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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Maythew #9: Stone of Destiny (2008)

* * *

Director: Charles Martin Smith
Starring: Charlie Cox, Kate Mara, Robert Carlyle

Reviewer's dilemma: you see a movie that, while not "bad" really, is kind of bland and fails to make an impression on you. You can't envision yourself recommending it to anyone and yet it's so earnest and harmless that you're reluctant to give it an unfavorable rating. This is the mind space in which I find myself as I try to sum up my feelings on Stone of Destiny. It's a perfectly decent movie and yet for an inspirational story, all it inspired me to wonder is why a film with a premise so deeply rooted in Scottish nationalism cast an American actress to work an accent and play "the girl."

Set in the 1950s, Stone of Destiny centers on Ian Hamilton (Charlie Cox - incidentally, also not Scottish), a bright eyed college student with a dream of restoring the eponymous symbol to its rightful land. Since the stone is currently housed in Westminster Abbey, getting it back is a rather difficult endeavor, though others have tried. Nevertheless, Ian manages to get three others to join him in his plot - Kay (Kate Mara), Gavin (Stephen McCole), and Alan (Ciaron Kelly) - and convinces politician John MacCormick (Robert Carlyle) to provide financial backing.

The four students set off on their plan, intending to take advantage of Christmas time festivities to get to and remove the stone. Their plans unravel in fairly spectacular fashion and the fact that they suceed anyway proves the notion that some stories are so unbelievable that they can't be anything but true since no one would dare make them up. When you think of heist movies, you think of sophisticated plans carried out by expert criminals but apparently in real life all you need is really good luck.

Written and directed by Charles Martin Smith, Stone of Destiny is a bit odd in that it manages to be simultaneously fast paced and low energy. Even the celebrations surrounding the return of the stone seem muted, as if Smith is approaching the material from mere curiosity rather than from any kind of emotional investment (which may very well be true given that he's American). And yet, like I said, it's not a bad movie. It's competently assembled and performed; it just never finds its spark. So, if you're in the mood for a stunningly adequate film, I suppose this gentle caper is as good a pick as any.

Matt's Thoughts: I really, really liked this movie. Granted, there are some pacing issues, and the script isn't the strongest that it could be, but I just thought it was a really fun film. In a world where so many movies are pro-America, it's nice to see a movie so full of pride in a country across the globe. It's the ending, of course, that gets to me: rather than abandoning the stone of destiny in the churchyard knowing that the authorities are on their way, the heroes stand and wait their punishment, having fulfilled their quest to return what rightfully belongs to Scotland; it's their firm belief that theirs was a necessary crime that I find admirable, and I can't help but love every one of these people.


Alex said...

I've been interested in this movie for a while but it's not available yet in the US (at least, it's not on Netflix). Sorry to hear it's unremarkable, but I might still check it out since the premise sounds fun and I like Charlie Cox a lot. It was good to just see any review of it, really!

Norma Desmond said...

It's not bad, it just didn't really do it for me.