Benedict Cumberbatch continues to dominate the big screen, starring in Headhunters director Morten Tyldum’s historical thriller The Imitation Game. Master mathematician and cryptanalyst Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) finds himself plunged into the underbelly of World War II when he’s hired by the British government – along with a team of code breakers – to crack Nazi Germany’s supposedly impenetrable Enigma code and end the war. Continue reading “Review: The Imitation Game (2014)”
Say When (titled Laggies in America) is perhaps Lynn Shelton’s most commercial film to date – a quarter life crisis comedy that’s charming, even in spite of its prosaic script. Keira Knightley stars as Megan, an undirected 20-something who balks at her long-term boyfriend’s marriage proposal. In need of a temporary respite, she takes Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz) – a 16-year-old whom she bonds with – up on her offer of shelter. Continue reading “Review: Say When (2014)”
Ten year’s after soaring to success with his breathtaking low-budget directorial debut Once, writer and director John Carney returns to our screens with Begin Again, a more polished, yet no less triumphant musical drama. When left betrayed by her long-term boyfriend, Gretta (Keira Knightley) finds herself unstuck in New York City – until she meets Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a down-on-his-luck record producer, who hones in on her raw singing talent. Continue reading “Review: Begin Again (2014)”
Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is the fourth instalment in the multi-billion pound action-adventure franchise, and possibly the easiest to understand. This time, we follow Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he lands himself in a bit of a bind after being lured onto Blackbeard’s (Ian McShane) ship by enigmatic siren – and old flame – Angelica (Penélope Cruz), and is forced to seek out the Fountain of Youth.
While it’s certainly exciting to see Jack on another adventure, the frenzy soon fades, leaving in its midst Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio’s exhausted, clumsy and bland story – one that’s fuelled only by cliched action sequences. To add to this, On Stranger Tides completely fails to acknowledge anything that happened in the first trilogy. Yes, this film may be the standalone instalment producers were seeking, but it loses most of its credibility in the process.
Rob Marshall, who takes over directorial duties from Gore Verbinski, doesn’t inpart any visible influence on the film. His background in musicals and stage shows, where he basks in vivid colours and exciting set pieces, seems to have disappeared. On Stranger Tides is tinged with a dull, lifeless light, made worse only by Marshall’s pedestrian direction. It’s a shame, because the sequences involving the mermaids – which were genuinely exciting and engaging – were lit so dimly that you had to squint to be able to distinguish similarly clothed characters. Not an enjoyable experience in the slightest.
Nearly every performance within the film – both from new and recurring cast members – is muted and stoic. While Depp is still charming and enthralling as Captain Jack Sparrow, the plot and trite dialogue doesn’t leave him much room to breathe. Other actors, namely Cruz, Geoffrey Rush – who returns as Barbossa – and McShane, deliver adequate performances as their respective characters, but none are particularly noteworthy or seem to have the energy to prove their worth.
It goes to show that no matter how ridiculous Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End were – nor how annoying Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom’s characters had become – it’s a shame to see a franchise that started off so fresh transform into a sheer money-making wreck. If only Knightley’s Elizabeth Swan had shown up to re-utter one of the franchises best lines – “You like pain? Try wearing a corset” – On Stranger Tides may have saved itself. Just.Follow @jamieneish
Last Night is a grown-up relationship drama from screenwriter Massy Tadjedin, and stars Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Eva Mendes and Guillaume Canet.
The film follows a married couple, Michael and Joanna (Worthington and Knightley), spending the night apart while Michael takes a business trip with attractive colleague Laura (Mendes).
While Michael’s resisting temptation in Los Angeles, Joanna encounters her past love, Alex (Canet), and must battle her own tenacious emotions.
The evocative and provoking screenplay deals with very real and prominent questions, leaving no stone unturned. While some moments seem a little too contrived, once the story finds its feet, it thrusts you back into the characters’ turbulent thoughts and emotions, tossing you from approval of their affairs to complete condemnation.
Tadjedin proves herself as a talent to watch with her stylish, confident and subtle direction, mixing close-ups with long-shots to contrast the amped up tension with the way she teases the multiple relationships.
Knightley is the pick of the four leads, carelessly bouncing from one emotional peak to the next with ease, proving her acting chops outside of her usual period pieces.
Her hidden and under-explored relationship with Canet’s cool and alluring Alex is believable, exhilarating and simply oozing with chemistry, signifying that not all relationships should be ruined with romance.
Worthington commendably conveys the torment of his situation through his performance as Michael, and has the strain written all over his face. Mendes does her seductive mistress justice, making you empathise with Laura’s emotionally strenuous past, no matter how corrupt she is.
Tadjedin has crafted a wonderfully subtle yet probing study into the giddy highs and devastating lows of relationships, proving herself as a director to watch and Last Night as a near-perfect talky romantic thriller.
Director – Massy Tadjedin
Starring – Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Eva Mendes and Guillaume Canet
Never Let Me Go, Mark Romanek’s adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s acclaimed and highly influential novel, chronicles the phases of three characters’ lives: Ruth, Kathy and Tommy, and marks his first film in nine years.
As children, Ruth, Kathy and Tommy (played by Ella Purnell, Izzy Meikle-Small and Charlie Rowe), spend their childhood at Hailsham, a seemingly idyllic English boarding school in the English countryside for children who are special.
As they grow into young adults (played by Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield), they move to The Cottages and find that they have to come to terms with the strength of the love they feel for each other, while preparing themselves for the haunting reality that awaits them.
Ishiguro’s gentle sci-fi concept is executed with sombre subtlety by Romanek and, despite Alex Garland’s sometimes too methodical screenplay, preserves an eerie sense of mystery and discerning dubiety in its translation to screen. These elements, in a bid to keep the film realistic, are wisely buried within a wholly human story, one about love, loss and empathy.
Romanek’s successful direction is highlighted in the great care he has for the source material and the characters that inhabit it. His remarkable skill comes to light in the way he presents the dystopian British countryside as beautiful yet bleak. It perfectly juxtaposes the beautiful lives everyday people lead with the bleak lives lead by the donors.
The three central performances are equally astounding, each superbly displaying repressed desperation and their desire to achieve true happiness. Mulligan’s exquisite beauty and incandescent quality make her perfect as Kathy, confirming her newly won status, while Garfield is undeniably arresting as the troubled Tommy.
Knightley, who is left with the trickier role, hits the right notes of disdainful faux-sophistication, holding her own as the vindictive Ruth, the manipulative force of nature who interferes with the lives of Tommy and Ruth.
The supporting actors – Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins, Nathalie Richard, Domhall Gleeson and Andrea Riseborough – hold their own against the powerful trio. Though none of them has much screen time, they all play their characters with conviction and restraint, further accentuating the central themes of loneliness and longing.
Rachel Portman’s etherial score, almost a character in itself, penetrates your heart, in a pondering, beautiful way that compliments, and often surmounts, the heart-rending narrative.
The only issue is with the sometimes irritatingly slow pacing, and the disproportionate narrative that works against audience involvement. This, however, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially considering the realistic and sinister themes the film explores – and is excellently concealed by the fantastic performances.
Never Let Me Go is not only a beautifully explorative, acted and directed piece of filmmaking, but a masterful adaptation and glorious cinematic achievement.