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Review – The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn (B+)

Adventures Of Tintin The Secret Of The Unicorn Review 2011
Our Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn Review.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: (voices) Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Toby Jones
Release Date: UK – Back In October / US – Today

When a model of the titular Unicorn, a ship that sank carrying incredible wealth, falls into Tintin’s possession, it kicks starts a chain of events that take the plucky journalist and his faithful dog Snowy across the globe in a race against time to beat Ivanovich Sakharine (Daniel Craig) to the treasure. Along the way, Tintin enlists the help of inept Interpol duo Thomson and Thompson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) and the drunken Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), a washed-up relic of his family’s glory days.

Don’t let the fact that it’s a kid’s movie, that it’s a CGI movie, or that director Spielberg has been off the ball for a few years now fool you. Tintin is damned good fun. Benefiting from the source material – a trilogy of Tintin stories make up this one adventure – and three excellent writers, this might just win over its most ardent opponents.

The script, penned by Steven Moffat (Doctor Who), Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim Vs The World) and Joe Cornish (Attack the Block), serves as a delightful combination of the three’s unique approach to writing. Moffat is clearly at home layering a cunning mystery, while the hands of Wright and Cornish both become apparent during the many excellent action set pieces. The payoff is a screenplay that delights from three separate angles, arriving packed with humour and action sequences that don’t feel forced in for the sake of it.

Adventures Of Tintin The Secret Of The Unicorn Review 2011
As to Spielberg’s talents, this film reconfirms him as a director to be reckoned with. For a man who has never worked digitally or with motion capture before, Spielberg steams in with an outstanding demonstration of how the medium should be used. Robert Zemeckis, take note. Of particular note is the incredible downhill chase – a sequence several minutes long and all filmed in one eye-boggling shot.

The film’s real strength is the incredible humanity in the animation. Bell’s Tintin is ageless, graceful, likeable, while Haddock is drunk, bumbling, wistful, forgetful and Sakharine never appears less than threatening. The most impressive part is that there isn’t a single Zemeckis-style dead eye on offer (except in the eyes of the sleeping sailor.)

While Tintin is good fun all round, it is lacking that something extra to make it a truly great film. It’s fast, funny and exciting, but the film tends to stumble over itself without Haddock appearing on screen. The first twenty minutes simply set up the story and the pastel-bright world of Hergé’s cartoons, but things don’t really get going until Serkis’s outstanding drunken Scotsman blunders into shot. Haddock even provides one of the film’s most amazing sequences, as he tells Tintin the story of his family in a dizzying display of camera trickery, flashbacks and sleight-of-hand that will have other directors scrambling to take notes. Away from Haddock, the pace slows considerably, with Thomson and Thompson not quite getting the gag ratio right (there’s a feeling of Monty Python in the two’s slapstick) and Tintin having to vocalise whole swathes of dialogue to keep the story going.

Still, this first Tintin adventure is a highly enjoyable treat for both kids and adults alike. Whether or not you’re a Tintin fan makes no difference here – like the protagonist, you’ll find yourself swept up in an adventure like no other. Until the sequel, that is.

Our Grade: B+

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