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
Following the horrifying tale of the young lawyer, Arthur Kipps, and his struggle to sell the eerie Eel Marsh House, the house was left abandoned for many years. The last owner, Alice Drablow, passed away during the Edwardian era, prompting Mr. Kipp's arrival, and the house has stood empty ever since. Fast forward to 1940s London, when The Blitz is in full effect. Eve (Phoebe Fox) is a young school teacher, tasked with looking after a group of evacuated children. As they are moved to the remote and quiet town of Crythin Gifford, where the only building with enough room is the empty, ancient, Eel March House. But, as no one ever heard from Mr. Kipps following his stay at the house, it is soon revealed that something, or someone, still haunts the old house. The spectre of a woman in black.
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
Knowing full well that the audience for "What a Girl Wants" would consist almost entirely of 'tween girls too young to recognize its artificiality and paint-by-numbers banality, director Dennie Gordon doesn't even bother trying to make the picture palpable to anyone with more discerning tastes.
A lollypops-and-rainbows adventure about a free-spirited New York teenager (the Nickelodeon-launched Amanda Bynes) running away to London to find the blue-blooded daddy she's never known (Colin Firth), it's a movie that virtually ignores its raison d'etre of father-daughter bonding in favor of stock tourist footage (with Bynes hanging off the back of a double-decker bus), music-video shopping montages, rivalries with snooty soon-to-be step-sisters, and flirtations with an unthreateningly cute working-class boy (Oliver James) who plays guitar and rides a motorcycle.
Growing up in a fifth-floor Chinatown walkup with her bohemian wedding-singer single mom (Kelly Preston), Daphne Reynolds (Bynes) has always heard the story of how her parents met as globetrotting college kids and were married by a Bedouin tribal chief before going to England to "get married for real" (the film makes several such offensively ethnocentric gaffes). But when his crusty family sent her packing and lied to the young Lord Henry Dashwood (Firth), saying she had left him, mom went back to the U.S. pregnant and Henry matured into a stiff-upper-lip politician.
Continue reading: What A Girl Wants Review
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