This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith (Severance) takes a bracingly inventive approach to telling the story. The result is a film that pulls us in and challenges us with ideas and emotions that are deeply resonant, even as the plot builds a gripping sense of tension. And in addition to the twisty, tricky filmmaking style, the performances carry a striking emotional kick.
It opens in Los Angeles, where law student Harper (Tye Sheridan) is convinced that his stepfather Vincent (Stephen Moyer) is a monster. Not only might be be responsible for the car crash that put Harper's mother in a coma, but he's planning a dirty weekend in Las Vegas with a waitress. Then as Harper hatches a plan to do something about this, he meets the mercurial thug Johnny (Emory Cohen), and convinces him to drive to Nevada with him to give Vincent the comeuppance he deserves. But their trip is complicated when Johnny brings his stripper girlfriend Cherry (Bel Powley) along, especially since Harper is clearly smitten. And while all of this is happening, Harper is imagining how he might also handle this on his own.
These flickering internalised scenes give the film a kind of Sliding Doors-style tone, showing both what is and what might have been. But Smith has a surprise in store in the way he brings these strands together, redefining both the plot and the characters to pull us in even more deeply. It helps that the three central actors deliver hugely compelling performances. In another riveting turn, Sheridan anchors the film with a beautifully layered performance that's powerfully sympathetic even when Harper does something nasty. Cohen is also terrific in a flashier role as the charismatic hothead, while Powley cleverly holds back to bring out Cherry's more intriguing angles later in the story.
Continue reading: Detour Review
The filmmakers tell this World War I story beautifully, but they never quite bring it to life as a proper movie. By taking a gently simplistic approach, it never feels like anything new as it deals with the usual topics of battlefield camaraderie, lost innocence and families torn apart by war.
It's set in early 1900s rural Devon, as the Peaceful family's idyllic life comes to an abrupt end when Dad dies. Now Hazel (Peake) and her three sons, Tommo, Charlie and simple-minded Joe (MacKay, O'Connell and Summercorn), must struggle to find enough work to survive. And when the war breaks out, Tommo lies about his age to go off to fight, partly because the girl he loves, Molly (Roach), turns out to be in love with Charlie. So out of guilt, Charlie joins him in the trenches. Which makes both Molly and Hazel worry if either of them will return home.
Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo (War Horse), the film is packed with serious themes that contrast life on a Devon farm with the horrors of battle. The story is framed with scenes of Tommo in a military prison cell, and we have to wait until the end to find out what that's all about, which kind of waters down the impact of the harrowing scenes that come next. This is probably because everything that happens in the meantime reiterates the fact that fate goes where it will, and both good and bad people die in wartime.
Continue reading: Private Peaceful Review
After four years in prison, on the anniversary of his young son's death, Jack (Lynch) finds out that his wife is leaving him. Meanwhile, new young inmate Paul (Compston) is quickly taken under the wing of tough-guy Clay (Parkinson).
Seeing this, Jack and his friend Ahmed (Malik) start to worry about Paul's safety. Sure enough, things turn violent, so Jack arranges to help Paul cope with the situation and becomes his mentor-protector. But there are more tensions brewing between various factions of inmates, and clearly things are going to get much worse.
Continue reading: Ghosted Review
Osmund (Redmayne) is a young monk in 1384 England just as the plague is breaking out. The question is whether it's a curse from God or caused by evil in the world. Then the Bishop's envoy Ulric (Bean) arrives with news that an isolated village is somehow pestilence free. Drafting Osmund as a guide, the team heads off to confront what is no doubt pure evil, and indeed when they arrive they meet the village leader Langiva (van Houten), who has turned her back on the Church and created a creepy idyll.
Continue reading: Black Death Review
In 1348 the many people of England were struck down by the plague that swept the length and breadth of the island. Knight Ulrich was one of the greatest fighters of the time and when he learnt of a small village untouched by the deadly illness, he tasked himself, a band of soldiers and a young monk to discover their secret and hunt down a powerful sorcerer thought to be able to bring the dead back to life.
Continue: Black Death Trailer
The last one is the most appropriate for this: a picture which wastes a lot of raw acting talent and pretty photography on a boring, groaning-in-your-seat story which hinges on every cliché in the book.
Continue reading: Moll Flanders Review
The most celebrated child custody battle in Irish history is the subject of "Evelyn," a moving but uninspired feel-good drama in which Pierce Brosnan stretches his anti-Bond acting muscles as a struggling carpenter and painter desperately fighting church and state to get his three button-cute kids out of foster care.
It seems that when the wife of Brosnan's real-life character Desmond Doyle swiped their bankbook from the coffee tin in their row-house kitchen in 1953 then disappeared with another man, the enforcers of family law ("a cozy conspiracy between the Catholic church and the Irish state") decided a single father without steady work made an unfit parent.
As the opening act of the movie unfolds, Doyle's beloved young children -- two boys and a sweet little girl whose name begot the film's title -- are dragged off to strict orphanage schools run by tyrannical nuns. Meanwhile, Brosnan kicks his character's tires, struggling for several scenes to get a bead on the guy as he looks for work, resolves to stay sober and takes on the Goliath system.
Continue reading: Evelyn Review
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