The common thread (or threat) of this double feature is Bill Nighy. The British actor is not a household name here in the colonies, but he is gaining visibility from having played the hilariously disgusting Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean and having been nominated for acting awards for performances in such jewels as Notes on a Scandal and such television masterpieces as Page Eight and State of Play. Tonight’s pairing gives you an idea of his range and two movies to enjoy from the comfort of your sofa.
In Wild Target, a powerful art collector (Rupert Everett) hires a meticulously professional hitman to kill a woman (Emily Blunt) who ripped him off with a clever scam. There is a lot of wonderful British silliness in what is essentially a caper gone wrong movie. Bill Nighy plays the hitman — it’s a family business — who goes astray, failing to fulfill his promise to the vengeful art collector and live up to his mother’s strict business code. There are twists and turns in this 2010 comedy directed by Jonathan Lynn, including a hitman to hit the hitman and the mother, played by Eileen Atkins, who has a little hitting on her mind as well. Martin Freeman and Rupert Grint also star.
Glorious 39 also has a magnificent cast — Nighy, Julie Christie, David Tennant, Christopher Lee, Eddie Redmayne and Romola Garai among them. This alone would be enough. But it needn’t be. It is a richly filmed story that alternates between now and World War II. Spies, politics, unexplained deaths and most of all keeping secrets — at all costs — keep the characters and the viewers guessing as the civilized veneer begins to peel. This 2009 film isn’t a thriller, despite claims that it is. You’ll only be disappointed if you approach it this way. This sedate film is all about character. The takeaway isn’t about what you can see, but about what you can’t — a kind of lackadaisical evil.
Nighy’s performances are understated in both. It seems to be his trademark. The films set entirely different moods — one being on the silly side and the other with a serious, more classical approach. The characters that Nighy plays are at opposite ends of the spectrum as well, yet Nighy bridges them subtly and beautifully.
It’s a slow, though entirely pleasant evening. A bottle of white or rose would work with the first film. Brandy is highly recommended for the second.