Critic’s choice

(M) ★★★★✩ Sun­day, 8.30pm, Movie One

(M) ★★★★✩ Sun­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Pre­miere

(M) ★★★★✩ Wed­nes­day, 8.30pm, Movie Greats

The Tal­ented Mr Ri­p­ley

Matt Da­mon and Gwyneth Pal­trow in

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