The Watergate scandal is one of the biggest political incidents of the 20th century, which began with a break-in at the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate complex in Washington DC. Mark Felt was the deputy director of the FBI at the time of the incident (1972); his 30 years of FBI experience informed him that something seriously wrong was going on with the subsequent investigation. His own boss was ordering them to cease its own case, and when it became clear that there was a spy amongst them, Mark (later nicknamed 'Deep Throat') began to secretly leak information to various media sources and, with the help of journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, ultimately managed to uncover the truth behind the burglary. Everyone knows the outcome of this shocking investigation, and that it was all part of President Richard Nixon's re-election campaign, to wiretap phones and rob top secret documents, began a new wave of political mistrust amongst the entire nation.
From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front and centre as an unstoppable government operative. Set during the Cold War, it has buckets of visual panache, with eye-popping action choreography that makes it a guilty pleasure. If only that much attention had been given to the script, because both the characters and plot feel naggingly thin, never making the most of the people or places.
The film opens in 1989 London, as top MI6 spy Lorraine (Theron) recounts her recent mission to her British and American superiors (Toby Jones and John Goodman). Sent to Berlin just before the wall comes down, her main job is to discover what happened to a secret list of agents that was being held by a murdered colleague. In East Germany, she makes contact with David (James McAvoy), a fellow agent who has gone native, a little too deep undercover as a black market smuggler. While tracking down this elusive list, Lorraine meets a nervous Stasi officer (Eddie Marsan) desperate to defect to the west, and she faces off against a KGB boss (Roland Moller) with slash-and-burn tactics. And then there's the French spy Delphine (Sofia Boutella), with whom she enjoys rather more than a professional coupling.
James Macavoy in Atomic Blonde
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Long before the days of Jack the Ripper, there was another monster haunting the streets of London. A killer so terrible that locals dub him the Golem. Dan Leno, a real life theatre comedian, is for some reason dragged into the investigation by Inspector John Kildare of Scotland Yard, who is struggling to find a link between the murders. And he also enlists the help of a young woman named Elizabeth Cree whose terrified that she's next on the Golem's hit list. Kildare knows there is a witness, or witnesses, somewhere, and the Golem soon reveals that he is also aware that somebody knows who he is and leaves a warning that 'he who observes spills no less blood than he who inflicts the blow'.
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Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches our attention with its vivid characters and original setting. Based on real people and situations, it also rings unusually truthful in its combination of comedy and drama. It's another remarkably observant movie from Danish director Lone Scherfig (An Education).
The setting is 1940s London, where the Ministry of Information has assembled a team to make movies to help with the war effort. Catrin (Gemma Arterton) is a secretary who finds herself assigned as a screenwriter, working alongside Buckley and Parfitt (Sam Claflin and Paul Ritter) to write movies for veteran actor Ambrose (Bill Nighy). When Catrin discovers a story about twin sisters who participated in the Dunkirk boatlift, she proposes it as a film idea, and soon the entire crew goes into production, adding an American soldier (Jake Lacy) to the cast to accommodate the wishes of US military allies. This annoys Ambrose, who had been hoping to play the hero himself.
Scherfig directs the film with a light touch that brings the period to vivid life and never bogs down in the intensity of wartorn Britain, recognising the reality while undermining it with brittle humour and messy romance. Catrin has an artist husband (Jack Huston) who isn't happy about her new job, and there are hints of a romantic-comedy subplot between Catrin and Buckley.
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Lorraine Broughton is an experienced MI6 agent who, in 1989, is assigned on a mission to Berlin during the Cold War, just ahead of the fall of the Berlin Wall. She teams up with station chief David Percival as they attempt to uncover the truth behind the murder of one of their own agents, James Gascoigne; it's a personal mission for Lorraine, who once had quite the romantic connection with the spy. Along the way, she and David discover that they have been infiltrated by more than one double agent. They must use their skills of disguise, combat and driving to find the document that will expose the espionage group that betrayed them, being careful not to put their trust in anyone - no matter how seductive they may be.
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With a gentle current of comedy, this relaxed British drama finds some cleverly involving ways of approaching the concept of grief, specifically how various people need to deal with their inner pain in their own ways. It's a strikingly observant film that's also thoroughly engaging thanks to a terrific cast of actors who are given the space to develop their characters in organic ways we can easily identify with.
As a young boy, Nathan (Edward Baker-Close) folds into himself when his father (Martin McCann) is killed in a car crash. His optimistic mother Julie (Sally Hawkins) doesn't quite know how to deal with either his natural mathematical ability or his autistic inability to relate to people, but she does the best she can. And it's when he hits his teen years (now Asa Butterfield) that he begins to open up to his bristly tutor Humphreys (Rafe Spall), who encourages Nathan to travel to Taiwan to train with the British team for the International Mathematical Olympiad. In Taipei, Nathan has even more challenges as he learns to work with both the team coach Richard (Eddie Marsan) and his local study partner Mei (Jo Yang). And as Nathan begins to understand who he is, Julie also discovers that maybe she can cope after all.
Director Morgan Matthews and screenwriter James Graham have a remarkably light touch with the plot, allowing events to unfold naturally while never pushing the sentiment. They also thankfully figure out an inventive way to make a movie packed with mathematical formulae that actually feel meaningful to even the most maths-phobic member of the audience. Impressively, this lets the film get into Nathan's perspective to reveal how he sees the world and interacts with the people around him. And Butterfield plays the role with raw honesty that completely wins us over.
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Nathan (Asa Butterfield) is different. He has an amazing way with numbers - something which will one day lead him to huge success. But for now, Nathan is unable to talk to anyone other than his father, but after he is tragically killed in a car accident, Nathan feels alone. Fast forward a few years, Nathan can relate to no one and spends all his time working on maths equations. With help from his tutor, the lovable Humphreys (Rafe Spall) and his mother Julie (Sally Hawkins), Nathan gets into the prestigious International Mathematics Olympiad and takes a trip to Taiwan to train and hone his abilities. With a steadily growing relationship with Zhang Mei (Jo Yang), a fellow contestant, Nathan could be ready to learn to love.
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Despite a strong sense of the characters and the setting, this film struggles to engage viewers with its downbeat story about how tough life is. Even though the performances are powerful enough to hold the attention, the film feels like it drifts aimlessly along, never coming into focus in a meaningful way. And since everything is right on the surface, there isn't much subtext to help the events resonate with the audience.
In the God's Pocket neighbourhood in 1980s Philadelphia, everyone knows everything about each others' lives. Mickey (Philip Seymour Hoffman) works as a driver delivering meat, but spends just as much time planning small-time scams with his pal Arthur (John Turturro). Then his life is thrown out of balance when his hothead stepson Leon (Caleb Landry Jones) dies in what is suspiciously described as a workplace accident. Mickey's wife Jeanie (Christina Hendricks) struggles to cope with her son's death, so Mickey is easily pressured by the local mortician (Eddie Marsan) into buying a funeral he can't afford. To make some extra cash, he plans a heist with Arthur and their careless pal Sal (Domenick Lombardozzi), which predictably goes awry. Meanwhile, a famed local journalist (Richard Jenkins) starts looking into Leon's death.
It's not like the film is low on plot: there are plenty of story strands to push each character further into their own personal desperation. And the tightly knit setting provides an intriguing counterpoint as everyone's dirty laundry is aired for all to see, which pushes their true emotions even further underground. This lets the actors deliver riveting performances, even as they're all beaten down to mere husks of humanity. In one of his final roles, Hoffman is terrific as a guy for whom everything goes relentlessly wrong. Hendricks is pretty wrenching as the rather drippy Jeanie, whose interaction with Jenkins is both warm and depressing. Thankfully, Turturro and Marsan provide a spark of energy, as does Joyce Van Patten in a scene-stealing role as Arthur's gun-crazy aunt.
Continue reading: God's Pocket Review
God's Pocket seems to be an ordinary working class neighbourhood at face value; full of people with ordinary jobs and ordinary families. However, a dark undertone begins to show when Mickey Scarpato's insane stepson Leon dies following a so-called accident at a construction site. Mickey wants people to believe he slipped and fell to his death (not that anybody cares that the town is short of a man like Leon), but Leon's mother Jeanie is desperate to know what really happened. While Mickey tries to comfort his wife, Jeanie is approached by a shameless reporter named Richard Shellburn who is also investigating any mystery behind the death. All Mickey wants is the body in the ground and a large debt of his to be repaid - but it looks like his life is about to get a whole lot more complicated.
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As another full-on Irvine Welsh adaptation Trainspotting did in 1996, this bracingly original movie puts a new filmmaker on the map. Not only is this a loud blast of both style and substance, but it refuses to water down its subject matter, taking us through a shockingly profane story in a way that's both visually inventive and emotionally resonant.
This is the story of Bruce (McAvoy), an Edinburgh detective who's determined to beat his colleagues to a promotion. He's also a relentless womaniser, sexist, racist and drug addict. And he'll do anything to get ahead, hiding the sordid details of his private life from his boss (Sessions) while undermining the other cops at any chance while pretending to be their friends. In quick succession, he gets young Ray (Bell) addicted to cocaine, flirts continually with Amanda (Poots), has a fling with the kinky wife (Dickie) of fellow officer Gus (Lewis), torments Peter (Elliott) about his sexuality, and takes Bladesey (Marsan) on a sex-tourism holiday while making obscene calls to his needy wife (Henderson). All of this happens while Bruce leads the investigation into a grisly murder.
McAvoy dives so far into this role that we barely recognise him in there. Bruce is so amoral that we are taken aback by each degrading moment. And yet McAvoy somehow manages to hold our sympathy due to the film's blackly hilarious tone and a startling undercurrent of real emotion. Even though he's a monster, we see his boyish fragility, especially in surreal sequences involving his therapist (Broadbent), which merge with his fantasies, hallucinations and nightmares.
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The Watergate scandal is one of the biggest political incidents of the 20th century, which...
From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...
Long before the days of Jack the Ripper, there was another monster haunting the streets...
Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...
Lorraine Broughton is an experienced MI6 agent who, in 1989, is assigned on a mission...
With a gentle current of comedy, this relaxed British drama finds some cleverly involving ways...
Nathan (Asa Butterfield) is different. He has an amazing way with numbers - something which...
Despite a strong sense of the characters and the setting, this film struggles to engage...
God's Pocket seems to be an ordinary working class neighbourhood at face value; full of...
As another full-on Irvine Welsh adaptation Trainspotting did in 1996, this bracingly original movie puts...
After Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Pegg and Wright conclude their so-called Cornetto...