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.
Continue reading: War Book Review
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
Stylish and moody, this twisty dramatic thriller gets under our skin with its mysterious tone and darkly insinuating performances. But the script is badly underwritten, never quite connecting the dots between what happens on screen. Several of the events are frankly unbelievable, which is made more frustrating by characters who continually do things that don't make logical sense. So we end up struggling to see the point of it all.
Everything happens in the wake of a massive explosion at a holiday house in the south of France. Micky (Middleton) wakes up with amnesia, having had her face rebuilt by surgeons. But her childhood best pal Domenica (Roach in flashbacks) died in the fire, leaving a huge hole in her life. Her guardian (Kerry Fox) tries to help her return to her daily routine, but she's obsessed with piecing together the nagging puzzle about what happened. And she doesn't really want to be the person she apparently was before the accident. Her old boyfriend Jake (Bernard) is some help, but the more she learns about her former life, the more she wonders who she really is.
The insinuation from the very start is that Micky and Do may have swapped identities in the accident, which seems rather ridiculous since they aren't the same height. Reconstructive surgery can't overcome that, and their different coloured hair would become obvious pretty quickly. So every time writer-director Softley tries to drop a hint or throw us off the trail, we feel like we're being had. At least he maintains a terrific sense of film noir creepiness, with lush visuals and scenes that draw us in to make us wonder what will happen next. And there is the tantalising possibility that the swap is psychological.
Continue reading: Trap for Cinderella Review
Micky is an avid photographer enjoying her nightly social revelry in London until she bumps into an old friend from her childhood. Do is almost the opposite of Micky; she is quiet and reserved, but the pair immediately click as if no time had passed since they last saw each other. A passion that has long laid dormant is re-ignited between them despite the disapproval of those around them but little do they know that their star-crossed relationship is set to end in tragedy when they escape to the French villa where they had spent their summers together as kids. A fire breaks out causing the death of Do and some severe burns and amnesia for Micky. While she struggles to recall memories from her life, she is forced to re-learn her relationships with friends, family and former lovers while trying to make sense of who she is at the same time, with only the word of the people around her to guide her.
Continue: Trap For Cinderella Trailer
Even for a riotous Australian black comedy, this film packs in just a bit too much chaos. It's consistently smart and funny, with lively characters and especially witty dialog, but some of the sideroads never go anywhere. Still, there's so much terrific material in here that it's well worth a look for fans of the genre. And it's great to see Collette return home to reunite with her Muriel's Wedding director P.J. Hogan nearly 20 years after they launched their careers.
The story centres on suburban housewife Shirley (Gibney), who is obsessed with The Sound of Music and wishes her unruly family was more like the Von Trapps. But no, her husband (LaPaglia) is the town's philandering mayor, and their five daughters all think they're mentally ill. Then when Shirley herself ends up in a psych ward, Dad brings in the drifter Shaz (Collette) to watch the girls. She takes no prisoners, whipping them into shape while trying to give them some self-respect. She also shows them that the people society considers "normal" are probably crazier than they are. Meanwhile, eldest daughter Coral (Sullivan) gets a job at a shark exhibit run by a salty fisherman (Schreiber) who has a connection with Shaz.
Writer-director Hogan packs the film with rude references to The Sound of Music, from a pastiche pre-title sequence to Shaz's unconventional Maria-like approach to child-rearing (with heavy overtones of Mary Poppins). The film is colourful and sometimes too hyperactive, with Collette often going way over-the-top as the wildly unhinged Shaz, who also upends the life of their compulsive next-door neighbour (Fox). Much of this is simply too wacky for us to go along with, but other scenes are quietly insightful and very, very funny. Often at the same time.
Continue reading: Mental Review
And without understanding the connections between the characters, we can't engage with the story.
In Spain, Luisa (Lopez de Ayala) is trying to help her young son Juan (Corchero) cope with terrifying nightmares of a hooded, faceless man who invades his room at night. Juan calls him Carahueca, or Hollowface, and gets no help from the kindly local priest (Bruhl). Meanwhile in England, John and Susanna (Owen and van Houten) have no idea how to help their 12-year-old daughter Mia (Purnell), who is paralysed by fear that Hollowface is coming to get her too. And her counsellor (Fox) recommends something that seems to make everything worse.
Continue reading: Intruders Review
Juan is an 8 year old boy living in Madrid who loves to tell stories using his vivid imagination. At night, his sleep is disrupted every night by increasingly horrific dreams. His mother is concerned that his storytelling is providing the fuel for these dreams and doesn't believe what Juan tells her; that a faceless demon is appearing to him every night. As his health declines, Juan's mother starts to realise that Juan is not being haunted by an imagined threat brought on by nightmares, as she first thought but an all too real danger that could put an end to Juan's life.
Continue: Intruders Trailer
Hannah (Fox) is a prosecutor in the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague, trying a Serbian for war crimes. But when her star witness (Mikic) lies to her, she's forced to rethink the case and turns to the witness' sister Mira (Marinca), who's actually the one with first-hand knowledge of the terrible events. The problem is that, even with solid testimony, the political situation in Europe is making it hard for Hannah to push for real justice. Not only are lives in danger, but it doesn't look like things are getting any better.
Continue reading: Storm Review
In 1818 Hampstead, 23-year-old John Keats (Whishaw) is living with his lively friend Charles (Schneider) next door to the Brawne family: a quietly resolute mother (Fox), strong-willed 18-year-old Fanny (Cornish), younger brother Samuel (Brodie-Sangster) and little sister Toots (Martin). Initially sparring about art and poetry, John and Fanny begin to quietly fall for either other. But Fanny would never be allowed to marry a penniless poet, and John's health is deteriorating.
Continue reading: Bright Star Review
Well, spend a few quality minutes with The Gathering and you'll see, in short order, just how bad one of these canned atrocities can be. Despite starring Christina Ricci, this genre pic is dead from its very first frames, wholly unwatchable at any point during its running time.
Continue reading: The Gathering Review