There are no real victories in Sicario, Denis Villeneuve’s terrifying, captivating, and utterly brilliant War on Drugs tale. Towards the end of the film, we see a series of events that most other films would take as crowning moments of success and glory. Instead, once it’s all over, all we and the characters feel is scared and a bit sick. Playing more like a war movie than a conventional cops vs gangs piece, Sicario makes some bold, but not browbeating, statements about America’s position as World Police, whilst simultaneously easily being the tensest movie of the year. It’s the best work yet by Enemy and Prisoners director Villeneuve, who will next take on the Blade Runner sequel, aided by a great quartet of lead actors and staggeringly good work by master cinematographer Roger Deakins. (more…)
The short but incredibly vibrant life of James Dean has received its fair share of attention since he died at the age of just 24. It’s natural that Hollywood would find him so fascinating, someone who simultaneously represented and reacted against superstardom, and was then tragically killed before he could fully decide on either direction. Anton Corbijn’s new take focuses less on Dean himself than his friend-for-a-month, Dennis Stock, the Life Magazine photographer who shot the iconic Times Square image. Whilst this makes sense, especially given that Corbijn is still more famous as a photographer than a director, and avoids criticisms of following an overly-familiar story, Dane DeHaan’s version of the troubled star makes you wish that he had taken the lead. (more…)
One of the most high-profile biopics of the year, Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs seems like one of the ‘sure things’ of this year’s awards cycle. Featuring a bevy of Oscar-friendly performances, a snappy and funny screenplay with some key highlight reel Big Quotes, the newest account of the divisive tech figurehead is bound to feature in many of the major award categories. Yet, there is also something missing at the core of Steve Jobs. While individual parts of the film are rarely less than good and quite often excellent, it doesn’t really coalesce into anything particularly moving. For Apple geeks, this detailed if mythologised look at the rocky history of some of the company’s products accomplishes just that, but for everyone else, it’s an effective prestige piece that is never quite the sum of its parts.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into the cinema, cookie dough ice-cream in hand, for Straight Outta Compton. This time around, I broke my usual rule of going in completely uninformed, as I had read a fair bit about the film during its breakout success in the States. I was intrigued, hesitant, and, full disclosure, am not much of a gangster rap aficionado (though my brother has certainly tried his best to help me foster an appreciation for the genre). All this said, I left the film certain of one thing: Straight Outta Compton is a film constructed to perfectly mirror the musical revolution it sets out to catalogue, coupling explosive energy with sequences pregnant with fear and distrust. It is both a thrilling tribute to a game-changing period in music history and a confident and well-crafted piece on race in America, tying together many echoes of contemporary injustice to the context that catalysed N.W.A. in the first place.