Having departed on Monday from Heathrow for a ten-day tour of Singapore and Australia acting as wingman for my aged father, he and I duly reached our first port of call yesterday after a flight of thirteen hours and have spent our time since resting and acclimatizing ourselves.
It is apparently the rainy season here, which explains the weather – and there is plenty more of the same anticipated over the duration of our stay.
It’s been a while since I have flown business class – I’d previously done so only on work trips – and thus the luxury and service provided by Singapore Airlines on board what was described by the pilot as a ‘brand new aircraft’ was a welcome, guilty-pleasured, eye-opener.
Passing the time on a long-haul trip is, of course, an issue for all those who fly. I began by delving into Boris Johnson’s new book on Winston Churchill, a copy of which my father had just finished and recommended. My plan is to read it in bite-sized pieces because it has got to last me the entire trip.
My first comment is that it costs 25 pounds sterling, which I regarded as less than value for money in a tome that is not that long and employs a very large typeface. The second is that it reads very much as Boris speaks, if you get my drift. And my third is that – frustratingly – its contents, for all the dexterity of the language and preponderance of insights and quips, give every impression of being a rushed job.
That’s all I’m saying at present, after three short chapters – I’ll report further in due course.
Next I turned to the in-flight entertainment system.
Whilst all around me my juniors were pressing a few buttons and settling down to watch what they’d chosen, after a significant tussle over 90 minutes I reckon I achieved a score-draw of sorts that enabled me to access the films, though in the end I had to enlist the services of an attractive flight attendant to show me how to raise or lower the volume on my earphones.
The one good thing about using an in-flight entertainment system is that to all intents and purposes it completely shuts out the considerable ambient noise level inside a modern airliner.
Not being a particular fan of television dramas or movies, I decided to watch something featuring Scarlet Johansson – who has the twin advantage of being one of the three actresses under the age fifty I can recognize upon sight and whom I find rather sexually alluring.
[What follows – with all due difference to my esteemed colleague Neil Rosen – is my attempt at a film review.]
First up, I decided to attempt the edgy Under The Skin (2013), in which – as some form of alien – Johansson travels around Scotland in a van seducing and killing young men. Just as importantly, I had understood it contained a significant degree of nudity.
Not in the version supplied to Singapore Airlines, it doesn’t.
After less than thirty minutes – interrupted on one occasion by my father leaning over from his adjacent cubicle and asking with keen interest “And what is this you’re watching?” – I bailed out, fed up with the pixelated ‘modesty’ overlays imposed every time Johansson got anywhere near taking her kit off.
Still after my Johansson fix, next I tried to Lucy (2014), written and directed by Luc Besson, in which she plays an unwitting drug mule who accidentally imbibes a powerful and illegal drug that allows her to access the 90% of her brain that thus far we humans are apparently unable to use [Morgan Freeman plays the professor who knows these scientific facts].
Probably, like me, you’d regard that set-up as a promising start.
Sadly, the remaining 60% of the movie is a disappointment. It feels as though Besson either lost his way and/or just ran out of ideas. The climactic violence as the Triads try to rescue their lucrative cargo – and the French police and other authorities try to prevent them – is cartoon-like and frankly both unrealistic and unbelievable. In fact, as Johansson decides to keep on taking the powerful drug, both to complete the victory over the Triad gang and collect the data (that only she now can before she inevitably expires) so that she can leave it behind for Freeman and his colleague to digest, this viewer became completely de-connected from the story in an instinctive reaction to the snowstorm of CGI-created images and the now sadly-apparent ‘who gives a damn anymore?’ attitude of the film makers.
In short, I take no pleasure in giving Lucy a two-star rating out of a potential five. I say with sadness because, after the set-up, it had the potential to be a four-star effort.