SIGNIS –WACC Human Rights Award 2017 goes to "Maman Colonelle"
Melbourne, March, 19th, 2018 (Peter Malone). Below, find film critics written by Peter Malone for the month of March.
- 15:17 TO PARIS
- AU REVOIR LA HAUT/ SEE YOU UP THERE
- BLACK PANTHER
- FIFTY SHADES FREED
- FINDING YOUR FEET
- GAME NIGHT
- GAUGUIN – VOYAGE DE TAHITI
- INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY
- MADAME HYDE
- RED SPARROW
THE 15:17 TO PARIS
US, 2018, 94 minutes, Colour.
Alec Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone, Judy Greer, Jenna Fischer, Irene White, William Jennings, Bryce Gheisar Paul-Mikel Williams, Thomas Lennon, Tony Hale.
Directed by Clint Eastwood.
Depending on memory, audiences may or may not be aware of an episode on a train from Amsterdam to Paris in 2015 where a terrorist threatened passengers with guns and three Americans, some of them military, thwarted the attack by the terrorist. The three of them then wrote a book recounting the episode.
This is a Clint Eastwood film— post-production completed when he was 87! His name is on the advertising but his name does not appear as part of the film’s title. His name is a marketing device. And, in many ways, this film has a lot of Clint Eastwood’s themes, American heroism, American military, striking action, and background stories of the central characters.
The production question arose as to casting of these central characters. It was decided that the men should play themselves. They were not actors. They had no drama lessons. Rather, were invited to re-enact the events that they had lived and to bring conviction to those performances. And, generally, they do.
Eastwood does what he did in his most recent film, Sully. There are some sequences scattered throughout the film of the ultimate confrontation with the terrorist. However, there is a lot of back story and the incident is not shown fully until the latter part of the film once we have got to know the three protagonists.
One of the great advantages of the film is the casting of the three young lads to portray the heroes when they were at school and at home. The greater credibility to the real adult characters/performers.
Spencer Stone gets the most attention in the film. William Jennings portrays him as a boy, not a little boy, but a rather big boy for his age, not the quickest runner on the block, criticised for ADD, cared for by his single mother, played by Judy Greer, a boy who did not know what he would be when he grew up but was interested in the military. The boy who portrays Anthony Sadler, Paul-Mikel Williams, is a vivacious and appealing character as a little boy, always getting into trouble, not always deserving it, perhaps too much picked on because of his African-American background. Bryce Gheisar is very good as Alec Kartelos, it is best friend, medium-size, potential for grown-up work, joining the military. His mother played by Jenna Fischer.
The mothers have their difficulties, especially when called in by the principal of the Christian school where they send their sons, played seriously by comedian Thomas Lennon. Their sports master is impatient often reporting them, the discipline master is forever urging them to get to classes. (The presentation of the Christian school is not a particularly flattering portrait but Spencer Stone does pray St Francis Peace Prayer – which he does at the end of the film.)
When they grow up, in their mid-20s, Spencer has tried and failed in several of the courses he is interested in and lacks vision depth, disqualifying him, and Alec has spent time in Afghanistan. They join up with Anthony for a European tour. Some audiences have found this unnecessary and a touch boring – you for the violent bits! But those who have visited Rome, Venice, Amsterdam, Berlin, will enjoy some reminiscences. And so, finally, they decide to go to Paris and are on the 15.17 from Amsterdam.
The film does raise the question of how would we all react if suddenly on a train were confronted by a terrorist with guns and 300 rounds of ammunition. The three men tackle their attacker, subdue him, with the help of an older Frenchman. There are some frightening moments, edited with some pace, with the potential to alarm the audience wondering what would happen if they we were there.
There is a final ceremony with the French president presenting the men with the Legion of Honour and strong praise for stances against terrorism.
The film is patriotic – after all, they are American heroes! But audiences who abhor American trumpet-blowing have found this irritating, with comments that Clint Is too patriotic. But, one could ask, why not?
AU REVOIR LA HAUT/ SEE YOU UP THERE
France, 2017, 118 minutes, Colour.
Nahuel Perez Biscayart, Albert Dupontel, Laurent Lafitte, Niels Arestrup, Emilie Dequenne, Melanie Thierry, Louise Balster, Philippe Uchan.
Directed by Albert Dupontel.
This is an impressive French film which can be recommended.
The audience is taken back into French history in 1918-1919. While there have been many films on World War I and the role of the French (Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory is an excellent film of reference), this film takes us behind the scenes of the trenches and the brutal warfare in the fields, especially on the two days before the signing of the armistice. But, the film goes on from there, looking at the consequences of the war, the effect on the lives of soldiers, those who survived, those who survived with deep physical and psychological consequences.
The film actually opens in Morocco with Albert, Albert Dupontel, who both wrote the film and directed it as well as acting the central role, being interrogated about a fraud concerning war memorials. This is an alert at the beginning of the film, the action returning at various times to this interrogation. But the film is mainly the flashbacks which Albert is telling to the investigating officer.
Which takes us to the trenches, Albert, Edoouard, a young man who is an artist and Pradelle, a sadistic officer who relishes war rather than peace and is prepared to send his men over the top even though the armistice is about to be signed. Not only does he send his men over the top, he rather relishes their dying or being wounded in action and, in fact, shoots two of the men that he sends out as scouts in the back. He is to appear significantly as the action goes on.
Albert is saved by the artist, Edouard (Nahuel Perez Biscayart) but Edouard himself is wounded severely, saved by Albert, taken to a hospital where a nun reminds him that he is sharing in the sufferings of Christ (not so persuasive for the injured man), who needs some reconstruction on his face and, subsequently, will have to wear a mask. (He is an artist and designs quite a range of masks for himself).
We see the life of the veterans. Albert is poor, his fiancee gives him up, he tries various jobs, is a lift driver, is a placard advertiser. Edouard, on the other hand lives in seclusion, painting, being helped by a sympathetic young girl who is able to understand his muffled words and communicate for him.
Edouard’s father is a wealthy man, estranged from his son (Niels Arestrup). His daughter seeks out Albert, tries to find out what has happened to Edouard – and there is a scheme by Edouard to assume another identity and for people to think that he is dead. Unfortunately, the sadistic officer from the trenches, Pradelle (Laurence Lafitte) becomes involved, marrying the daughter, exploiting war grave situations with Chinese labourers and small coffins, knowing the truth about Albert and Edouard.
And the fraud? There is a great movement for war memorials in France in 1919, Edouard’s father even investing in one. There are competitions for design – which, of course, Edouard enters into. He sets up false companies, takes investments, exploiting and thieving the money.
This means that there is plenty of plot, unusual characters, fine characterisations, some empathy for Edouard and yet questions about his integrity, with a very moving and disturbing final sequence concerning his father.
And, at the end of Albert’s interrogation in Morocco, there is an interesting twist – and Albert can have a future.
US, 2018, 134 minutes, Colour.
Chadwick Boseman, Michael B.Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Sterling K.Brown, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, Isaach de Bankole, Sebastian Stan.
Directed by Ryan Coogler.
Within a week of its release, Black Panther had received very favourable reviews, a further development of the Marvel Comics universe – although the character had appeared in Captain America: Civil War (and a scene from that film is reproduced here to explain the origins of T’Challa, the Black Panther, the death of his father and some disastrous consequences of his father’s decisions). Within two weeks of the film’s release, it had taken almost half $1 billion at the world box office.
But, it is also become something of a social phenomenon. Here was a superhero film with black characters, most performed by Afrcian or African-American actors, opening up a different world from the expected, introducing a mythical kingdom of Wakanda, hidden somewhere in the southern part of Africa, all traditions and rituals combined with contemporary and futuristic technology. And, the screenplay puts a lot of emphasis on the history of slavery, the slaves going to the United States, human rights. In hindsight, it is not surprising to find that the film was embraced not only by African-American audiences in the US but by various cultures all around the world who identified with the colonialised as well as the enslaved. And the film was directed by an African-American director, Ryan Cooper who had made his mark with small socially-concerned film, Fruitvale Station, and then the rebooting of the Rocky series with Creed.
As a superhero film, it is certainly striking in its visuals, especially the city capital of Wakanda, skyscrapers, transport, people freely walking around, and, more especially, the last waterfall and cliffs settings for the establishing of T’Challa as the Black Panther King and as the scene for a challenge from a rival, a vigorous battle. (And another vigorous battle later on when the mysterious black American character and villain arrives to challenge T’Challa). The screenplay draws on a lot of mythical lore which may or may not have grounding in fact. But, it creates the setting for a mysterious kingdom, the source of its power, Vibranium, not known anywhere else in the world, preserved for the people of Wakanda who are finally challenged to contribute to world progress and peace. In its presentation of Wakanda and the potential of an African nation to contribute to the world on the responsibility of its leaders, there seem some criticism of leaders past and present local Robert Mugabe and Jacob Zuma.
Chadwick Boseman is T’Challa, the Black Panther. He had already played real-life characters as Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Chief Justice Marshall Thurgood. T’Challa is a strong hero but is not unvanquishable. In fact, those of a religious frame of mind with references might note something of a death and resurrection.
He receives his power from the traditions, from his father who was assassinated in 1992 in Vienna, from his strong mother, Angela Bassett, from the wise adviser, Forest Whitaker, and from costumes and masks with special inherent powers and from the Vibranium. His technological-whiz sister, Nakia, played with verve by Lupita Ngoung’o, has vast resources of technology, expertise in managing them, virtual cars and plane cockpits, and still has the time to go out to battle and give communication advice in the middle of conflict. There is also Okoye, Danai Gurira, also a warrior, in love with T’Chilla. In fact, this seems to be a Pretorian guard of powerful female warriors.
So, the concerns of the story focus on black characters. And for token whites in the film – there is Andy Serkis as a sleazy arms dealer from Johannesburg, Martin Freeman as a former pilot and CIA agent (interestingly, both these whites are British rather than from the US).
But, the main villain, is also a black, with an interesting back story about his father, an ambassador to the United States, his vision for the use of Vibraniuim, his death and his heritage for his son. The son is part Wakandan, part American, involved in “CIA activities and learning a brutal trade. He is played by Michael B. Jordan (who also appeared in Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station as well as Creed).
Whether Black Panther will be a social rallying cry for some time, the raising of black consciousness, or will be a phenomenon of 2018, it is hard to say. However, it continues the tradition of Marvel superhero films (with Stan Lee doing his usual cameo, at a casino, and billed as Thirsty Gambler), and T’Challa will become part of The Avengers (that rather clogged series with an abundance of superheroes each waiting their turn for a battle sequence).
The audiences who rush to the exit as soon as a word appears on screen will miss a significant rousing and encouraging speech from T’Challa about world peace and development. And, there is a mini preview of another Black Panther film at the end of the credits.
FIFTY SHADES FREED
US, 2018, 105 minutes, Colour.
Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Eloise Mumford, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden, Bruce Altman, Arielle Kebbell, Callum Keith Rennie.
Directed by James Foley.
Shades of Grey, Shades Darker, and now the Shades are Freed – whatever that might mean.
Here is the third film in the series, based on the best-selling but not necessarily best-written, novels by E.L. James. This film and its predecessor were directed by James Foley. And the two stars, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are back again as is the villain of the previous film, Eric Johnson. Marcia Gay Harden appears as Christian Grey’s mother and you might glimpse Jennifer Ehle in the wedding sequence.
The film opens with Anastasia and Christian in love, going through a marriage sequence which could come from any romantic film. It is very lovey-dovey. And then they go off to a honeymoon on the Riviera, relishing the sun, the sun on bodies (although Christian has some rather prissy reservations about Anastasia on the beach), even more lovey-dovey giving a context for the sexual scenes.
So, what plot can ensue with such a happy ending at the beginning?
Ominous messages from Seattle, documents in safes, Christian finding that he must return to his business. Anastasia will go back with him – and resume her job at the publishing company, finding herself promoted. She would like to be called Ana at work but finds that Christian does put an emphasis on “Mr Grey” – so she becomes “Mrs Grey”.
Anastasia in this film is certainly very attractive, quite self-assertive, supporting Christian, even in some visits to the Red Room which, we remember from the past, is a domestic chamber for some sado-masochistic behaviour, hanky-spanky. Anastasia seems to be rather in control, happily devoting herself to Christian and his idiosyncrasies.
But, Christian himself? Still terribly serious. Still terribly controlling. Still insisting on intervening in Anastasia’s life and career. And absolutely no sense of humour. Probably at the wedding sequence he did smile but not very ostensibly.
Which means then that they have to invent some melodrama to have some plot. Not that life is always unpleasant – holiday in Aspen, Colorado, with Christian’s brother and sister. Plans to redevelop a mansion outside the. But, Jack, from the previous film, working with Anastasia but not getting her job, becomes even more of a dramatic heavy, stacking documents, attacking Ana at home, sent to prison, getting out on bail, becoming involved in more than a little abduction and financial demands.
Anastasia has to face all this crisis and does not want to tell Christian who has reacted very badly about the news that were all expecting, Ana expecting.
However, she is not exactly a damsel in distress and can drive a car at a more than mean pace, can conceal a gun and shoot it when necessary.
So, marriage, business, melodrama all as catalysts for freedom from the dark shades.
Those who can’t bear reading even a word on the screen at the end of the film and race towards the exit have to pause a moment because there is quite a sweet and twee sequence to bring the series to a close: pregnancy, children, Christian the smiling father… Whether Fifty Shades Family will have the same prurient appeal…?
FINDING YOUR FEET
UK, 2017, 111 minutes, Colour.
Imelda Staunton, Timothy Spall, Joanna Lumley, Celia Imre, John Sessions, David Haymon, Josie Lawrence.
Directed by Richard Loncraine.
A film for the young at heart – not necessarily for those who are young only in age. It opens up the world for them that they will associate with oldies, their grandparents (and, maybe, their parents).
While older age might be a late time to be finding your feet, the film reminds us that many men and women discover that they have been stuck in life, need to make a new beginning, need to find their feet again, if not for the first time.
Finding one’s feet means discovery, the ability to use one’s feet and walk in new directions, finding balance – and, as in this entertainment, some fancy footwork in dancing.
This is a British film, very British characters and situations, enjoyable for those who spent some time in Best Marigold Hotels, familiar characters and situations, and pleasing for those who expect the expected.
A wonderful cast. Imelda Staunton plays Sandra, relishing that her husband of 35 years, former police chief (John Sessions) has now been knighted. She loves the idea of being a Lady. But, at the celebratory party, she makes a dreadful discovery, feels humiliated, denounces her husband at the party and moves out. But where is she to go? She has not seen her older sister, Elizabeth (Bif), for 10 years. Bif is played as a free spirit, full of vitality, full of charm, by Celia Imre.
In the meantime, we have been introduced to Charlie, the ever-welcome Timothy Spall. He lives on a houseboat in a London canal alongside his good friend Ted, David Heymann. Charlie does all kinds of odd jobs, especially helping out Bif. He has to help out Sandra at one stage but she is extraordinarily rude to him. Not a great start for a romance…
There is quite a deal of pathos when we discover that Charlie’s wife suffers from severe Alzheimers, is in a home that Charlie could pay for by selling their family home and his living on the houseboat. The scenes between the two, where she not only does not recognise him but rejects him, is very sad, an alert about the impact of Alzheimer’s.
Dancing has been mentioned. Bif and Charlie go to a local club, mainly for the oldies, where they are encouraged to do all kinds of dancing. Sandra, who danced when she was little, is resistant but finally… of course she joins in. Another friend at the club is one of those sophisticated English woman who has had several husbands and perhaps talks like Joanna Lumley. Actually, here she is played by Joanna Lumley.
Lots of interactions that will to entertain the target audience but maybe a bit remote and/or tedious for other audiences. Although, it should be said, that sons and daughters of older parents may well find this film well worthwhile watching and thinking about the future of their parents.
The dance group does a charity performance in the middle of London, very exhilarating. They are captured on video, put on YouTube and receive an invitation to perform in Rome, all expenses covered. The characters are happy to go to Rome – and so, probably, will the audience.
Not all sweetness and light. Sandra is still bitter about her husband despite her urgings from her daughter and grandson. Charlie faces the terrible fact that his wife has gone from his life. Bif has some pains in her back and (we can probably guess the rest).
The target audience for this film is a solid older demographic. By and large, it is a light film, but a serious portrait of old age, and will probably be very much liked and appreciated by the demographic.
US, 2018, 100 minutes, Colour.
Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Sharon Horgan, Billy Magnusson, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Jesse Plemons, Michael C..Hall, Danny Huston, Camille Chen.
Directed by John Francis Daly, Jonathan Goldstein.
This is a popular comedy with serious undertones and overtones. Some have found it hilarious. Others have found it amusing. Most audiences will find their reaction somewhere in between.
The film has a good cast including guest appearances by Dexter’s Michael C.Hall and Danny Huston. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are Max and Andy and make a very genial hosting couple. Kyle Chandler is Jason Bateman’s boastful brother. There is a couple, Kevin and Michelle, sweethearts from childhood but suddenly finding out about a momentary lapse – and spending the rest of the film arguing about it, the man in question allegedly Denzel Washington but only someone who resembles him (and, in the cast, referred to as not-Denzel – and is the subject of an amusing post-credits sequence which most audiences rushing out will miss). There is also Ryan (Billy Magnusson) who is not the smartest man in America who brings to the games girlfriends who used to be referred in the bad old days as “dumb blonde is”. However, Ryan is also blonde and he is a “dumb blonde” par excellence (par worst). But, this time, he brings an intelligent Irish working partner, Sarah (Sharon Hogan).
Those who find the film hilarious will enjoy the characters and their characterisations, the madcap situations which eventually emerge when there are real plots instead of just made-up abduction and detection situations. Quite a lot of farce. Those who find the film on the amusing rather than hilarious level will enjoy all of the above but might well enjoy a great amount of the dialogue, some amusing references to a range of movies and actors for those in the know - as well as an unnecessary amount of superfluous coarse language.
It is good to see adults who are not just staying at home watching televisiion or spending their time on the Internet! Each week the couples meet for charades and all kinds of other games. However, Max and Annie have a next-door neighbour, a very serious police officer who has just separated from his wife whom he still holds on a pedestal (although most times he is seen holding his pet dog). He is played by Jesse Plemons who seems to be the unwanted onlooker but who becomes crucial to the plot as it becomes more complicated and is also the subject of an unexpected plot twist.
The key to all the shenanigans is Max’s brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler) who seems to have been a great financial success in Europe, returns to America, wants to host a game night. He has been the bane of Max’s life, tormenting him when they were children, his being the object of Max’s envy – and, when the couple go to a doctor concerned about Annie not becoming pregnant, the cause of Max’s stress and infertility.
While everything seems an amusing game night with role-play and abduction, it turns out to be much more – but not in the way that the audience is necessarily expecting. There are some good sequences – especially when Max is shot in the arm accidentally by Annie and she goes to the pharmacy to buy all the goods for getting the bullet out, uses her iPhone to read the instructions and pours champagne to cleanse the wound… Later, Max will be accidentally stabbed in his bullet wound!
Jeffrey Wright plays an FBI officer who may or may not be real. Then there are some thugs who knock him out who seem to be the real thing. However, the contestants in the game night think this is all part of the play. Max and Annie have a confrontation with the thugs in a bar. Kevin and Michelle are stranded in Brooks’s house. Sarah, telling Ryan, goes to the organisers of the games to get the clues.
Dexter’s Michael C. Hall appears as the Bulgarian who wants his hands on the Faberge egg. Danny Huston has a cameo role as a millionaire who has the egg (and he stages Fight Club bouts in his basement which distract Ryan, though he does find the egg!)
GAUGUIN -VOYAGE DE TAHITI
France, 2017, 101 minutes Colour.
Vincent Cassell, Tuhei Adams, Malik's Zidi.
Directed by Edouard Deluc.
Paul Gauguin is best remembered for his work in French Polynesia, in Tahiti, the Marquises. Spending some time there in the 1880s, he returned to France, was associated with Vincent van Gogh as well as many of the prominent artists in Paris. He was married, with a large number of children.
On his return, he tried to persuade artist friends as well as his wife and children to come with him again to Tahiti. The artists thought it was too far away and too difficult. His wife complained of the squalor in which they lived.
Nevertheless, he returned, rather ill but going into the mountains to find the locals, to commune with nature, to hunt and gather, to talk some of the local language, to share in French, to hear the stories of the gods and creation and to paint. His health improved. The local people also wanted him to take a wife and designated a young woman with whom he conversed, learning the different myths of the people, a testing time of one month. She then became his wife.
He then returned to the capital, his health improved, he had done some paintings and was also involved in chiselling images in wood. He had a young associate who was creative in carving, but was able to outsell his master to the passing tourist trade. The young man also had eyes for the artist’s wife, following her from church one day with the artist following, angry, with his gun but not shooting.
Paul Gauguin also kept his wife inside, locked, wearing European dress, having formal meals with European food and cutlery. To get money he worked as a wharf labourer.
No money came from France so ultimately he was repatriated as a poor man. However, he was soon to return to the islands and paint for another 10 years, classic paintings but he was to die in poverty.
He gained a considerable reputation in the 20th century.
France/Austria, 2017, 107 minutes, Colour.
Isabelle Hppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Mathieu Kassovitz, Fantine Harduin, Frantz Rogowski, Laura Verlinden, Toby Jones.
Directed by Michael Haneke.
Over the decades Michael Haneke has built up a very strong reputation. He is an Austrian, making his early films in Austria but later working in Austrian-French co-productions, spoken in French. His films have featured in international festivals and his casts have won many awards. Isabelle Huppert has appeared in several of his films and won best actress in Cannes for The Piano Teacher. And Haneke has won the Palme D’Or there for The White Ribbon and for Amour.
This means that those who have followed Haneke’s career in films will know that a title like Happy End will probably not have a happy ending – and will probably not have a happy beginning or middle either. And that is right.
Haneke’s previous film was Amour, about an elderly couple, ageing, Alzheimer’s, and issues of assisted suicide. Emmanuelle Riva won an Oscar nomination at 85 for her performance. Also in the film were Jean-Louis Trintignant and Isabelle Huppert and they both appear in this film, with similar names from the previous film although this is not a sequel.
Rather, this is a story of the different generations of a family, well off, owning a building construction firm, living in Calais with refugee servants but little connection with the infamous camps of refugees at the edge of the town.
At the centre of the film is Anne, Isabelle Huppert, the most competent member of the family and, despite her tough stances, the most likeable of the characters. Her father, Jean-Louis Trintignant, tells his family that he is losing his marbles, wants to kill himself, but still has a great deal to say to the various members of the family. There is also his son, Thomas, Mathieu Kassowitz, a very able doctor who has divorced his first wife who has died of drug complications, has a young daughter from that marriage, 13-year-old Eve, Fantine Harduin, who comes to live with him and his new wife and young child. Then there is Anne’s son, Pierre (Franz Rogowki), a moody young man who is to inherit the family business but seems incapable.
Haneke has always been interested in media, and now social media. An early film is Benny’s Video. Contemporary media pervades this film, the opening credits having Eve filming her mother in the bathroom with dates and times and her commentary. Later there is video, YouTube, of a young musician. Thomas is involved in an online relationship, texting.
At the beginning of the film, there is an industrial accident on site and Anne has to deal with this as well as with welcoming Eve to the family, concerned about her father and his mental health, dealing with her son, dealing with meetings about liabilities and insurance because of the accident. Anne also has a relationship with a British man, Toby Jones, who eventually will meet the family.
There is some rapport between the grandfather and Eve, his being aware of her emotions, mental instability – she seems to be very depressed young girl.
Actually, there is no real end to the film, let alone a happy one. Rather, the director has invited us into this family, to observe, to react, relying on audience empathy and understanding, even for alienating characters.
INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY
US, 2018, 103 minutes, Colour.
Lin Shaye, Lee Whannell, Angus Sampson, Kirk Acevedo, Caitlin Gerard, Spencer Locke, Bruce Davison, Javier Botet.
Directed by Adam Robital.
It is not necessary to trust the word ‘last’ in this film’s title. Since 2010, there have been four Insidious films and, depending on success (which does usually come with each episode), there could well be another sequel.
Clearly, this is a film for those who have enjoyed the other demonic stories and fears in the franchise. Someone coming across this episode without the previous three may well be wondering what is going on and why.
Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier has been a staple presence in the films. She is a Parapsychologist, ready to confront any demon that might tear to come her way. She is also available for casting out demons, though she has been relying in some of the previous films on two associates, Spectral Sightings, who are able to detect some demonic presence (although Elise is certainly an expert) but they are able to help with any of the physical demands. They also contribute some comic touches – which, it seems, some of the fans deemed inappropriate, even corny, for such serious enterprises. They are played by two Australians, comedian Angus Sampson, and the author of the series (as well as becoming famous with the Saw series), Lee Whannell.
This episode begins with a nightmare – but it also offers the opportunity for the audience to get to know something of Elise and her background, New Mexico, 1953, where she lives with her parents and her younger brother, Christian. Her father, a policeman, is a brute, physically harmful to his daughter, oppressive to his wife, not believing at all in his daughter’s psychic powers and her ability to detect the presence of evil spirits. She leaves home, leaving her younger brother behind.
When Elise wakes up from a nightmare, it is 2010 and she has established a reputation for confronting spirits. She receives a request – and her interest and fear, as well as those of the audience, are excited because the caller is living in her old family home. She and her Spectral Sightings friends go on the road.
When Elise goes into the house, evoking severe memories, it becomes very eerie and sinister, especially the darker it becomes and she goes down into the cellar. There she discovers a young woman in captivity. In the meantime, her estranged brother, Christian (Bruce Davison), himself the father of two daughters, one of whom has the family capacity for parapsychology, come to the house where one of the daughters is captured.
In this other world of spirits, there is, of course, a frightening character, called all in the film’s credits, Keyface (who can gouge out key holes on victims’ bodies), and Elise offering to sacrifice herself for her niece. The two Spectral associates have to participate in all the sinister goings-on.
At this stage of her life, Elise is an expert, having saved many people, but also detached enough to offer herself. But, she is rewarded by reconciliation with the brother about whom she feels guilty because of abandoning him. It is nice for her to have a family, to have her Spectral associates, and have a happy ending to the serious if this is where the franchise is to finish.
France, 2017, 95 minutes, Colour.
Isabelle Huppert, Romain Duris, Serge Garcia.
Directed by Serge Bozon.
Robert Louis Stevenson created a classic novel in the 19th century with his Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It has been filmed many times and Have Been many novels with variations of the plot, external respectability, inner evil let loose.
This time the basic plot has been transferred to France in the 21st-century. The setting is a school, courses for technical students and higher education courses. The principal of the school, played rather smugly and as a dandy by Romain Duris, is snobbish about the levels of education.
Madame Hyde of the story is, surprisingly, played by Isabelle Huppert. She is Marie Gequiel, something of a mousey woman, in the education system 35 years, still wanting a higher accreditation. She loves science and is a physics teacher. However, teaching is not quite the right word to describe the classes. She is timid, she lacks control, the students continually mock her, ignore her. Her husband tries to advise her about silent entrance, sitting, staring – which she follows but the students laugh at her again.
The leader of the students is a disabled young man, Malik, who excels in the mockery – but, with his walking disability is not followed outside the classroom by the students, nor are the girls attracted to him..
One night, Marie is in laboratory and there is a lightning strike. She is affected – and it looks something like a scene from a Frankenstein film – and her interior Madame Hyde is unleashed. This gives her a greater confidence though she is not quite aware of why this is so. However, at night, when she can’t sleep, an inner glow transforms her, the personality of Madame Hyde. Marie is not conscious of this in itself as she wanders the streets, sits in parks, approaches the group of students – touching one and setting him on fire and killing him.
In the meantime, she does have a success with the class project, the students being interested, the inspector brought in because of criticisms of her is also very impressed. The students ask questions – and the headmaster decides to give her an award. Because Malik has identified her as the glowing presence, she rings the police, goes to class, is arrested.
The film ends six months later with Malik at another school explaining the impact of his teacher who is both Jekyll and Hyde.
France, Belgium, US, 2017, 93 minutes, Colour.
Scott Eastwood, Freddy Thorp, Ana de Armas, Gaia Weiss, Simon Abkarian, Clemens Schick Directed by Antonio Negret.
This is not a particularly good action film. It is full of the fast and furious which most reviewers noted. Actually, the title of Overdrive could have been very well used in one of the Fast and Furious films. So, it is the car film that you have when you haven’t got the popular franchise.
The setting is France, around the city of Marseille. Scott Eastwood and Freddy Thorp portray two half-brothers who are skilled in stealing cars. They are seen in plenty of sequences exercising this particular talent. Scott Eastwood is in love with Stephanie (Ana de Armas) and glamorous model in real life, Gaia Weiss, portraying a thief in Marseilles, Devon, who becomes attracted to the other brother why is not immediately evident.
The dialogue is not particularly persuasive at all – and relies on some ominous silences as well.
The brothers are involved in an elaborate stealing of a car, plenty of detail, plenty of fast driving, plenty of chases, plenty of danger. This comes to the attention of a crime magnate who sees himself as controlling Marseilles. His played by the excellent actor Simon Abkarian, who featured in French and American films. He summons the two young men, terrorises them, and employs them to steal cars from a rival to his Lordship of Marseille, a German played by Clemens Schick. He is sinister himself and also has his focus. Both crime Lords are particularly wealthy, love hoarding vintage cars.
The two brothers and the two women become involved in a lot of double dealing, seeming to be working from for Abkarian and then making contact with Schick. Whatever the truth, and the rivalry between the two gang Lords which comes to a head, the brothers enrol the assistance of a whole lot of characters in Marseilles, as well as an expert on bombs.
Plenty of explosions, gates blown open, the gang all taking a car each and driving down the highway – and the audience try to work out who was working for whom and why.
Scott Eastwood resembles his father very closely – and this is a film that Clint may have contemplated acting in in the 1950s. Freddy Thorp is rather unpersuasive as the half brother.
With its French setting, and with the focus on vehicles and speed, it will remind audiences of the Transporter series the other car action shows from directors like Pierre Morel (who was a producer of this film), Luc Besson and Louis Letterier. The present director is from Columbia.
US, 2018, 140 minutes, Colour.
Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Ciaran Hinds, Joely Richardson, Bill Camp, Jeremy Irons, Thekla Reuten, Douglas Hodge.
Directed by Francis Lawrence.
Tinker, Taylor, Ballerina, Spy.
While the Cold War may well be over, there is still plenty of cold war everywhere, not least between Russia and the United States – witness the inquiries into the Russian connections for the Trump election campaign; witness the number of Russian diplomats murdered in the United Kingdom over the last decade…
While red might be obvious for Russia, who are the sparrows? According to the scenario, specially chosen young men and women undertake a rigorous training to become seductive spies. Part of their skills is to recognise the strengths and weaknesses in those they target, responding to the weaknesses, particularly sexual weaknesses. And the training is fairly explicit.
Dominika, a young Russian ballerina, a talented performer at the Bolshoi, suffers a leg-breaking accident and cannot dance any more. This actioner is a star vehicle for Jennifer Lawrence. Her uncle is a top official in whatever is the equivalent these days of the KGB. He traps her into an assassination situation – for which she is willing because she has a very sick mother at home to whom she is devoted. The Bolshoi is terminating the medical help for her mother. After the assassination, because she is a witness, her options are to be eliminated or to become a sparrow.
The sparrow training sessions are very striking because the lecturer and tutor is played by Charlotte Rampling at her commanding best.
Alongside the introduction to Dominika, the film introduces a CIA agent in Moscow, Nash, played by Joel Edgerton. He compromises a mission to protect his contact and is moved back to the United States. Because his contact seems to trust only him, he gets permission to return to Hungary to initiate contacts again. At the same time, Russian authorities decide that he would be a rather easy target for Dominika to seduce and get information from.
There are always tensions. We know that there is going to be some ambiguity, and there is. While Dominica does her job, she still resents the hold that the officials have over her and, of course, the temptation is for her to be a double agent, working for Nash and his associates, especially in connection with an American Senator’s aide who is prepared to hand over sensitive discs.
One of the interesting things about this film is that it is full of cameos from a great number of strong character and actors from Jeremy irons, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ciaran Hinds, Mary Louise Parker, Joely Richardson.
In the past, there have always been sequences in spy stories with the ways “that we can make you talk”. There are some very violent ones in this film and one that will make even the hardened reviewer shudder, a torture method of removing skin, layer by layer, with a couple of close-ups.
Naturally, in this world of overt operations covert operations, double dealings and betrayal, the ending is not quite as anticipated.
The film was directed by Francis Lawrence who directed Jennifer Lawrence in several of the Hunger Games films.
For those in need of a regular dose of spy thrillers, this might be the one for the time being.