A Quiet Place

Year: 2018
Directed by: John Krasinski
Starring: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe

Written by Jessica Peña

Silence can truly be deafening. Even in a packed theater, it’s daunting how a small sound becomes amplified in the absence of others. Sound is the enemy in John Krasinski’s newest film, ‘A Quiet Place’. Yes, Jim Halpert from The Office has grown some exceptional directorial skills and has given us an ingenious thriller about a family surviving in a post apocalyptic reality where monsters hunt you down by sound. Supremely inventive with its world building and familial ties, ‘A Quiet Place’ is cutting edge intensity and it deserves your praise (and money).

A family of five are forced to live their lives in utter silence in order to survive. Creatures with super agility and hearing hunt by sound, and it poses detrimental risks to the family’s fully aware lifestyle. The film has an interesting creature concept that, from the get-go, is well established to the audience. It leaves a few curiosities unanswered, but it introduces enough of these monsters to pique interest. Rather than stretching the imagination of what they look like (like how many modern horrors work), it’s decided that the tension build is given more respectively to the film’s fight for survival and the things they become aware of themselves. What a relief it is to have a film that doesn’t waste time with exposition. We aren’t given any backstory to the family, but it’s refreshing because it still works. Immediately, we are thrown into Day 89 of this tragic stricken reality, and it’s shown just how high the stakes are. The tension begins and lasts throughout the runtime, giving us a visceral, dreaded satisfaction.

Krasinski, who has a writing credit on the film, implements a great deal of dread in the form of its story structure and how exactly the family dynamic plays out. Their natural way of living has been compromised and they have nothing left but survival. You could say this has become their natural way of living, as they’ve perfected alternatives down to using lettuce leaves as plates and felt pieces for Monopoly. In this sentiment, the production value pays off.  It drags us into the tension by letting us in on things unknown to the characters; plot devices that further put us over the edge of our seats. The sound design lends itself impeccably in the way it can make the shatter of a lantern one of the first outbursts of quick desperation in the film. Marco Beltrami’s score complements the way tension transcends and finds a home in the film. Daring, intimidating, and nuanced, it’s easily become a favorite to hopefully seek an Oscar nomination. We’re treading lightly in this world with the family and Krasinski’s direction is well enough to see all of these aspects through to the audience.

Krasinski and Blunt’s chemistry as they take on the roles of industrious, resilient parents is so gratifying and real. Krasinski, a full-bearded, sweater wearing dad here, is meticulously cautious. He’s not over the top great, but he gives enough of himself to sustain a very deep likability. He’s keen to prepare their farmhouse bunker into a sound-proof environment they can live in. Blunt also full heartedly lays it all out on the line and truly is the star here. Her character’s maternal instinct to protect and defend is something that lends a relatability to the film. One major element, as shown in the trailers, is that she’s pregnant. This is used cleverly later on, but it’s just so hard to believe that, in a world where you could literally die if a sound you make is remotely loud enough, you’d be careless enough to become pregnant here. Possibly a cop out to ensure sentimental impact, or maybe just a way for them to find new hope in a desolate existence, it’s still quite reckless to believe. That said, it really doesn’t take away from the film overall.

Blunt and Krasinski embrace their roles with a very realized fear: “Who are we if we can’t protect them?” And it’s at that level when we realize that the “horror” you will find in the film isn’t so much the idea of these monsters, but of feeling powerless to aid and protect your children from these evils. Arguably, it’s as much a deep dive into the insecurities of parenthood as it is a monster thriller, and these themes are carefully merged into a successfully immersive final cut.

Coming off the indie success of ‘Wonderstruck’ last year, Millicent Simmonds is casted here, by the enormous perseverance of Krasinski to get her in, and gives a wonderful performance that truly needs no words to convey. Every pained remark told by the eyes and every intense build is told through her facial features and hand motions. Her signing comes to life in ways that leans us into emotional weight with her inner guilt. Simmonds’ casting choice is highly representative of both the hearing impaired and disabled community, where it’s apparent not enough is done to cast these actors. It’s so satisfying and even more telling to how it touches others in the community. So, thank you, John Krasinski. Moreover, Noah Jupe plays his role stupendously as the young brother afraid of the shift in responsibilities and what’s to come, but manages to step up to the plate quite convincingly to do what he needs to do.

‘A Quiet Place’ is high octane survival in an everlasting slice of tension. The film is so well paced and finds success in these moments of a fear so loud it falls silent. John Krasinski pulls out all his tricks to quietly convey the kind of suspense that will lead among other successes this year. Thrilling and nail-bitingly good, you’ll find yourself forgetting to exhale.

JESSICA’S RATING: 8.5/10

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Looking Glass

Year: 2018
Directed by: Tim Hunter
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Robin Tunney, Marc Blucas, Ernie Lively

Written by Tom Sheffield

The latest addition to Nicolas Cage’s CV,  ‘Looking Glass’, heads straight for digital release tomorrow, and coming to DVD later this month. Despite some fine performances from the film’s leads, this shallow thriller fails to build any suspense, and consequently struggles to keep the viewers attention.

Following the death of their daughter in a tragic accident, Ray (Cage) and Maggie (Tunney) buy a motel in an attempt to start a new life together. After Ray makes an unusual discovery in the basement he begins to question the history of the motel, and his life begins to spiral as his investigation uncovers a dark truth.

The opening scene instantly gives off a nostalgic feel to it – as if you had just sat down to watch a film you’d rented from Blockbuster on a Friday night. The credits swoop and fade in during the first few moments of the film, and even the transitions during the brief flashback of their child’s fatal accident are reminiscent of an old-school thriller. These little nostalgic nods really set up what sort of tone you should expect for the 99 minutes that follow.

The film really does feel like an old-school Friday night rental, from the visuals, to the tone, and even the direction. Sadly, that’s about as far as my praise for the film itself goes for me.

60 minutes go by and nothing all that much actually happens – nor is there ever really even a hint of suspense in this ‘thriller’. Despite this, Cage and Tunney kept me invested in their characters and the events happening at their motel – even if the writing didn’t. This is actually one of Cage’s better roles in my honest opinion, and I feel like had it had it been better written, it could of been one of his most memorable – but let’s face it, nothing will top him as Ben in ‘National Treasure’.

‘Buffy’ alumnus, Marc Blucas, plays Howard – the local Sheriff intent on uncovering the mystery behind the events at the motel. Despite being on the side of the law, his character comes off just as weird as the interesting characters that rent rooms at the motel. The film often focuses on a couple of these characters in particular as we discover the motel serves a certain purpose for these regular visitors, but despite the films best efforts to make them feel somehow involved in the mysterious events at the motel, they couldn’t feel further detached from it all.

I think Tim Hunter, whose most recent directorial efforts have been on TV shows such as ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Hannibal’, ‘Riverdale’, and ‘Bosch’, did a reasonable job directing this film. The seedy Peeping Tom scenes were really well shot, and the subtle changes in transitions for some of the scenes really add to an ever-present nostalgic vibe. I really think the fault with this film lies in the poor writing – there’s an incredible lack of depth to any of the characters, the dialogue often feels as though no thought went into it, and it’s constant failure to create any sort of suspense is ultimately it’s downfall.

The film dips it’s toes into the act of voyeurism but doesn’t really go anywhere with it, despite feeling like it will heavily lean on that aspect of the plot in the run up to it’s conclusion. In the end, it kind of feels like they just threw that aspect in to make some of the scenes more exciting. The whole plot in general feels like it loses its way after the first act, despite a promising premise.

It’s not until the last 20 minutes we actually learn not only what happened to Ray and Maggie’s daughter, but also what the pair were like before the incident and why their characters have behaved like they have throughout the duration of the film. However, this doesn’t make the climax better in any way, shape, or form, and despite it’s attempt to surprise you with its twist, its falls flat on its face and is incredibly anti-climatic. If the film managed to keep your attention up until that point, the ending is very predictable.

If you’re a Nicolas Cage fan (and I know there’s some of you out there!) then I’d recommend you give this film a watch for his performance alone – and expect very little from the film itself. Cage, Tunney, and Blucas make the film watchable, even if you do find yourself uninvested in the plot. In the end, it’s the failure to build any suspense that is the most frustrating part of this thriller, as well as being left with more questions than answers (which there are next to none of…

Tom’s Rating: 2.5 / 10

Unsane

Year: 2018
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, James Greer, Sarah Stiles, Mark Kudisch

Written by Jo Craig

“Is she or isn’t she?” asks the tagline of Steven Soderbergh’s first horror-thriller, addressing the timeless conundrum of diagnosing one’s own sanity when no more shit could possibly hit the fan. Soderbergh’s affair with retirement was put on hiatus for the production of 2017’s ‘Logan Lucky’ and this uprising — from the directorial afterlife — has facilitated the release of his answer to the B movie genre.

Premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February, ‘Unsane’ highlights Claire Foy in her first departure after Netflix’s ‘The Crown’, where her noteworthy display of poise and gumption forms paranoid working girl Sawyer Valentini. Still suffering with psychological trauma after falling victim to stalking, Valentini seeks counselling from a local institution (filmed in the abandoned Summit Park hospital of Pomona, New York) where she becomes involuntarily admitted and harassed once again by her stalker; or so we’re lead to believe.

Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer’s joint original screenplay with Soderbergh follows Valentini’s unreliable mental stability over a seven day period. This timeline somewhat reflects the ten days it took Soderbergh to shoot his iPhone 7 Plus creation that excels at enhancing themes of intrusion and exploitation. Camera angles are innovative from the outset — shooting from lighting fixtures, underneath desks and bar tops — that allow audiences to experience spying from the antagonists point of view.

The stalker in question is Joshua Leonard’s David Strine — continuing his hair-raising demeanour from TV’s ‘Scorpion’ — who succeeds at making skin crawl as the guy nobody wants to have outside their bedroom window. With no disrespect to Leonard, Strine carries an unhinged expression you wouldn’t hesitate to jab under the circumstances. The central figures play well together in a game of cat and mouse and build a convincing familiarity with each other that validates their exhausting history.

Foy’s Sawyer Valentini — mythical as her name might sound — is an advocate for headstrong women and sheds light on unspoken mental health issues. Her character refuses to play the victim card and Foy frequently ignites the rebel spark and mirrors the insurgence we would all act upon in helpless situations. This hair-pulling daymare has undoubtedly given Foy the platform needed to showcase her talents outside playing royalty, swapping a well-spoken dialect for a few growling f-bombs.

‘Unsane’ initially becomes mislead when one of Soderbergh’s Hollywood pals makes a juggernaut cameo, injecting an odd dose of satire you would only expect from the Coen Brothers. Furthermore, where time was taken to evolve the complexity between hunter and prey, the denouement sadly settles for a clichéd final chase that ultimately weakened its antecedent originality.

If anything else interrupts this lucid dream, it’s the writers — whose highest credit is the 2006 bubble-wrapped rom-com ‘Just My Luck’ — and their inability to honour one train of thought. By no means is the story nonsense or disengaging — as it reimagines the clawing stress-dream we’ve all had — but rather adds too many rational explanations that contradicts the allure of mystery. Trippy double-exposure and bleak cinematography — from Soderbergh’s pseudo name Peter Andrews — aids the first-person experience by displaying the visual effects of pill-popping. However, it is forgotten that audiences are paying to be mind-fucked and will accept and even welcome some corridors to be left in the dark.

For what was initially approached as a student film — going as far as letting Foy apply her own makeup — production company Fingerprint Releasing made an underwhelming $6 million at the box office on its opening weekend, finding it relatively easy to rake back the impressively low budget of $1.2 million. Largely applauded in Claire Foy’s favour for her composure outside Buckingham Palace, ‘Unsane’ exercises Soderbergh’s capabilities of working as a one-man show (director, editor, writer, DoP and camera operator) and offers a compelling cerebral maze to work through, despite leaving neon exit signs towards the end.

 Jo’s Rating: 7 out of 10

Red Sparrow

Year: 2018
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Jeremy Irons, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker

WRITTEN BY: CHRIS GELDERD

This 2018 American spy thriller, directed by Francis Lawrence and based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Jason Matthews, stars Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Ciaran Hinds and Jeremy Irons.

Following a career-ending injury, former Russian ballerina Dominika Egorova (Lawrence) is offered a new life and a new place in society to help both her country and continue to care for her sick mother. Her uncle Ivan (Schoenaerts) sends her to train with Russian intelligence to become a ‘Sparrow’ – a covert spy.

Ivan is working alongside General Korchnoi (Irons) and Colonel Zacharov (Hinds) to observe known CIA operative Nate Nash (Edgerton) who is working with a mole in the Russian government. It is Nash who Dominika, fully trained, is assigned to in order to gain his trust and find the mole.

But Nash feels Dominika wasn’t born to serve the state – he offers her a chance to act as a double agent and help the CIA bring down a traitor in their own agency and end corruption within the Russian government. The fate of nations rests on just who Dominika will pledge her allegiance to…

With a title akin to that of a John Le Carré novel and evoking such celluloid thrillers such as ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ or, most recently, ‘Atomic Blonde’, this espionage thriller doesn’t attempt to re-write the genre, but it does attempt to set it out of the usual template we are used to and on the whole it works because of it.

Jennifer Lawrence only appears on my radar thanks to the ‘X-Men’ universe and her role as shape-shifter Mystique. I’ve never seen ‘Hunger Games’ and a few of her other roles have cropped up, but don’t linger in my conscious for long after the credits roll. For the first time, I think she has nailed a role for mature audiences and gives a pretty good stab at things. From the ballet which she deftly carries out, to the basic Hollywood-Russian accent (could be worse) and the way she handles herself with quiet confidence and fragile emotion, Lawrence thankfully let me forget her otherwise annoyingly brattish, egotistical and otherwise simply self-centred attitude off camera to invest in her mature Dominika, a world away from American Lawrence, for these 2 hours.

Sharing the spotlight is the poor man’s (or some now say rich man’s) Jeremy Renner in the guise of Joel Edgerton. The man can act just fine, and he constantly gives himself to the material on offer to pull out a good performance. Here his CIA agent Nate Nash goes up against both Russian and American governments to be the spy we can at least have faith in fighting the good fight. He’s likeable and keeps things moving with his urgency and determination to break down an unbreakable Sparrow, which leaves his character in a good position as you always question if he’s going to make it to the end credits without being double-crossed or killed.

The supporting cast also nail their performances and carry over the accents that Hollywood teaches them for Russian officials and agents. Jeremy Irons is at his brooding, menacing best here but still somehow feels under-used, which is a shame because his role could be that of Simon Gruber 20 years later. Matthias Schoenaerts has an aura about him you feel comfortable yet uneasy about during his screen time which is exactly what is needed, and Charlotte Rampling, Ciaran Hinds, and Joely Richardson offer their veteran talent to flesh out a cast who you can really get behind and see their pieces in the puzzle.

Story-wise, the film (from the novel remember) doesn’t try to give us anything too complex or ground-breaking which is what I want in these things. I want something that has worked for years and years, just presented in a fresh way. It’s these factors that lifted ‘Red Sparrow’ into something much more enjoyable than if it had been a carbon-copy of what we’ve seen before where even the cast couldn’t have elevated things with their tools.

The opening minutes are some of the most well shot and scored moments I’ve seen recently. Simple, but effective. The haunting and powerful music by James Newton Howard and cinematography by Jo Willems introduces us without the need for dialogue to paint a post-Cold War Russia and America, present-day countries that are rife with corruption and covert counter intelligence, more relevant than ever in our President Trump era.

The look and sound of ‘Red Sparrow’ is both beautiful and grim at the same time. The elegance and pride bleed off the screen when we see the glory of Mother Russia, but in a heartbeat turns to a dark and working-class world were nothing can guarantee your safety in the eyes of spies. Moscow, London, and Budapest are stunning cities and the perfect backdrop to the staged spy game, and nothing is really held back by director Francis Lawrence. It’s a mature film for mature audiences; it doesn’t shy away from the violence and brutality, yet is never gratuitous. There is nothing we don’t see, hear or feel that isn’t important to our characters and story, and plenty of moments had me wincing and grimacing in my seat. And it was brilliant. Just the reaction I wanted from a film shying away from watering down content for young audiences.

And as for the idea of exploitation of women, I for one found the sexual slant of this story tasteful and powerful and respectful to both Jennifer Lawrence in her portrayal and that of women in general. With a tidal wave sweeping through Hollywood about equality, the idea of using one’s body as a weapon initially seems to U-turn the movement, but actually, it is a raw and natural thing for these hard-edged and brutal spies to do. The mind and body is a weapon, and we are reminded that through brilliant training sequences from the delicious 007 Rosa Klebb-esque Charlotte Rampling.

The male targets come across as single-minded and stupid and blind to everything around them when presented with a suggestive glimpse of flesh or wandering hand. Lawrence plays it perfectly and never looks or feels exploited, at least in my opinion. It’s a harsh, brutal world of covert intelligence set in a totally different world than the West understands, and so in that respect, it makes perfect sense and easily throws us out of our comfort zone.

It’s these elements that drag it above standard American-based thrillers. While the story sags a little in the middle, easily allowing us to shave a good 10 minutes off the talky-talky moments, the flow is bookended with tight sequences that offer thrills, tension and bloody action without ever having to feel they need to resort to loud, physics-defying shoot-outs, car chases or dumb action sequences.

It’s a grounded and down to earth film with a climax you may or may not see coming as the pieces fall into place, but it’s done in a neat way that you’ll be happy with if you’ve enjoyed the journey through the beauty and danger of Capitalist West v Communist East.

CHRIS’ RATING: 9/10

Good Time

Year: 2017
Directed by: Benny & Josh Safdie
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Jennifer Jason Leigh. 

Written by Hunter Williams

The Safdie brothers promise very little with a modest title of only being a ‘Good Time’, when it is, in fact, the best adrenaline rush of 2017. After their previous success with Heaven Knows What, the Safdie’s received an unexpected email from Robert Pattinson. The Twilight star expressed an interest in collaboration, resulting in the ultimate vehicle for everyone involved. It pushed the Safdie’s into Hollywood and launched Pattinson back to the top again. The only expected thing, however, was to be shown a good time. Spoiler alert: I was.

In the opening shot of Josh and Benny Safdie’s ‘Good Time’, the audience is immediately thrown into the head rush of Williams’ fast-moving camera steadily approaching the building in which the frantic New York night begins. Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) bursts into the room, forcibly removing his developmentally disabled brother Nick from his therapy session. The audience will soon learn that this is one mistake among many in the coming hours once the two brothers huddle together in the elevator in order to discuss their plan of robbing a bank for $65,000. It’s not the first time a story followed the aftermath of a failed bank heist, but it’s never been done with such an electric and powerful momentum.

‘Good Time’ understands not to waste any time before the heist, immediately pushing on the gas pedal without ever looking back. Connie and Nick move with the rapid force of the camera, detailed mostly through close-ups and wide shots in order to capture the anxiety and claustrophobia of doing something completely nuts. As the plan is set in motion, the Saftie’s begin to orchestrate the frantic feeling that’ll be prevalent throughout the story, combining the cheesy electric guitar sounds of the nostalgic 80’s with the buzzing synths that feel more like an intensified version of Blade Runner than something of a modern thriller flick. It’s the textured atmosphere of Josh and Benny Safdie’s ‘Good Time’ that not only separates itself from similar heists films, but also distinguishes itself as a true Safdie film that isn’t afraid to indulge in the pure grunge and grease they’re known for.

After the bank heist goes wrong, the audience is left with a wild goose chase lead mostly by Connie Nikas. It’s in this moment in which the weight of the whole story falls on his shoulders, presumably motivating him to do the very best he can. Robert Pattinson embodies the desperate and sometimes intelligent brother who attempts to share his love with his brother Nick, unfortunately not understanding the difference between good and bad love. This is further emphasized by a particularly heartbreaking final scene that does not include Pattinson at all, but rather the feeling he’s left behind. Josh and Benny Safdie develop an aching pain at the centre of their story by demonstrating the character’s inability to sit down and breath through the film’s determination to run them through until they have to.

‘Good Time’ is a precious and deeply affecting thrill ride that’ll be remembered for a lot more than just being a good time, and surely there’s no more of a reason to see it than that. But if there’s one thing to be learned from the whole endeavour, it’s that taking risks on independent film-makers with potential, even if you’re Robert Pattinson, can mean a whole lot more than just a few dollars. It can mean the difference between changing someone’s view of cinema  (i.e me and maybe even you).

Hunter’s Rating: 9.5/10

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All The Money In The World

Year: 2017
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer

Written by Jessica Peña

What a treat it is to get Ridley Scott’s latest, ‘All the Money in the World,’ in the US on Christmas Day. I found a great deal of adoration in this film. Bouncing back from a major derailment, the film is a robust drama with powerful performances by its lead ensemble. It’s hard to form an expectation going into the film. Rest assured, Ridley Scott secured an impressive outcome.

‘All the Money in the World’ tells of the real life 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, grandson to the richest man in the world, J. Paul Getty, the egocentric oil tycoon. The story follows Gail Getty (Michelle Williams) as she desperately tries to get her son back safely. A ransom of $17 million is put up for Paul’s return, and to the shock of the world, J. Paul Getty Sr. blatantly refuses. A man of lavish assets and an obsessive appreciation of old artefacts, he explains that the easy payment would bring all 14 of his grandchildren to be kidnapped. The stern J. Paul Getty will not stand for his money to be thrown away like that. For having expressed great love for Paul Getty III specifically, he is quite the selfish soul.

Scott’s latest film is a powerhouse with near perfect form, but I know what you really came here for. So let’s cut to the chase. Christopher Plummer crushes. The veteran actor proves himself to be an even more believable J. Paul Getty than what a prosthetic Kevin Spacey would’ve been. With just two months before release, news broke of sexual assault allegations made against Kevin Spacey. Immediately, the actor has since been blacklisted by Hollywood and much of the world, hopefully. There’s no denying that the outrage has circled ‘All the Money in the World’ with much attention and anticipation. It’s put a spotlight on Ridley Scott’s following move. From initial trailers, there was always something cringy about those pounds of makeup on Spacey. With all things considered, we still wonder what the Spacey final cut looks like. His work usually comes off very defined with sarcastic undertones, but having re-shot a total of twenty-two scenes with Plummer, Ridley Scott has welcomed in a much more sincere charisma to J. Paul Getty.

Reportedly Scott’s first choice for the role, Plummer was called in immediately following a 48 hour decision to recast. Scott is quoted expressing his decision to push the film forward and not risk failure. He wanted the work of the cast and crew to be honored and not damaged by Spacey’s involvement in the project. The shift is almost seamless. There is a brief, somewhat obvious scene where J. Paul Getty is in the desert attending to his oil business where Plummer was green screened in. Scott had nine 18 hour days to get his ducks in a row, and it is well worth the effort. Adapted from John Pearson’s book, ‘Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty’, this film sets up some serious examination of the wealthy man, but doesn’t completely make it about him. It was great to see a film that involved more than one calculated story.

Believe it or not, Michelle Williams carries this film so well. As Gail Getty is put through an enormous amount of stress and finds herself battling her father-in-law to pay up, Williams delivers stellar aggression as a woman who knows how to stick it to the richest man in the world. When J. Paul Getty refuses to pay the ransom, Gail is quick to put in efforts to rescue her son. She doesn’t settle to being paid out and silent in all of this. Being married into the Getty family proves be a battle in itself. Williams graces it with her Oscar-worthy energy. Mark Wahlberg is exceptional to the narrative as Getty Sr.’s business manager and ex-CIA agent, Fletcher Chase. We don’t see an award-winning Wahlberg, but Fletcher Chase grows a little in realizing just how selfish the great oilman really is. Charlie Plummer, no relation to Christopher, is certainly worth the attention as the 16-year-old, J. Paul Getty III. His performance cements him as a promising young actor. Let’s keep a little eye on him moving forward.

Let us not overlook Romain Duris, a French actor who plays one of the Italian kidnappers. His character has somewhat of a gratifying story. Interacting with Paul Getty III throughout the time they have him, we see a little bit of Stockholm Syndrome unravel. The story has its spectacular character moments there and in Gail Getty’s perseverance. Where it feels it should pick up momentum in its third act, it instead sits on murky exposition. Luckily, it wakes up in no time and closes off as a solid drama that was much better than I had expected.

From an opening shot that nods to Fellini’s ‘La Dolce Vita,’ to the gruesome cutting of an ear, ‘All the Money in the World’ manages to pull off a great technical achievement despite its publicized setback. It is a well grounded film that helps close 2017 on a strong note. It delves into what having all the money in the world does to someone and how it affects the children of the family. It deserves to be applauded for more than it’s magic trick of reshoots. The genius of it all is rooted from Ridley Scott’s impeccable direction.

Jessica’s Rating: 7.8 out of 10

JUMPCUT’s Favourites: Jaws

Year: 1975
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary

Written by Sarah Buddery

People: What’s the film you’ll never get tired of watching? 
Me: Jaws. 
People: What’s the one film you would choose to watch for the rest of your life?
Me: Jaws.
People: What’s your favourite fi…
Me: JAWS OKAY. 

It is pretty much a guarantee that any positive film question such as those above, my answer will be ‘Jaws’. My love for this film knows no end, and whilst for many their favourite film may be one they first saw when they were young or when it first came out, due to my younger years and that I came into my obsession for film quite late, I did in fact only watch ‘Jaws’ for the first time about 5 years ago.

It was the start of a great love affair though, and since then I’ve attended every single big-screen showing of ‘Jaws’ I can get to, and most recently paid extortionate amounts of money to see it with a live orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in London. I’ll have a ten slide PowerPoint presentation prepared for every retort – the shark looks fake, it isn’t scary, etc. etc. – and will defend it until my dying day.

‘Jaws’ represents everything that is great about cinema and can be credited with changing cinema as we know it. Being only the second feature film directed by now-legendary, and multi-award-winning Steven Spielberg, ‘Jaws’ ushered in the age of the blockbuster, paving the way for ‘Star Wars’ and the big summer blockbuster releases that followed, right up to the present day. Seeing ‘Jaws’ was an event, there were lines around the block, the praise spreading like the ripples in the sea as cinema-goers urged their friends, “You HAVE to see this film!”.

So what is so great about ‘Jaws’? The magic of ‘Jaws’ lies in its simplicity. At its heart, it is a story of survival, of humankind’s varying reactions to a shadowy threat which sets to supplant their comfortable way of life. The three main characters of Brody, Quint, and Hooper represent the different ways in which people react, and each has a different perspective despite their united goal of capturing the shark. Brody is the law man, duty bound to protect the inhabitants of Amity Island, whilst also trying to look after his family, and seek the acceptance of the locals because he is not an “Islander”. Quint is a hunter, seeking out the shark as a prize. He is experienced undoubtedly, but also arrogant and cocky, the capturing of the shark simply being another trophy he can adorn his walls with. Hooper is a man of science, an academic, fascinated with sharks and with a deep love and respect for them. Whilst unspoken, there is an obvious inner turmoil for this character, caught in the middle between the mounting pressure to capture the shark, and his own appreciation and respect for the creatures.

I’ve very deliberately chosen to focus on the characters first rather than perhaps the more obvious elements of the film, because the core of this film is a character study, each of the main trio having identifiable traits and because of their performances, it is near impossible to imagine anyone else playing those characters – which is all the makings of a classic really.

Of course, arguably the most iconic thing about ‘Jaws’ is the score. The menacing simplicity of John Williams score is crucial in creating the atmosphere of fear and dread, and has become totally iconic, striking fear in the hearts of everyone who happened to dip a toe in the water afterwards. The score has to do more heavy lifting than most as well. The famously temperamental mechanical shark – affectionately known as “Bruce” – caused all kinds of headaches in filming, so in the absence of the monster itself, the score is the shark. So many horror films could learn from ‘Jaws’ in this sense; the visual absence of the thing itself, yet the presence of the ominous score is enough to create fear. It is what we don’t see that scares us the most, and this is something so incredibly wonderful.

‘Jaws’ is the perfect film. Of course I am unbelievably biased in this, but packed with iconic lines, memorable moments, and with one of the all-time greatest cinematic trios and villain, ‘Jaws’ stands the test of time and still goes down as one of the very, very best.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Year: 2017
Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos
Cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Alicia Silverstone, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic

Written by Jessica Peña

It’s not often enough a film will come around that will leave you in awe, laughing, cringing, and downright terrified. Yorgos Lanthimos’ ‘The Killing of A Sacred Deer’ will find you in these states and will claw at your psyche well after its ending credits. It carries very dark comedic tones and chilling subjects. The film examines the absence of any virtue and becomes one of the most unsettling and gratifying cinematic experiences of the year.

Dr. Stephen Murphy (Colin Farrell) is a renowned cardiovascular surgeon who lives a comfortable and pristine suburban life with his wife (Nicole Kidman), son (Sunny Suljic), and teenage daughter (Raffey Cassidy). It becomes known that he’s struggled with an alcohol problem in the past, leading to the death of a man on his operating table. Here’s where things get a little interesting. Held with a guilt, Stephen meets Martin (Barry Keoghan), the deceased patient’s 16 year old son. Martin begins to spend time with Stephen over the course of a few months. They get to know each other a little through meeting each other’s families, dinner visits, and ‘too close for comfort’ conversations. Martin tries endlessly to have Stephen in his life. There comes a point where Martin begins to cross the line on what he says to Stephen, making his family uncomfortable, and so Stephen ends all forms of communication with Martin. The youngest child, Bob, suddenly loses all feeling and mobility in his legs, causing Stephen and his wife to rush him to the hospital.

With no scientific or realistic explanation, the family is stumped. Martin shows up and asks Stephen for ten minutes of his time. Reluctantly, Stephen agrees. This is where Martin abruptly continues his ominous front. He tells Stephen to choose which of his loved ones to kill. If no decision is made within a timely manner, they will die one by one. First, they will lose function of their legs. Then, they will lose their appetite. Finally, they will begin to bleed from the eyes before their eventual death. Martin delivers this line so simply and so poised that we begin to wonder if he is the Devil incarnate. Martin’s vendetta becomes clear and Stephen’s world gets turned upside down. This is where ‘The Killing of A Sacred Deer’ shoots its cold hearted madness through our soul.

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We watch misfortune strike this family and Stephen almost doesn’t know what to make of it all. Something that Lanthimos nods to is his recent film ‘The Lobster,’ where dialogue and normal human reaction is made to appear desolate. His characters are so very modern but there is a certain way of speech that will transport us deeper into the film, but will also bother us. In many instances, people would not react the way that these characters act. It throws a person off. Farrell and Kidman give exceptional performances that aren’t over the top, but succeed in helping such an eerie script. Beside Lanthimos’ excellent direction, Keoghan as Martin is what terrifies us the most. The young Dublin-born actor makes it seem so effortless in presenting this dead-eyed character. It’s not explained where Martin gains this supernatural power to bestow onto Stephen’s life. Another thing Lanthimos enjoys is presenting an automatic acceptance that this is just how things are. We do not question it and we do not argue. The notion of sacrificial trial, justice, and human nature is all challenged through Martin’s menacing proclamation. ‘The Killing of A Sacred Deer’ looks to rattle us and it does a fine job at it. The first shot we see is a close up of an open heart surgery to the sound of jarring classical opera music. Be careful in choosing to see a film so unconventional and Earth-altering.

The gratification comes to us through its visual nightmare-like world. From slow pans to long wide shots, the minimalist cinematography by Thimios Bakatakis captures the rarity of the film entirely. Lanthimos completely throws us into this very dark and ethereal atmosphere. It can’t be measured just how much discomfort this film will make you feel. The soundtrack itself thickens tension and raises heart rates. Even the melody of the Christmas tune, “Carol of the Bells,” becomes something haunting when we remember what we’re sitting through. Accordionist Janne Rattya lends her horrifying “De Profundis” to the film, which sets the tone of no hope for Stephen’s family. With its devastating Greek tragedy theme, all the components of sound and visuals will meet in the middle where it pains us the most.

Sincerely noted, this film won’t pan too nicely to a lot of people. If you are a fan of psychological thrillers that stop at nothing to wreak havoc, this may be for you. Dark comedy makes a bigger occurrence in the film than one would think. We find ourselves laughing at something (that was probably meant to be taken very seriously in context) and then immediately feeling uneasy again. It’s quite a refreshment, honestly. It makes the film so distinct, just how we like it. If you’re alright with welcoming bizarre behavior, insane metaphors, and uneasy scripts, be my guest. We need more films that aren’t afraid to terrify us in such a way. Yorgos Lanthimos continues to prove himself as an uncanny heavyweight among directors and this film, as strange as it was, serves to break barriers.

‘The Killing of A Sacred Deer’ does not know forgiveness. It squeezes your senses until you can longer withstand the agony. It surprises you with its antics and decisions. It is heart-wrenching and will not stray away from you. It is certainly a sinister experience that won’t leave your thoughts even days after its viewing. You find yourself leaving the theater puzzled, disgusted, stunned, and most of all, unsettled to the core. Lanthimos gives us one of the most unnerving and masterful pieces of art in recent cinematic times.

Jessica’s Rating: 8.5 out of 10

You Were Never Really Here

Year: TBC, but likely 2018
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alessandro Nivola, Alex Manette

Written by Sarah Buddery

After a Best Actor nomination for ‘Walk the Line’ (2005), followed by being shamefully overlooked for his gorgeously tender performance in 2013’s ‘Her’, Joaquin Phoenix couldn’t exactly be put into the category of ‘underrated’, however nor is he considered as a bankable box office draw; which is a real shame. One of the most consistently watchable actors, Phoenix has a history for playing dark and troubled characters – his one in ‘You Were Never Really Here’ being no different – so some may consider him to be “one note”. However when he plays them this well, it isn’t exactly a bad thing!

The story is as vague in its actualisation as it is in the IMDb description, but essentially it follows ‘Joe’ played by Phoenix, an enforcer of undisclosed authority, who is sent to rescue an underage girl who has been kidnapped and used in the sex trade. Haunted by the visions of his childhood abuse, Joe is deeply troubled, teetering constantly on the brink of psychosis. Essentially a hitman thriller, ‘You Were Never Really Here’ manages to pack an awful lot of hits into its short runtime, as well as an uncomfortably in-depth exploration of the man perpetrating them.   

Owing a great deal to the 1976 masterpiece ‘Taxi Driver’, Joaquin Phoenix manages to channel the ghost of Travis Bickle, and to electrifying effect. Near enough the entire runtime is spent with his character, and whilst at times the story feels cold and distant, there is a great deal of pity for this character, despite his brutal nature. Similarly in the aforementioned ‘Taxi Driver’, we spent so much time with DeNiro’s iconic character, and that idea of being so closely aligned with a psychopath, makes for a totally thrilling experience. Whereas ‘Taxi Driver’ had the perfect amount of slow-burning tension, ‘You Were Never Really Here’ doesn’t wait long for the bursts of violence, and the brutality is orchestrated to perfection.

Early on there is a scene which is near silent and switches to the perspective of CCTV cameras within a house. We see Joe moving from room to room, dispatching various heavies, and for all its brutality, it is equally mesmerising to watch. The sound design of this film is absolutely stunning, perfectly utilising silence when needed and punctuating this with sudden and deafening bursts of noise and chaos. The music, from Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood is jarring, jangling, eerie, utterly nerve-shredding and completely amazing, suiting the tone of the film perfectly, and contributing to that constant sense of unease.

Whilst it is easy to connect, although not empathise, with the central character, the story does feel somewhat distant at times. Perhaps this is intentional and somehow represents that emotional disconnect the character feels from the atrocities he is committing, but it does make it a difficult watch in places.

That being said, ‘You Were Never Really Here’ is truly “edge of your seat” stuff, and whilst the comparisons with ‘Taxi Driver’ kind of write themselves, it is still amazing on its own merit. Joaquin Phoenix gives an electric, and possibly career-best performance as the troubled hitman, and only time will tell if this will be the year he receives a much-deserved nomination, or the year he is once again shamefully overlooked. Awards aside however, this is one of the most genuinely thrilling films in a long time, and one which packs a mean punch into a relatively short space. An explosive, and unmissable film.

Sarah’s Rating: 8.8 out of 10