Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Duration: 148 minutes (US)
The master of suggestion. The master of rich, sumptuous cinematography and heady atmosphere. The master of clammy, scorched hedonism; here he is – Paul Thomas Anderson, or PTA to most folks. He can be quite a divisive figure. Some feel that he is the apex of mood and method. Others feel that it is all window dressing and little substance.
On this occasion, he has tackled the convoluted and complex universe as conjured by author Thomas Pynchon. Inherent Vice is set in the early 1970s, and the soundtrack of Neil Young and his ilk alludes to an Almost Famous-esque vibe. However, this is a trip that offers added crime and conspiracy at its heart.
Perhaps more than any other PTA film, the feel evokes a contemporary Coen Brothers touch with more than a little Michael Mann’s Heat (1995) or Brian De Palma’s Carlito’s Way (1993) tossed in the mix. The story twists and turns with Joaquin Phoenix’s Larry ‘Doc’ Sportello – an intrepid private investigator – going on the hunt for his missing former girlfriend. The deeper he gets into the mystery of her disappearance, the more he uncovers about the business and crime fighting worlds; the mixed-up politics, curious motives and the wanton deceit.
As much as Inherent Vice can occasionally appear po-faced, there are humorous elements too. The antipathetic relationship of ‘Doc’ and Josh Brolin’s Lt. Det. Christian F. ‘Bigfoot’ Bjornsen is a constant source of engagement. Plus, who wouldn’t want to see Brolin chewing on a copious amount of cannabis in front of a bewildered and non-plussed Joaquin Phoenix? It stands as one of the more surreal cinematic scenes of the year so far.
Whilst there is a meandering amble that can feel guilty of the sternest of the accusations frequently levelled at the oeuvre of PTA, this comes together well. You cannot deny a feeling that there is a spool of subtle meaning and substance that needs to be unravelled and that repeated viewings will offer ample reward. Style and substance? PTA has married both on this occasion.
Inherent Vice is in cinemas from 30th January 2015. Enter our fantastic Inherent Vice competition here.
Here is the trailer: