The Great Wall
Unlike any American blockbuster you've seen, a conservative movie with action set pieces that are actually inventive and thrilling enough to be worthwhile.
A play like Oscar Wilde's "An Ideal Husband" works because it takes place in a society bound by inflexible rules and social inhibitions. Here is a story in which a marriage, a romance, a fortune and government policy all rest on such foundations as a man's obligation to act like a gentleman. (Of course he doesn't need to be a gentleman--that's where the story comes in.) In the play, an incriminating letter is sent, in the belief that it will never be revealed. Suspicions are aroused, but they don't inspire questions--because they involve matters it would be unseemly to ask of a gentleman. As long as everyone plays by the rules in public, they can be broken in private. But then an entire society is threatened by the willingness of one character to act as she should not.
The play tells the story of Sir Robert Chiltern (Jeremy Northam), a rising parliamentary star who has been a paragon of honesty all of his career--except right at the first, when he shopped some secret government information to a baron, who paid him handsomely. Sir Robert is adored by his wife (Cate Blanchett), whose high standards would not permit her to be married to a cheat and liar. An old acquaintance of theirs reappears in London: Mrs. Cheveley (Julianne Moore), who was once married to the baron, and possesses the letter in which Chiltern leaked the information. She blackmails him. Either he will change his position on an upcoming piece of legislation, thus protecting her investments, or she will reveal him as a fraud.
It is even more complicated than that. Chiltern's best friend is Lord Goring (Rupert Everett), a rich and idle bachelor. Chiltern begs him to subtly prepare Lady Chiltern for bad news--to help her understand, in a general way, how a chap could do a bad thing and then lead a spotless life ever since. In the course of the plot machinations, romance appears: Goring falls in love with Chiltern's younger sister Mabel (Minnie Driver), and Mrs. Cheveley decides that Goring would be a splendid choice as her own third husband.
Would a man marry a woman he did not love simply to protect a friend, or keep a confidence? Today that would be unlikely, but for the original audiences of "An Ideal Husband," it was plausible enough to keep the entire plot suspended over an abyss of misunderstandings.