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
In 1961, Joe Meek (O'Neill) runs his music empire from a flat above a shop in Holloway Road, North London, where his landlady (Ferris) tries to ignore the ruckus upstairs. Joe surrounds himself with beautiful young men that he crafts into pop sensations, reaching the peak of success with the UK and US chart-topper Telstar. But Joe is also a victim of bad organisation, paranoia and depression, which leads him to alienate the talented people around him, including both musicians and his financier (Spacey).
Continue reading: Telstar: The Joe Meek Story Review
Sam (Shaun Evans) lives in Liverpool with his mum Jill (Lesley Manville), an aspiring singer. He dreams of moving to London and making his way in life. A chance meeting with Vince (Bob Hoskins) gives him the opportunity. Soon Sam has moved into Vince's spare flat in London - the only problem being that Jill insists on coming too. Through Vince he gets a job as a waiter and uses it to meet Sheila(Stockard Channing), a powerful woman who runs a PR company. Sam spots his chance - they start sleeping together, and she gives him a job. However life gets complicated when Sam meets a young woman, Kate (Amanda Ryan), and falls for her. He finds that his ambitions have been ambushed by love.
As the great Julia Lambert, the toast of the London stage in the early '30s, she's struck by a premonition of fading vitality at the grand age of forty. Worries of it bring her close to a breakdown as she begins to desperately search for other stimuli to give her life meaning. She carries on a dialogue with her muse, Jimmy Langton (Michael Gambon), her dead drama coach that she summons up as an imagined presence to tell her when she's going well or going astray.
Continue reading: Being Julia Review
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