“Mr. Turner”: Being a great painter is mostly grunt work

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“Mr. Turner” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. R, 2:30, three stars out of four. I’ll host a post-show chat about the film on Tuesday, March 3 after the 7:15 p.m. show.

A famous J.M.W. Turner painting appears in the last James Bond movie, “Skyfall.” Bond meets the new Q (Ben Whishaw) in front of Turner’s “The Fighting Temeraire,” which shows an old warship being towed away to be turned into scrap metal. Q suggests the painting illustrates “the inevitability of time,” a dig at 007’s age, but all Bond sees is a “bloody big ship.”

One could approach Mike Leigh’s biopic, “Mr. Turner,” from much the same perspectives. You could look at the largely plotless narrative covering the last quarter of the British painter’s life and see themes and insights into the man and his work emerge. Or you could just see him as a bloody big ship.

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