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War Book Review

Excellent

With an ingenious concept, this fairly simple film becomes one of the most gripping thrillers of the year even though it rarely leaves a wood-panelled conference room. Since the 1960s, British officials have met to role-play various scenarios about how a global nuclear war might play out, with their findings going into the eponymous War Book. Watching this group go through a fictional scenario is riveting, because it offers striking insight into our precarious political system.

The film takes place during three 30-minute meetings over three days in 2014, as eight relatively low-level officials and one hapless Member of Parliament (Nicholas Burns) gather in a London boardroom. Philippa (Sophie Okonedo) chairs the meeting in the role of the home secretary, as her assistant (Phoebe Fox) reads a chilling brief about a nuclear bomb that Pakistan detonates in Mumbai. Playing the Prime Minister, Gary (Ben Chaplin) takes over, holding emergency votes on diplomacy, humanitarian aid and whether the UK should be quarantined to keep radiation sickness out. And as the situation deteriorates, differences of opinion begin to emerge around the table, most notably about the repercussions of joining with Britain's allies to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike.

For a movie that consists almost entirely of people sitting in a room talking, this is remarkably visual, never looking like a claustrophobic stage play. Director Tom Harper sends the camera prowling around the room, occasionally glimpsing normal life continuing outside the window. And in between the meetings, the people also have their regular jobs to deal with. Meanwhile, their dialogue is packed with biting humour, power plays, rivalries and some startlingly vivid emotions. While some interaction hinges on short, sharp verbal gymnastics, other segments require much closer attention as the conversations wander through lengthy discussions and anecdotes. The only scene that feels out of place is a pre-meeting encounter between Chaplin and Phoebe Fox that touches on the connection between power and sex.

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War Book Trailer


Nine people from different walks of life who all work for the government are enlisted to take part in a 'scenario' based on decision-making in the event of a nuclear assault. They are given the notice that a nuclear warhead has been detonated in Mumbai, with deaths entering hundreds of thousands, and asked to make a decision on what to do next. It doesn't take long for Gary the 'Prime Minister' to plan a course of action and have his cabinet members vote for it, and when some of the group question whether or not they should be rushing decisions that could affect the lives of millions, it becomes clear that this task is one that some people are happy to take on with a pinch of salt. However, two people in the group understand that this isn't really a fake scenerio at all; it's very, very real and they have to put their social differences aside in order to come to the best course of action.

Continue: War Book Trailer

Pan - International Trailer


Peter was but a small boy when he was left at an orphanage by his mother, with no belongings other than a small metal pan around his neck. For some years, he grew up with no knowledge of why he his mother left him, but things become clear when he discovers the mystical world of Neverland. 'Pan' takes us back to the very beginning of Peter Pan's story, from his unlikely friendship with James Hook to when Blackbeard was his arch nemesis, fighting in a land above the clouds, where ships sail the air and giant crocodiles lurk beneath the mermaids' lagoon. Soon Peter learns that he was prophecised to return to the land and defeat Blackbeard, with his ability to fly and his unwavering bravery being his only tools. This is a boy who never wants to grow up, but he's about to realise that sometimes maturity and responsibility falls on you without choice.

Continue: Pan - International Trailer

Pan Trailer


Peter was sent to an orphanage as a young boy with nothing but a small metal pan pendant left to him by his mother, who predicted great things for her son. Indeed, he goes on to experience the most exciting childhood anyone could dream to have, flying around on airborne ships from the mystical world of Neverland. And while it may be an enjoyable time, there are still great dangers that lie before him; the most feared pirate in all the land, Blackbeard, is out to bring the land under his tyrannous rule and Peter finds himself a target. Meanwhile, he meets James Hook, a fellow traveller who becomes his friend and protector, and it isn't long before he then bumps into a vibrant tribe led by the formidable Tiger Lily, who reveals to him that his arrival marks the end of the pirates' terror. But Peter is just a boy, and however brave he might be, does he really stand a chance against these merciless villains?

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Pan - Teaser Trailer Trailer


Left behind by his mother at an orphanage, one young rebellious boy always dreamed of finding his mother out there somewhere. That boy was Peter (Levi Miller) and when he is suddenly kidnapped by a flying pirate ship, Pan is whisked off to Never Land by the villainous Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). There, he strikes up an easy alliance with a young James Hook (Garrett Hedlund) while trapped in a mining colony, and the two make plans to escape. In a land of Pirates, Red Indians and Fairies, and all that Never Land lacks is the boy who holds the magical Pan charm.  

Continue: Pan - Teaser Trailer Trailer

The Dictator Review


Good
This may look like a wildly irreverent satire about a North African despot, but it doesn't take long to realise that the filmmakers' target is somewhere else.

And the biting script never pulls its punches, leaping us laughing at the audacity while making a serious point.

Aladeen (Baron Cohen) is the pampered dictator of Wadiya, who travels to New York to tell the UN to stop nosing around his nuclear "energy" plants. But his Uncle Tamir (Kingsley) is plotting to kill him and replace him with a double who will sign a democratic constitution essentially selling the country to oil companies. Aladeen manages to escape, but no one recognises him cleanly shaven, so he teams up with health-food activist Zoey (Faris) and a countryman (Mantzoukas) to get his country back.

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The Dictator Trailer


General Aladeen is the ruler of a country called Wadiya. However, he is not a fair ruler, he is a dictator and his reign over Wadiya becomes cause for concern for the United Nations, who holds a meeting to discuss the future of the country. General Aladeen is told to attend, so he travels to America, determined not to introduce democracy into his country. While in America, he also wanders around in New York and ends up in bed with a shocked Megan Fox.

Continue: The Dictator Trailer

Four Lions Review


Good
Treating a taboo topic with broad comedy is dangerous business, as it risks trivialising something serious while offending rather a lot of people.

Fortunately, these filmmakers are smart enough to get away with it.

Omar (Ahmed) is a shopping mall guard with a wife (Kalidas) and son, plus chucklehead pals Waj, Barry and Fessel (Novak, Lindsay and Akhtar) who like him aspire to be jihadists. Omar and Waj even go to a Pakistan training centre, but when things go wrong there, they decide to prove their devotion with a terrorist attack. Meanwhile, Barry has drafted in jokester Hassan (Ali), and after building and, erm, testing a few bombs, four of them head for London as suicide bombers.

Continue reading: Four Lions Review

Four Lions Trailer


Omar is a Muslim from the North of England who's been radicalised. He decides he's going to form a terrorist cell with his friend Waj and two other recruits, a Nihilist Islamic convert called Barry and a bomb maker named Faisal - the only member who will not sacrifice his life because his sick father has started eating paper.

Continue: Four Lions Trailer

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