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Bypass Review


Excellent

After Pride, young British actor George MacKay returns to a much smaller scale of filmmaking for this dark, moody English drama. It may be somewhat gloomy and intense, but it gets under the skin because filmmaker Duane Hopkins (Better Things) remains so tightly focused on MacKay's character, offering a complex portrait of a young man pushed to desperation. Some earthy humour would have helped make it more resonant, as well as perhaps a lighter touch with some of the bigger plot points, but this is thoughtful and provocative filmmaking.

MacKay plays Tim, a young guy barely out of his teens and struggling to care for his surly teen sister Helen (Lara Peake). Their parents are long gone, and older brother Greg (Benjamin Dilloway) is in prison. So with the bills overdue and his girlfriend (Charlotte Spencer) expecting a baby, Tim sees little alternative but to follow Greg's lead into petty crime. But his boss is pushing him into increasingly dangerous situations, and as he tries to keep up with everything, Tim is ignoring the signs that something is seriously wrong with his health.

The title is the clue here, and Hopkins deploys a variety of visual touches to tell the story from within Tim's limited perspective. This includes lots of extreme close-ups, frantic hand-held action, slow-motion camerawork and a sound mix that's often out-of-sync with the images. Combined with a mournful musical score, this creates a strikingly powerful atmosphere. Yes, it's all rather bleak, but things are livened up by lyrical flashbacks and conversations that seem cut off in the middle, demanding that we work out the scene ourselves because that's exactly how Tim experiences it.

Continue reading: Bypass Review

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Review


Excellent
Fincher brings a sleek, achingly cool vibe to this remake of the first novel in Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. Although he doesn't find any more subtext in the intriguing characters and rather straightforward mystery, the film holds us completely in its grip.

Disgraced journalist Mikael (Craig) takes a job on an isolated island looking into the 40-years-earlier disappearance of the teenage niece of millionaire industrialist Vanger (Plummer). But the deeper Mikael digs, the messier things get. He discovers all kinds of nastiness in Henrik's dysfunctional family. Then he teams up with gifted hacker Lisbeth (Mara) to unravel the knots in the story. But as a ward of the state, Lisbeth is also dealing with her own rather intense situation.

Continue reading: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Review

The Constant Gardener Review


OK
A preachy but gripping socio-political thriller, "TheConstant Gardener" captures the parched beauty of African desert nations,personifies the horrors of their poverty in dusty, sunburned detail, andpulls no punches in its view of greedy drug companies that feign altruismbut view encroaching epidemics as lucrative boons for their stockholders.

Based on the John Le Carre novel of the same name, thefilm's politics are couched in a brutal and twist-filled murder mystery.Ralph Fiennes plays Justin Quayle, a dry, charmingly wonky English diplomatwhose bottled adoration for his eye-catching young wife (Rachel Weisz)-- an impetuous, impassioned human rights activist his colleagues hopehe won't bring to parties -- becomes dangerously uncorked when she is killedand mutilated while on an aid mission.

Realizing there's more to her death than meets the eyewhen his inquiries for more information are deflected by even his closestassociates -- and suspecting she may have been up to something more aswell -- Quayle drops off the diplomatic radar and begins a dangerous amateurinvestigation that puts him in the crosshairs of corrupt politicians, corporatestooges and ruthless warlords.

Directed by Fernando Meirelles with the same unblinking,sweaty, ground-level grittiness he brought to "City of God,"his brilliant verite expose of Brazilian poverty, "The Constant Gardener"becomes an incredible puzzle with far-flung pieces that Quayle must linktogether with tenuous but damning evidence. And whether he travels to Londonor hitches a lift with the Red Cross to a remote village in Kenya devastatedby disease (in order to interrogate a particular doctor), he's under suchconstant threat that in some scenes it feels as if any background actorcould be a hired killer closing in.

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K-19: The Widowmaker Review


OK

If there's one thing almost all submarine movies do well, it's creating a corporeal sense of tension. It's a product of the genre's fundamental elements: inherent danger, high drama and human conflict in enclosed spaces, with no chance of escape and a requisite potential for war.

But if there's one congenital problem with submarine movies, it's that even in the good ones like "K-19: The Widowmaker," it's impossible to avoid a sense of deja vu.

No matter who plays the captain, he'll be the kind of principled but uncompromising leader who will take "this boat and these men to the edge because we need to know where it is." He will order emergency drills and time the response with a stopwatch. He will take the ship so deep the hull begins to buckle. He will butt heads with his equally strong but loyal Executive Officer who is beloved by his men. And some members of his crew will consider a mutiny when they think the captain is endangering them.

Continue reading: K-19: The Widowmaker Review

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