This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over just a few pivotal days during the Second World War. It's skilfully written and directed, and anchored by a wonderfully layered performance by Brian Cox. But there's a nagging sense that there's nothing new to see here, mainly because this is such a well-documented and dramatised point in history.
The story takes place over the first few days of June 1944, as the Allied military leaders make final preparations for the D-Day invasion. Due to his lingering trauma over his experiences in WWI, Winston Churchill (Cox) has serious misgivings about the plan, and challenges both the American commander Eisenhower (John Slattery) and senior British officer Montgomery (Julian Wadham). He even makes an appeal to King George (James Purefoy) to intervene. The problem is that he is coming across as a cranky man stuck in the old world, unable to see how warfare has changed in the previous 30 years and reluctant to relinquish control to the next generation. His wife Clementine (Miranda Richardson) is also becoming fed up with his ranting and raving, so she sets about trying to make him see reason.
Director Jonathan Teplitzky (The Railway Man) tells this story in a style similar to The King's Speech, a more revelatory true-life drama that fictionalises backstage conversations. This is an artfully made film, beautifully shot and edited. And Alex von Tunzelmann's script digs deeply into the characters and themes. So it's a bit frustrating that it's impossible to watch the movie without knowing full well whose argument wins the day and how the events will play out. At least the actors make the most of their roles. Cox delivers an awards-worthy performance as a veteran fighter struggling to remain on the sidelines as the battle approaches, continually adding emotional weight to Churchill's towering tirades. Richardson is limited to a series of isolated scenes, but shines as she takes him on.
Continue reading: Churchill Review
After the latest incarnation of Dredd, director Pete Travis shifts gears drastically for this complex noir mystery set in multiracial London. It's a stylishly made film, anchored by another superbly involving performance by Riz Ahmed. But its low budget shows in the way it strains to obscure secrets in blurry flashbacks, using intriguing characters to create a lot of atmosphere while neglecting to properly tell the story.
It's set in London's northwest inner-suburbs, where Tommy (Ahmed) grew up. He lives with his feisty but ill father (Roshan Seth) and works as a private detective. His latest client is the high-class hooker Melody (Cush Jumbo), who is concerned because one of her colleagues has gone missing. As he looks for her, Tommy discovers the dead body of a prominent businessman who has a link to his childhood friend Haafiz (James Floyd), now a high-flying property developer. And things are getting increasingly messy, with American spies prowling around and a local Muslim brotherhood entangled in the case. Tommy hires a sparky neighbour (Damson Idris) to help him, and then he runs into his childhood sweetheart Shelley (Billie Piper), who brings up emotions he thought he'd left behind.
All of this is intercut with blurred flashbacks of Tommy, Haafiz and Shelley when they were 17 years old. This stirs in some intriguing emotions, even if the scenes feel like a distraction since they take so long to reveal their secrets and never quite connect with the central mystery. Travis keeps the tone warm and dense, with dark colours, emotive faces and Tommy's probing voiceover, all of which creates a vivid sense of atmosphere. On the other hand, the plot merely gets more knotted as it goes along, bringing in more people and themes. So even if the story never quite ties up all of its lose ends, at least it's a fascinating portrayal of the ethnic mix in most London neighbourhoods.
Continue reading: City Of Tiny Lights Review
It's June 1944 and the war has been waging for five long years. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill wants to end it once and for all, but the last thing he would ever do is surrender as a nation. Despite the fact that the allied forced are standing at the coast ready for the orders to invade Normandy and take back the parts of Europe that Nazi Germany has taken over, Churchill doesn't want to rush in until he's certain they have the best chance of success. Naturally, the allied military leaders General Eisenhower and Field Marshal Montgomery are becoming frustrated with the man's fear of failure - for it is only that that stands in the way of their D-Day victory. But there's a lot more behind this stubborn and volatile human being than most people see; one who does see it is his dedicated wide Clementine who may be the only one who can save him and, in effect, save Europe.
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Tommy Akhtar (Riz Ahmed) is an experienced private detective living in London, whose past comes rushing back with the return of his long-lost girlfriend Shelley (Billie Piper). But that's the least of his troubles. He's called in by an escort named Melody (Cush Jumbo) following the disappearance of her Russian flatmate after the latter had left for an appointment with a client. She's willing to pay whatever cost Tommy has in mind to get her friend back, a friend who was last seen in CCTV footage arriving at a hotel in Paddington. So where better to start looking? He also enlists the help of an unlikely friend to go undercover. However, it soon becomes clear that this is a lot bigger than he first thought; he's being threatened by suits as he gets closer to uncovering the dark underworld of London's social politics. There's a disturbing religious undertone to this case, which leads Tommy unwittingly into a world of violence and terrorism.
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Jennifer Preston is a journalist hoping to get to the bottom of a tragic explosion that occurred in a nightclub on New Year's Eve a month previously; a disaster that killed over 230 people and caused toxic waste from an underground weapons facility to spread five square miles into the city. A large portion of the city is now under strict quarantine; no-one is allowed in or out. The only problem is, a strange phenomenon has taken a hold of those within the quarantine zone spreading horror and violence throughout. Preston and her bereaved detective friend Levis Mathis are determined to discover the root of the explosion, especially since the latter lost his daughter to the blast, but the authorities aren't prepared to help them. And time is running out as they begin to find themselves affected by the dark happenings.
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In the palace of Versailles, a tremendous garden is maintained. One day, the builder and head gardener sees an ordinary woman arriving at the palace, and, throwing aside ideas of conformity, chooses to rearrange some of the garden into something that pleases her. He takes her on with the hopes of updating and adding some life to the traditional gardens, and steadily begins to fall for her. As she finds difficulty integrating into the high society that he is from, he ensures her that, in fact, she is envied by the upper classes for her newness. But when that envy turns into something more, the gardener will have to fight tooth and nail to maintain the garden, their love, and their lives.
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A riveting performance from Tom Hardy makes this pseudo-thriller utterly riveting, turning even the most contrived plot elements into punchy drama. Like Robert Redford in All Is Lost or Sandra Bullock in Gravity, this one-person show also works as an intriguing cinematic experiment: telling an entire story centred only on a man driving a car for 90 minutes.
Hardy plays construction foreman Ivan Locke, who's set to oversee the biggest concrete pour in Europe. But at the crucial moment, he abandons his post and hits the road for a late-night drive from Birmingham to London. He turns his work responsibility over to his extremely nervous assistant (voiced by Andrew Scott), but has a tough time calming down the corporate bosses. He also phones his sons (Tom Holland and Bill Milner) to tell them he won't make it home to watch the big game, but he struggles to explain to his angry wife (Ruth Wilson) the reason he's driving to London to meet a middle-aged woman (Olivia Colman), who is also sounding rather stressed down the line.
As Hardy's character tries to salvage his marriage, family and career, his moral conundrum becomes increasingly intense, and Hardy plays him as a man whose internal turmoil is raging behind his confident voice. It's a remarkably effective performance, gripping and involving, asking big questions even if the script never quite gets around to grappling with the issues at hand. It's also playing rather heavily on the irony that doing the right thing is likely to cost Ivan pretty much everything, leaving him alone and despised like his father.
Continue reading: Locke Review
Ivan Locke could well be the model of a perfect life with his beautiful family, comfortable life and a job that is only continuing to offer more and more. However, everyone's got a past and this man's is coming back to haunt him as an incident regarding his younger self threatens the stability of his idyllic existence. He is forced to leave an important job in the construction profession that would've been of significant value to his career in order to drive to London and settle a matter that has been hanging in the air since he was in his twenties. It's a 90 minute journey that seems to take forever as he attempts to resolve a variety of issues that have arisen both at work and at home over the phone. He also finds himself talking to his dead father as he battles to save his family, his job and his sanity.
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Andrea Dunbar wrote her first play, The Arbor, at age 15. Named after the street where she grew up in Bradford's rough Buttershaw Estate, it was a national sensation, leading to her second play Rita, Sue and Bob Too, which was adapted into an Alan Clarke film. But Andrea's life didn't get much better, with a string of rocky relationships, three children from three men and a terrible alcohol problem. And her snappy, astute writing came to an end at only age 29 when she died of an embolism.
Continue reading: The Arbor Review
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