Even the actors who set out to tell the story of prolific screenwriter and former Communist Dalton Trumbo weren’t entirely aware of the scope of his story when they signed on to the project. Blacklisted for his beliefs and forced to churn out schlocky scripts under a series of pseudonyms to keep his family fed, he eventually won two Academy Awards he couldn’t collect until the mid ‘70s. His family business—Trumbo’s wife and three children all play key roles in transporting illicit scripts under cover of night—is highly reminiscent of Cranston’s most notorious role on Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad, and the zippy pacing and editing liken the film to recent gangster dramas more than the typical biopic. Ultimately, the film’s smooth blend of ‘50s and modern sensibilities keep Trumbo both relevant and unfashionably (in the best possible sense) fun.
Rather than try to tackle the decades of history leading up to the British government’s granting of limited voting rights for women in 1918, Suffragette collages a particularly tumultuous eighteen-month period of violence and retaliation in a real and present way. Avoiding broad strokes, director Sarah Gavron and writer Abi Morgan paint each character with detailed grit and infectious idealism, and the prestigious cast, gravitating around an excellent lead performance by the quietly brilliant Carey Mulligan, lends each historical event an uncanny familiarity. The film sells a world-gone-by while also tapping into the never-more-relevant zeitgeist of radical feminism, reminding audiences that the work towards equality is far from done.
Now we’re officially at the end of the beginning of 2015, I figured now would be a good a time as any to share my favourite films of the last year. The Oscars still haven’t happened, so this is still relevant I promise. No, I haven’t procrastinated this piece since December. Shut up.
2014 was, unquestionably, a remarkable year for filmmaking with record-breaking box office turnouts and, more importantly, an absolute cavalcade of top-notch films. It was also an especially exciting year for me personally in the world of film, as Jack and I attended the London Film Festival in October and then followed it up with a number of screenings around London in the months preceding Awards Season.
After violent protests broke out after irregularities in the 2009 Iranian election, journalist Maziar Bahari faced a choice: risk his life and career by videotaping totalitarian abuse, or drop his camera and run. He chose to release the footage. When I first heard the premise of Jon Stewart’s directorial debut, I couldn’t think of a more compelling personality to deftly negotiate its weighty subject material with a sense of scope and a light, often comedic, touch. Based on Then They Came for Me, Bahari’s memoir on his 118-day imprisonment in notorious Evin Prison, what elevates Rosewater isn’t strict adherence to documenting past events, but its ability to capture the essence of one man’s experience and expand it beyond its physical and temporal boundaries. Bahari himself has explained that though the film is not true to the letter of his experience in Evin, it captures a higher truth of imprisonment. This crafted, whittled-down truth drives Rosewater in way that only fiction can.
Taking a marked turn from Gareth Edward’s survival film Monsters, Monsters: Dark Continent feels like Pacific Rim smashed into Hurt Locker with all the best bits taken out, ending up as a gritty depiction of modern warfare with, hm, twelve-story-tall shuffling tentacle monsters from space. Though its technical prowess makes it a seemingly worthy sequel, Monsters: Dark Continent is severely hampered by its inconsistent focus, shallow characterisation, and bizarre racially-charged mysticism.