In August of 1819, The Essex set sail from New England. The whaling ship set out beyond the edges of the map to hunt in unknown waters. What the 21-man crew discovered, was far from what they could ever have imagined. A sperm whale - absolutely gigantic and hell-bent on destroying their comparatively tiny ship. While battling the demon of a sea beast, the ship was destroyed, and many of the crew were killed. As the few survivors struggled to find land and make their way back to South America, they faced a harrowing adventure, and fought insanity, storms, starvation and despair. All with the great whale fresh in their minds. The crew referred to it as Moby Dick.
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A riveting performance from Tom Hardy makes this pseudo-thriller utterly riveting, turning even the most contrived plot elements into punchy drama. Like Robert Redford in All Is Lost or Sandra Bullock in Gravity, this one-person show also works as an intriguing cinematic experiment: telling an entire story centred only on a man driving a car for 90 minutes.
Hardy plays construction foreman Ivan Locke, who's set to oversee the biggest concrete pour in Europe. But at the crucial moment, he abandons his post and hits the road for a late-night drive from Birmingham to London. He turns his work responsibility over to his extremely nervous assistant (voiced by Andrew Scott), but has a tough time calming down the corporate bosses. He also phones his sons (Tom Holland and Bill Milner) to tell them he won't make it home to watch the big game, but he struggles to explain to his angry wife (Ruth Wilson) the reason he's driving to London to meet a middle-aged woman (Olivia Colman), who is also sounding rather stressed down the line.
As Hardy's character tries to salvage his marriage, family and career, his moral conundrum becomes increasingly intense, and Hardy plays him as a man whose internal turmoil is raging behind his confident voice. It's a remarkably effective performance, gripping and involving, asking big questions even if the script never quite gets around to grappling with the issues at hand. It's also playing rather heavily on the irony that doing the right thing is likely to cost Ivan pretty much everything, leaving him alone and despised like his father.
Continue reading: Locke Review
Ivan Locke could well be the model of a perfect life with his beautiful family, comfortable life and a job that is only continuing to offer more and more. However, everyone's got a past and this man's is coming back to haunt him as an incident regarding his younger self threatens the stability of his idyllic existence. He is forced to leave an important job in the construction profession that would've been of significant value to his career in order to drive to London and settle a matter that has been hanging in the air since he was in his twenties. It's a 90 minute journey that seems to take forever as he attempts to resolve a variety of issues that have arisen both at work and at home over the phone. He also finds himself talking to his dead father as he battles to save his family, his job and his sanity.
Continue: Locke - Teaser Trailer
Remarkably bleak for a teen movie, this drama keeps us gripped as it throws its characters into an odyssey that's seriously harrowing. Gifted filmmaker Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) and a fine young cast make sure that we feel every punch of emotion along the way. And the premise itself gets our minds spinning in unusual directions.
Set in the present day, violent uprisings are growing in Europe as 16-year-old Daisy (Ronan) heads from New York to Britain to spend the summer with her Aunt Penn (Chancellor) on a farm in rural Wales. A sullen loner, she tries to avoid her three chirpy cousins: the quiet genius Eddie (MacKay) is her age, while the more adventurous Isaac (Holland) is 14 and the younger Piper (Bird) is clingy and annoying. Then while Penn is away on business, the violence spreads to the UK, which descends into martial law. The cousins are divided and sent into care. But they promise to meet back at the farm, which is going to be an epic journey for Daisy and Piper if they can escape from their new home.
The story is told from Daisy's perspective, complete with glimpses into her troubled thoughts, dreams and nightmares. We're never sure why she is so deeply fearful of everything around her, but Ronan brings out her fragile mental state beautifully, then takes us along as Daisy is pushed to the limits and must find the inner strength to go forward. As a result, the other characters remain less-defined, although MacKay and Holland bring layers of interest to Eddie and Isaac. As Daisy's companion, Bird is much more present on-screen, and we're as irritated by her as Daisy is.
Continue reading: How I Live Now Review
Saoirse Ronan stars in 'How I Live Now', a gripping adaptation of the prize winning novel of the same name by Meg Rosoff. Despite being defined as a children's or young adult's book, the adaptation portrays the horrific and damaging effect war causes on human relationships and the effect it has on an individual, captivating a much wider demographic.
What starts out as a romanticised coming-of-age, feel good film between two lovers takes a dramatic turn when war breaks out in a remote country village in England where lead character Daisy is visiting. Her recently found love with Edmond is unexpectedly tested when they are forced to part. The couple love is put to the test as they are unsure if they will ever be reunited.
The film stars Saoirse (The Lovely Bones, Hanna) as Daisy and George MacKay (Defiance, Peter Pan) as Edmond and is directed by Academy Award winning Director: Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, One Day in September).
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Due to much of its tighter focus on British and/or Irish films and their actors, the London Critics Film Awards list of winners often differs greatly from the other big awards of the season. This year, however, they have gone even farther left field, rightly awarding some of the distinctly lesser known films and actors, triumphing over those better known.
Berberian Sound Studio, which came out last August, did very well, winning the Attenborough Award for the best British Film of the Year. Written and directed by Peter Strickland this is only his second feature. Having been described as 'seriously weird and seriously good' by Peter Bradshaw, Berberian Sound Studio is a psychological thriller set in an Italian horror movie studio of the 1970s.
It stars Toby Jones who also won the award for Best British Actor of the year.
Continue reading: London Critics Circle Film Awards Choose Unexpected Winners
Director JA Bayona (The Orphanage) draws out exceptional performances in his cast, as well as his technical crew, to turn a true story into a potent dramatic thriller. This is such a staggering story of survival that the title almost feels understated. And even though it has a hugely emotional tone, the film never feels mawkish, taking a gritty, intimate approach to a situation that's seriously mind-boggling.
We're talking about the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, which claimed nearly 300,000 lives. But this is the story of just one family: Henry and Maria (McGregor and Watts), who travel to Thailand with their three sons Lucas, Thomas and Simon (Holland, Joslin and Pendergast) for an idyllic Christmas holiday. Then the Indian Ocean tsunami tears through the landscape. Lucas manages to stay with the badly injured Maria, and they go looking for help. Meanwhile, Henry finds Thomas and Simon and sets out to reunite his family. But the devastation is total, and it will take a miracle for them to find each other in the confusion of relief efforts and medical emergencies.
Avoiding the pitfalls of the usual disaster movie, the script remains tightly focussed on these five characters, even as they meet others along the way. This lets us feel every moment along with them. Meanwhile, the soaring cinematography and seamless effects work make it feel like we're watching actual footage of the tsunami, complete with almost unnervingly realistic make-up. In the tidal wave's wake, these people are grippingly sympathetic, more concerned with helping their family members than with wiping the blood off their faces. And all five actors vividly let us feel their characters' internal journey.
Continue reading: The Impossible Review
Ewan McGregor led the cast of The Impossible down the red carpet at the London BFI IMAX Cinema with most of the main protagonists in attendance for the film. Also starring Naomi Watts, and with a supporting cast including Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin and Oaklee Predergast, The Impossible tells the true story of a Spanish couple and their children who are holidaying at a resort in Thailand when a devastating tsunami rips the area apart, separating the family members up and beginning a frantic quest for them to reunite.
It's December 2004 and a young mother and father take their three sons on a paradise vacation to Southeast Asia where they are not far from white sandy beaches and a clear blue ocean - a far cry from the freezing winter temperatures back home. One day, whilst the Maria relaxes by the pool, watching husband Henry play ball with the kids, an ominous, trembling noise can be heard getting closer and closer. Before the family, and other vacation-goers, have time to run for their lives, they suddenly find themselves caught in one of the most horrific natural disasters of the generation; the tsunami resulting from the earthquake of the Indian Ocean. Miraculously, the family survive; Henry drifts back to consciousness with an overwhelming fear when his children are nowhere to be seen, though it is not long before his two youngest discover him. Maria and the eldest, Lucas, have drifted elsewhere and Henry vows to search every shelter and every hospital for them. They are so far unharmed and are found by some locals who take them to a nearby hospital. Maria sends Lucas off to help people find their families and finds his own along the way.
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14-year-old Arrietty Clock and her family live under the floorboards of a house in western Tokyo. They are 'tiny people' - or borrowers - whose survival depends on 'borrowing' things that humans won't miss, such as a single sugar cube. But their existence must be kept a secret from humans, which is why they are kept hidden and why they only borrow at night.
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