Fantana’s Film Roundup – July 2017

Apologies, not been around much this month with revision and exams, so the posts have been a bit thin on the ground. Hopefully pick this up again but in the meantime, here’s July’s viewing pleasures;

The Bad Batch (2016)

Ana Lily Amirpour follows up the low-key success of vampire romance, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, with a dystopian cannibal romance to similar effect. Although the critics have cited the director’s latest as a lesser effort, I would say they sit on a par (largely because I didn’t completely see all the fuss about A Girl…). What strikes the most are Amirpour’s unflinching apathy towards her leads (Suki Waterhouse’s Arlen is relieved of arm and leg within the first ten minutes), her minimalist script (the first 40 minutes are stripped almost entirely bare of dialogue) and her ability not to get bogged down in hand-holding, feeding the audience only what we need to follow the story. Do we need to know what happened to Texas in order to understand why it has become a lawless no man’s land, disowned by the USA? No, although on that I would have appreciated more of an insight into why anyone would choose to remain in such a wasteland under such conditions. Characters and scenery are highly watchable (look out for an impressive turn from one Jim Carrey), the story a simple one, driven by character and overarching themes of love and survival. At two hours, though, and taking into account the long dialogue-free periods, it does feel a bit drawn out at times, entire scenes going on for 5 or so minutes too long. Had it been half an hour shorter, this would’ve been a sharper, more digestible affair. But it isn’t, so the full potential is somewhat lost. Still… worth a look if dystopian futures are your bag.

7

 

Mindhorn (2016)

Not being one for The Mighty Boosh’s brand of comedy, and largely a believer that Julian Barratt was the weaker link in that show anyway, I went into Mindhorn with a very open mind… and was rewarded reasonably well. This is certainly a film of two halves. The first is a witty, sardonic chuckle-a-thon with humour in the vein of Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Simon Pegg, et al, as we follow washed-up 80s TV star, Richard Thorncroft (Barratt), as he foolishly mistakes a call to participate in a murder investigation as an opportunity to cast him back into the limelight. What ensues is dry and bumbling British humour and hats off to Barratt for swaying me to his cause, if momentarily. Unfortunately the second half lapses into a try-hard parody of itself, going from self-aware stupidity to all out nonsense (corrupt cops shooting at would-be fugitives mere feet from a carnival audience anyone?) in a matter of beats and largely paying the price. Still… a likely triumph for Boosh and Edgar Wright fans everywhere.

6.5

 

The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

It was only when the hillside battle scene hits that I remembered this was a Michael Mann movie, and boy does it show around the action set pieces. Until that point I spent the majority of Mohicans wondering whatever happened to Madeline Stowe – what a cracking (and ubiquitous) talent that seemed to appear in everything in the 90s. Stowe plays Cora Munro, daughter of a British colonel involved in a three-year war with the French, a war that has seen many Indian tribes take sides. Cora and her sister are brought under the protection of Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis), the adopted son of the last of the Mohican tribe as they travel to their father’s encampment; from there, romance blooms. Mann is an expert in crafting action and Mohicans is no exception, but this is another early example of his ability to convey compelling drama and some stunning photography; whenever the screen is enveloped in sweeping vistas the results are breath-taking. The story itself is simple and becomes a little convoluted in the latter stages – attention is required – but there’s no denying this is a classic example of cinema at its purest: a simple story elevated by an expert craftsman.

7.5

 

The Lost City of Z (2016)

Released in the same weekend as the Fast & Furious 8, it’s no surprise the Lost City of Z fell under the radar and faded quite quickly into obscurity – and rather a shame it did – but in time I’m sure this will be one of those movies that are discussed and often offered up as recommendations to those in search of unsung quality. The film follows the true story of soldier and explorer Col. Percival Fawcett (Charlie Hunnum), who endeavoured to explore and chart the Amazon in the 1920s, gradually coming to believe in the existence of a civilisation hidden away in its depths with a quality of engineering comparable to the British. The film depicts Fawcett’s repeated ventures into South America but also focusses on the difficulties he had on domestic shores, both in his familial role as husband and father, but also from opposing peer view that challenged his theories and beliefs. The factual origins makes for enthralling viewing, and talent is strong throughout, as Fawcett barrels towards his fateful, yet thought-provokingly ambiguous, destiny.

8

The Lost City of Z

Dig Two Graves (2014)

Southern gothic isn’t really a genre that tends to crop up all that often, but when it does it is certainly going to pique my interest. The problem is that it’s not a genre that is often done any justice. Not so in the case of Dig Two graves. The story follows teenage Jake, obsessed with the disappearance of her older brother, and the challenges she endures when faced with a proposition to bring him back. As the premise implies, there is a substantial supernatural undertone to the plot, which is channelled very well through brothers Wyeth, Proctor and Jon, three mountain men who may or may not dabble in witchcraft. The whole movie plays with stereotypes and does a good job of subverting them, the whole feel of the narrative carries an ethereal edge that really lends to the genre and ultimately rewards the viewer when the plot twists present themselves. A great self-contained neo-noir fable that should be checked out.

7.5

 

Time Lapse (2014)

Three students find a camera in their neighbour’s apartment that photographs images from the future. After sacrificing their own morals to use the device for personal gain, they are disturbed when the images become increasingly foreboding. A flawed but alright thriller to take in if you’re after something quick and simple. Acting is solid all round, the script is patchy but plays with themes of causality and the manipulation of time loosely enough so as not to cause too many headaches, but at the same time not offend. Greater care could have been taken in characterisation, with some jarring switches threatening to derail, but the third act is entertaining, if a little foreseeable… ironically!

6

 

OATS Studios Volume 1 (2017)

Founded by Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium, Chappie) following the demise of his intended Alien franchise follow-up, OATS Studios produces conceptual science fiction, released via Steam and also YouTube. At time of writing, OATS had released three shorts;

Rakka was the premier release and is the strongest of the three, largely because it benefits from the presence of one Sigourney Weaver. The story presides over a post-invasion Earth that has been utterly ravaged by a reptilian race who have essentially won and are, when we join them, sweeping up the pockets of rebel ‘leftovers’. As explained, the tale is highly conceptual in nature, the backstory is largely explained through narration and cutaways, but we do get a couple of riveting action sequences as Weaver’s resistance plot their (it would seem futile) retaliation, but this is all about the effects, which, a couple of patchy shots aside, are incredible. The aliens are imaginatively visualised, lending themselves best to scenes of high action, and the violence is as over the top and graphic as we’ve come to expect from Blomkamp. There’s no denying it’s derivative, but fans of Terminator, Predator and/or Aliens will be pleased. Rakka can be viewed here.

Firebase was the sophomore release and follows a supernatural onslaught that devastates the Vietnam war, recounted by a CIA operative as he prepares an elite commando to go in and eliminate the source of the carnage that is attacking both sides. Visually, again, this is spot on. The premise and imagery attached to such a story will lure a large demographic and the opening images of an entire battalion of US troops – tanks, helicopters and all – beaming up into the sky over the Vietnam jungle is jaw dropping. But that’s where its impressiveness ends unfortunately. Compared to Rakka, this felt very rushed; casting was lazy and acting was dreadful, the leads exuding a certain kind of machismo not seen since the mid-80s (seasoned soldiers whittling stakes and staring aggressively into the middle distance just for the sheer hell of it); even the soundtrack seemed tacked-on to try and rescue what was obviously an inferior effort, levels all over the place. Conceptually this was probably the most original of the three but the execution was way off-piste. Firebase can be viewed here.

Zygote came third and works somewhat in re-establishing the standard after Firebase’s mediocrity. This plays out like the final scenes of something bigger and we join Dakota Fanning and Jose Pablo Cantillo in the aftermath of an incident that has wiped out the population of their arctic/otherworldly research (?) station. Another creature feature, this time borrowing heavily from the Thing but applying their own original spin to it with terrifying results, Zygot carries huge amounts of tension and it feels a little like Blomkamp is delivering a finale akin to what might have been intended had his Alien V project been seen to completion. Although this was nothing I hadn’t seen before, of the three, Zygote left me wanting the most, both in backstory and what came next. Zygote can be viewed here.

All three shorts were directed by Blomkamp and if you want to support the project and perhaps see one of these become a feature, you can support OATS on Steam here.

Rakka (8), Firebase (6), Zygote (7.5)

OATS Studios Volume 1: Rakka

Spider-man: Homecoming

Early reports compared Homecoming to the work of John Hughes, citing it as Ferris Bueller with a superhero subplot. I disagree entirely. Granted much of Homecoming is immersed amongst Peter Parker’s high school and social circle, a majority of the runtime even, but never does the dialogue or narrative delve deeper than surface level in the manner of the Breakfast Club, there is very little fleshed out about any of the support characters or their beliefs, nor is Peter’s own real life anxieties explored – both hallmarks of a Hughes movie – with his main driver being a constant need to impress his mentor, Tony Stark. Where this is a fresh spin on the character’s motivation, it all feels a little superficial and self-serving when compared to Spider-man’s traditional mantra, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’, borne out of his failure to stop his uncle Ben from being killed. The result is an overly formulaic and predictable plot that plays out in the same way any of Marvel’s wares do: acceptable but with nothing special. Technically the film is sound with some great sequences and some refreshing (and humorous) exploration of Spidey’s limitations, but the action is often choppy and hard to make out what is actually going on and – yet again! – the majority of the good stuff is in the trailer, sparing us only the final battle sequence, which is unfortunately the biggest culprit of the above, so the impact is a little lost. An acceptable Marvel movie, but what ones aren’t…?

7

 

Be Afraid (2017)

Dammit, Netflix, why for every Okja or War Machine must you counterbalance with dross like this in double supply?! Fair enough the photography ain’t half bad, fair enough you could have done worse than Brian Krause as a lead (also could’ve done better…!), but bloody hell this script sucked and it really baffles me that we’re still being subjected to efforts this cheap in 2017. Where the best a director can do to simulate an internal moving car shot is close-up on the passengers’ heads and wiggle the camera a bit! With a half-decent horror premise at hand this is an opportunity squandered, especially with drivel like Don’t Knock Twice and the Bye Bye Man seemingly commanding better budgets, distribution and talent in the same day and age. It’s sad.

Don’t be afraid; just be wary and give this a wide berth if it crops up on your Netflix feed.

4

 

The Dinner (2017)

What begins as an intriguing concept and a sophisticated set-up slowly unravels into incoherent, uninteresting babble. Estranged brothers (Richard Gere and Steve Coogan) meet for dinner with their respective other halves (Laura Linney and Rebecca Hall) to discuss their sons, who have committed a horrific crime, and what they intend to do about them; worth saying at this point Richard Gere’s character is a US congressman so, you know, big deal! Yet, what transpires (ever so slowly!) is a series of vignettes whereby the characters meander around this labyrinthine restaurant unrestricted in a series of segregated interactions, none of which seem to get to the point of discussing the actual problem!! Points have been awarded here for acting and direction; the photography is very good and Coogan in particular storms it. But the script is so wonky, interspersed with nonsensical depictions and descriptions of the actual dinner, which I’m sure is nice and arty, and I’m sure the meandering narrative was intended, but no. Just no. No.

5

 

Memories of Murder (2003)

From the director of this year’s Okja, comes a very immersive crime thriller, which, once you get used to the cultural differences (apparently in 80’s Korea, police brutality is not that controversial!) is very rewarding. The provincial setting works very well here in creating a sense of scale and isolation that lends well to the building tension and terror as we follow the three detectives tasked with pursuing a serial rapist and murderer. Fans of Zodiac will certainly find likenesses here as the leads – two bullish local cops and one professional city kid – as their investigation evolves into obsession as leads unravel, roads run dead and suspects diminish. Enthralling, infuriating and disturbing in equal parts.

7.5

 

Pilgrimage (2017)

Ireland, it’s the 13th century. A band of monks (including John Lynch, Tom Holland and Jon Bernthal) are tasked with couriering an artefact of extreme religious value to Rome, but first they must get off their own island, a place fraught with oppression owing to generations of tribal feuds and the growing threat of Norman invaders. The increasing sense of danger really works throughout and Pilgrimage is a fine example of a movie where you feel absolutely no one is safe. Holland and Bernthal in particular offer up strong performances and it is their companionship that holds up the most as the groups pilgrimage unfolds. While the subject matter might be a deterrent for some, the pace, the characters and the unflinching depiction of the brutal reality of the period are very rewarding.

7

Memories of Murder

The Godfather Pt. II (1974)

The second instalment of this legendary trilogy sees the humble origins of Veto Corleone established while in the present day (40s) storyline, his son Michael expands the family empire with an iron grip. While the second instalment of this trilogy is watchable and engrossing, it’s difficult not to A) compare it to the first part, and B) challenge or justify its regular allotment in the Top Ten Movies of All Time. As far as the former goes, Part I pips it for me, reasons being that it offers greater tension and more regularly, whereas Part II dually focusses largely on the drama of both establishing (with Veto) and progressing (with Michael) the Corleone legacy, which, although interesting, doesn’t offer enough variety when it comes to pace, tension and character. As for the latter, there are better dramas out there. The Veto timeline is far superior here but seems to cut itself short too soon, while the Michael timeline meanders but goes nowhere and offers up nothing in the way of character development. That aside this is an entertaining, if overlong, crime drama that is so much more than a box-ticking exercise and a must for film purists everywhere.

7

 

Baby Driver (2017)

Evoking many action movie qualities not seen since the glory days of the 90s, Edgar Wright’s heist/getaway thriller goes one better than many of its predecessors by turning several classic conventions on their heads. The result is a slick and witty action piece with none of the pretention. Wright pulls together a cast of recognisable rogues and balances their darkness with the light of young love almost perfectly. Dialogue is razor sharp and even the most fleeting of characters are given their own voice, which is wonderful to see. The action is choreographed well and clear and Wright certainly demonstrates his capabilities outside of the small home-grown environment, even offering up a (pleasantly) surprising amount of gore and violence. It is unexpected and almost jarring when counterbalanced against the laughs.

What impressed the most, however, was the use of music throughout, with the audience constantly made aware of what Baby (Ansel Elgort) is listening to, it is not long before we are aware of how lyrically almost every scene is cut and choreographed to the titular roadster’s own personal soundtrack.

There are a couple of missteps along the way; of the three main car chase sequences, Wright does not better the first, which is a shame because, you know, escalation. The love story thread also rubs off as somewhat unrealistic, given the timeline involved. Minor gripes are these, however, and hopefully Baby Driver signals the acceleration in quality 2017 currently needs.

8

 

To the Bone (2017)

Lily Collins is very watchable and destined for bigger things in time, for now though she competently holds up this emote-by-numbers drama that sits on the shelf alongside the likes of the Fault in Our Stars, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and Paper Towns, although I’m not quite sure if it betters any of those peers. Supported by the likes of Keanu Reeves and a particularly impressive Carrie Preston (True Blood), the talent does well with the charming-yet-no-frills script on hand that Ellen (Collins) who is placed in the care of an avant-garde (although absentee might be the more appropriate adjective) therapist, played by Reeves, to deal with her anorexia. Early reports suggested contradictive reception, with some saying the depictions of the conditions on hand were very faithful, with others purporting to the contrary, but on that I can’t comment. It is what is it is. A fine Sunday afternoon flick that will neither excite nor offend because it is very careful not to take any risks.

7

 

The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)

Also known as February to our cousins across the pond, this effective exercise in taut, slow-burning dread is worth the investment if you can endure the quiet, lingering time it takes to deliberately build its tension. Supernatural influences impress upon two girls (Kiernan Shipka and Lucy Boynton) when they are left behind at a remote boarding school over winter break, meanwhile a mysterious third girl (Emma Roberts) travels across country alone, destined for the same school. There is so much to see, so many little details that might be missed on first viewing but will reward anyone willing to piece what is ultimately a very well-crafted and thoughtful piece of horror together. Writing is stark but subversive and the talent on show is of a high calibre with all three female leads making ripples elsewhere these last few years. Destined to be divisive amongst film and horror fans alike, the pay-off does not reach the level of, say, Enemy, but is interpretive enough to leave a lingering question mark with many: do I need to watch that again…?

7

 

A Dark Song (2016)

Rounding off a weekend of supernatural viewings comes this indie sleeper horror that sees a driven and damaged woman pair up with a downtrodden occultist hole up in a secluded mansion for a year as they prepare and perform a ritual that will allow the woman to speak to her dead son. Once this is set up, A Dark Song is largely about the character developments between these two as impatience breeds, nerves fray and the line between fact and fantasy progressively blur. Another one that requires a lot of patience, but also another one that is rescued by the quality of its leads and the compelling build. The ending should not be spoiled for anyone willing to put in the 90 minutes required to absorb this exercise in grief, loss and obsession.

6.5

The Godfather Pt. II

Elle (2016)

A lot was made of Elle upon its release last year, including a well-deserved Oscar nomination for lead, Isabelle Huppert. The premise – a successful entrepreneur with more than a few skeletons in the closet gets more than she bargains for when she attempts to track down the man who raped her – is compelling and the delivery accomplished in its execution. Directed by Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Total Recall), I was expecting something other than what I got, especially considering the above logline. Verhoeven does a great job in delivering a slow burning investigation, unveiling layer upon layer of Elle’s psyche as we are introduced to more and more of the people she surrounds herself with and their various qualities and sins, but after her attacker is uncovered the rest of the movie seems a little unclear in its motivation and resolution. Elle is damaged, of that there is no doubt, but she is not without blame and, when the protagonist leaves it this difficult to get behind her, the result can be a very unrewarding thing indeed.

6.5

 

Dunkirk (2017)

Good, not great, was the overriding feeling following the Tuesday night screening of this star-spattered WWII chronicle. Charged with shades of the Thin Red Line, there are a lot of quiet moments in Dunkirk, driven by nothing but the impressive score. In fact the majority of the first half is largely dialogue-sparse, which works and doesn’t to equal extents. Where the focus is mainly experiential, immersing the audience in the spectacle of battle – upon the beach is particularly taut, but also Tom Hardy’s air battles are subtle and thrilling affairs – the lack of any real character arcs does not go unnoticed. Following a truly gripping opening 10 minutes, the narrative begins to flow as we follow Fionn Whitehead’s Tommy as he attempts to flee the titular coastal town by any means necessary. After this Dunkirk becomes a film of two halves; the first a quiet, verging on dull, establishment of our three threads – land, sea and air – as they begin their journeys; the second a fraught and thrilling race to the finish line as the threads converge and ultimately collide.

As he is wont to do, Nolan uses the manipulation of time to bolster the dramatic tension and this works very well, but this is not the film’s only characteristic and it would be easy to simply ignore the lack of characterisation and label this a masterpiece because Christopher Nolan. It is more than an hour in before the ground troops begin to interact by any means more than a grunt or a look and, as a result, finally establish themselves as characters we can love or hate; and in the air Tom Hardy impresses behind the mask of his spitfire pilot, but – as if taking a cue from mumbling Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar – the majority of the dialogue between he and his fellow pilots is largely illegible.

Only the ocean thread, led by Mark Rylance and onscreen son, a very impressive Tom Glynn-Carney, succeeds entirely, displaying truly distinguishable characters as well as clearly defining a start, middle and end. A lot can be said of the hyper-realism at play here; the dog fights are quiet games of patience and, when the victory comes, the victims go out with a whimper and a splash as opposed to a firework-laden bang; but oft times there are question marks hovering over the logistics of events.

Criticisms aside there is no denying the final third and the effortless way it winds (and eventually releases) the tension. Nolan is a master of his craft and creates blockbusters that do not insult the audience’s intelligence (looking at you, Michael Bay!). And I hope he continues to do so for many moons to come.

7.5

 

Killing Ground (2016)

A quick and easy horror/thriller from Australia that does what it can to inject something fresh to a well-trodden sub-genre: the camping trip from hell. Using time and (gasp!) characterisation to subvert expectation and stray from a linear path works well in the beginning, but the former idea is later discarded once it has served its purpose and the latter comes in almost too late to have an impact, so the weighting is off. That said there are a few original moments speckled throughout, which I won’t spoil, and when the terror eventually begins, director Damien Power, handles with a modicum of restraint, opting to watch horrors unfold from safe distance as they are carried out at a deliberate pace. Performances are solid throughout and fans of interpretive endings will surely find this a treat, but – as is usually the case – there are a few too many questionable decisions made, that gently derail the plausibility factor, for this to elevate to the level of classics like Wolf Creek.

6.5

 

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

There’s something to be said for a trilogy that has maintained a level of quality throughout all three instalments. The Godfather didn’t achieve it, Alien didn’t achieve it, neither of the original Star Wars cycles achieved it, nor the Matrix, Hobbit or Spider-man.

Enter the Planet of the Apes prequels. Up there with the Lord of the Rings, the Dark Knight, Die Hard and Toy Story trilogies as a rare example of consistency and calibre.

War picks up two years after the events of Dawn. Caesar’s simian kingdom have receded to the sanctity of the woods while various pockets of what is left of humanity (following the virus that wiped them out in the previous instalments) are still hell bent on bringing them to heel, led by master tactician Woody Harrelson. First off, the apes are stunning, the CG effects here, provided by Weta, are up there with the very best; as always with this series, the human actors play second fiddle to the primates, yet all deliver great performances; the photography is also top notch, switching up the rain-drenched forests of Dawn for snowy alpine peaks that make for some spectacular set pieces. There are a couple of net-picks along the way, mostly the shoe-horning of certain plot aspects for the sake of the greater picture, but the main criticism stands out like a sore thumb: for a film named War for the Planet of the Apes…. where is the war? If by ‘war’ the makers were going for a Schindler’s List comparison, then okay; the concentration camp-like scenes resonate on that level and you genuinely feel that no one is safe. It’s just very easy to feel a little hard done by from a film that promises war but delivers a couple of skirmishes.

That said, War rounds out the trilogy very well and is as watchable as any entry in its cannon. A true blockbuster – take not Marvel/DC!

8

Dunkirk

Berlin Syndrome (2017)

Teresa Palmer’s photojournalist backpacker shacks up with charming local Max Riemelt only to find herself trapped in his Berlin apartment the following morning. What follows is a controlling, obsessive relationship as Palmer is held house guest beyond her preference. There is something to be said about director Cate Shortland’s choices, opting to draw out the mental torture and compose this as a study of human behaviour in such circumstances, which are at times effective and intriguing. However the overarching impulse to escape leaves me baffled as to why Palmer’s captive does not do more to better her situation early on, submitting defeat a little too easy, especially given the amount of time she has at her disposal given her jailer’s day job and family commitments. The fact that this was overlooked, or at least not explored further and ruled out through reason, meant this affected the end result for me beyond anything other than a, “meh, it was alright”.

6.5

 

Phoenix Forgotten (2017)

Found footage fodder that “tries something different” by instead switching the source of investigation (and ultimately the threat) from supernatural to extra-terrestrial. Only this isn’t something different, this has all been done before (Lake Mungo does the documentary angle far better and Skinwalker Ranch had a more compelling premise using the UFO trope) and this all just left me a bit disappointed. In 2017 it’s a little sad that the found footage genre still seems to carry a modicum of clout. This should not be the case. This is a dying breed of classless and cheap cinema that needs put out of its misery and Phoenix Forgotten is no exception. To expect the audience to endure over an hour of its 87 minute runtime with only a few lights in the sky to entertain is shameful fallacy. Avoid.

4.5

 

Mr. Nobody (Extended Director’s Cut) (2009)

Technically there is nothing shabby about this philosophical epic, the effects used for the future sequences are quite something when they crop up and the practical effects used in some of the more surreal scenes are done with class. The photography is bright, breezy and clear with some interesting scene transitions. The concept itself is an interesting one, using one boy’s painful childhood decision to explore chaos theory and myriad alternate timelines, but there is something not quite believable in the unravelling of such threads that the final bow ends up coming off as a bit of a shark jump than anything more deep and meaningful, ultimately inferring that doing nothing would have greater implications to the space time continuum. A theory that feels very flawed given the choice that sparks this journey off in the first place. Interesting to an extent and perhaps a good idea buried under too many layers of surreal and superfluous symbolism, but overall this just feels like an idea that writes itself into a corner and, after two and a half hours, that doesn’t feel very rewarding.

6.5

 

Top of the Class

Strange Days (1995)

Considering the links to Kathryn Bigelow (director) and James Cameron (writer), I’m surprised at how long it has taken me to revisit this 90s sci-fi classic; it’s been almost 20 years since my teenage self first viewed, and subsequently dismissed, this cyberpunk thriller. And shame on me, for this has stood the tests of time and remains as watchable today as it did then, despite the shorter attention span of my youth and despite the antiquity of the millennium (has it really been that long?!). At two and a half hours, you’d be forgiven for balking, but Bigelow takes all the time necessary to tell an intriguing story and not a frame is wasted as we follow Ralph Fiennes’ LA street hustler, Lenny Nero, as his business in the memory trade uncovers a political conspiracy in the build up to New Year’s Eve, 1999.

Strange Days

Fans of Cameron will lap his script up and also see clear influences in the set design and photography, whilst elsewhere Fiennes is ever-watchable, complimented by some old school stellar support in Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Vincent D’Onofrio and a pre-Heat Tom Sizemore, with reinforcements in ubiquitous 90s faces, Michael Wincott, Glenn Plummer and Richard Edson. Strange Days is an overlooked gem that encapsulates all the best hallmarks that made the decade such a great period in cinema. The cast is wide and well-rounded and given their fair share of airplay, right down to the clearly defined muscle (what recent thriller can boast such generosity?); the protagonist is clearly defined and given realistic and relatable flaws that benefit the plot and propel the story forward rather than just being there for the sake of it; villains are given their own personalities; action is clearly depicted, free of ramping, ultra edits and super slow-mo; effects are practical and treated with love as a result.

If you missed this back in the day, or you’re just too young to have ever known about it, find this movie and enjoy – it’ll treat you like a film fan and an adult and you’ll thank it for doing so.

8.5

 

Didn’t Finish: The Guardians (Zashchitniki) (2017; 4/10), The Professional: Golgo 13 (1983; 3/10), Mercy (2016; 3/10)

On the Horizon: the Assassin, Synecdoche, New York, In This Corner of the World, the Pianist, Atomic Blonde, Death Note, A Wind Named Amnesia, Johnny Mnemonic, Fallen, Creative Control, Gleason, What Happened to Monday?, Spider, Mimic: the Director’s Cut…

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