Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an authoritarian dictator. A blending of fact and fiction, this award-winning film has a remarkably visual sensibility thanks to actor-turned-director Brady Corbet and his intense cast. It's a bit relentless in its murky atmosphere, but there are flashes of genius all the way through.
The story opens in 1918 Paris, where an American diplomat (Game of Thrones' Liam Cunningham) is knee-deep in negotiations that will lead to the Treaty of Versailles. His wife (The Artist's Berenice Bejo) and pre-teen son Prescott (Tom Sweet) are rattling around their country house waiting for him to come home, and there's also a loyal maid (Yolande Moreau) and an observant nanny (Stacy Martin). But Prescott is a handful, refusing to cut his hair and challenging everyone around him by throwing a series of epic tantrums. With his father busy with work, his mother is so lonely that she turns to family friend Charles (Robert Pattinson) for company. And it doesn't help that the maid indulges Prescott's every whim, leaving the nanny unable to control him.
Where all of this goes is elusive and complex, hinting at a variety of secret activities happening just out of reach. Since everything is depicted through Prescott's immature perspective, the film's plot feels suggestive and seemingly irrational, and yet there's a driving sense of logic to it as well. And by mixing in newsreel footage to root everything into this pivotal point of history, Corbet offers haunting echoes of the young lives of populist tyrants like Hitler and Mussolini (and maybe Donald Trump). All of this allows the cast to dig deeply into their roles, offering a glimpse beneath the surface at every step. At the centre, the remarkable young Sweet is fierce and also fragile, eerily likeable even as he behaves so monstrously. Meanwhile, Bejo's helpless sensitivity is cleverly contrasted with Cunningham's distance.
Continue reading: The Childhood Of A Leader Review
There's an interesting, timely idea in this espionage thriller, as well as adept leading actors who are able to make the most of the script's dry wit. But the film is ultimately sabotaged by a clearly low budget and lacklustre direction that fails to connect the dots of the story. Even with some clever touches, the plot is resolutely fuzzy, and since it never comes into clear focus it's difficult for us to care what happens.
The title refers to radio stations governments have used for decades to broadcast strings of numbers that are decoded by covert field operatives. One of these agents is Emerson (Cusack), whose job is to clean up messes around America. But after a nasty incident he's having second thoughts about his career, so his boss (Cunningham) reassigns him to a numbers station in rural England, where his task is to keep an eye on civilian cryptologist Katherine (Akerman). Then the station is suddenly compromised, leaving Emerson and Katherine locked inside while a gang of baddies tries to break in.
Director Barfoed gives the movie a nicely haunted quality that builds a strong sense of menace. Cusack adds his trademark cynicism to the mix as a man who resorts to brittle humour to mask his torment over the death of a teen girl on an earlier mission, made worse by the fact that Katherine is now a "loose end" here. And so is he, for that matter. Akerman is a superb foil for him, giving Katherine a spiky braininess that catches Emerson off guard: if he's falling for her, he can't kill her. Can he? These themes are thoroughly involving, even if the script never goes anywhere with them.
Continue reading: The Numbers Station Review
The story of Belfast's "godfather of punk" is told with plenty of groovy style to match the 1970s setting, mixing the music with colourful locations and lively characters. But while the story is fascinating, the film itself is too cluttered and fragmented to resonate with anyone who isn't already familiar with the events.
As politics and religion rage against each other in late-1960s Northern Ireland, local DJ Terry Hooley (Dormer) rejects both sides to concentrate on the music he loves. His wife Ruth (Whittaker) loves it as well, but starts to worry when Terry catches the fire of the punk movement, which stands up boldly to society. Soon Terry is helping promote local bands through his Good Vibrations record shop, discovering the likes of Rudi, the Outcasts and, most notably, the Undertones and their mega-hit Teenage Kicks. Terry knows what he has with them, but is doing this out of passion for the music. Which means he never keeps enough cash for himself to pay his bills.
Filmmakers D'Sa and Leyburn follow Hooley closely through his rollercoaster life, from moments of high excess to more harrowing scenes as his business and marriage fall apart around him. The narrative bounces quickly through the decades, keeping the tone light while remembering the seriousness of the violent clashes in the streets and the darker emotional issues that keep coming to the surface. But Hooley is a happy-go-lucky guy, only barely aware that he is squandering his resources. And Dormer delivers a remarkably vivid performance as a funny and hugely likeable guy who prefers to help others instead of himself.
Continue reading: Good Vibrations Review
When Terri Hooley decided to open up the record shop Good Vibrations in Belfast in the 70s world of hippies and strong political messages, he had no idea that he would soon discover what would be some of the most prominent groups on the newly emerging punk scene. After managing to secure local band Rudi their first record, he was soon approached by another band: The Undertones. Although initially reluctant to sign them at first, after hearing them play he was astounded at what came through his headphones in the studio with their debut single 'Teenage Kicks'. Unfortunately, he struggled to get even a slight sign of interest from any record company in London in the beginning but the airplay soon picked up and it became one of the most recognisable punk songs in the UK. This is how Terri Hooley became one of these most significant figures in the late 70s punk progression.
Continue: Good Vibrations Trailer
Matt (Reynolds) is a low-level operative watching over the CIA's Cape Town safe house. After months of sitting around waiting, he finally gets to host a notorious guest: most-wanted rogue agent Tobin (Washington). Then violent thugs assault the place and Matt takes Tobin on the run, calling his handler (Gleeson) in Langley to get help from senior agents (Farmiga and Shepard). But there's clearly a leak in the ranks, and Tobin is obviously carrying something both the good guys and bad guys want.
Continue reading: Safe House Review
Matt Weston is a young CIA agent who, for the past year, has been bored by his inactive post in Cape Town. Matt is a "housekeeper" who aspires to be a full-fledged agent, a loyal company man who is waiting for an opportunity to prove himself. That opportunity seems to present itself when Matt's new 'guest' proves to be the most dangerous man he's ever met.
Continue: Safe House Trailer
Gerry Boyle (Gleeson) is an unpredictable policeman in a small Irish town. When a local murder is linked to an international drug-smuggling case, he's assigned to work with FBI Agent Everett (Cheadle), who like everyone else can't quite figure out if Boyle's a genius or an idiot. As they track down three notorious traffickers (Cunningham, Strong and Wilmot), the case gets increasingly complicated. But Boyle doesn't let it affect his private obsessions with hookers and drugs. More troublesome is his ill mum (Flanagan) and a young Croatian woman (Cas) whose husband is missing.
Continue reading: The Guard Review
Sergeant Gerry Boyle is a cop, working in a small town in County Galway, in the western part of Ireland, with a love of prostitutes, dropping acid on his days off and a dying mother. Whilst on the job, he doesn't follow the rulebook and he thinks that everyone he's met is an idiot.
Continue: The Guard Trailer
Perseus (Worthington) is a demigod who has been raised by humans and now finds himself at the centre of a war between man and the gods Zeus (Neeson), Hades (Fiennes) and Poseidon (a blink-and-you'll-miss-him Danny Huston). Accompanied by a handful of plucky warriors from Argos (including Mikkelsen, Cunningham, Hoult and Matheson) and his spirit-guide Io (Arterton), he heads off to find the secret to defeat Hades' feared Kraken so he can save Princess Andromeda (Davalos).
Continue reading: Clash Of The Titans Review
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