REVIEW: Hunter Killer

Year: 2018
Directed by: Donovan Marsh
Starring: Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Common, Michael Nyqvist, Toby Stephens

Written by Chris Gelderd

This 2018 American action thriller, based on the 2012 novel ‘Firing Point’ by Don Keith and George Wallace, is directed by Donovan Marsh and stars Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Michael Nyqvist, Common and Toby Stephens.

As friction boils between American and Russian military forces, Russian President Zakarin (Alexander Diachenko) is captured by his Defence Minister Dmitri Durov (Mikhail Gorevoy). A military coup is staged.

Learning of the coup, US Admiral Donnegan (Oldman) tasks a team of Navy SEALS led by Lt Bill Beaman (Stephens) to infiltrate Russian soil and rescue the President before they instigate World War III and attack America to show their military might.

Commander Joe Glass (Butler) commands ‘Hunter Killer’ class submarine USS Omaha and is to rendezvous with Beaman and extract the President. But Glass will have far greater dangers to contend with including Russian submarine commander Sergei Andropov (Nyqvist) who claims to be an ally, but can he be trusted…?

Pop quiz. Name five good submarine movies in 10 seconds. Go.

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Time’s up. What have we got? We have the stalwarts ‘The Hunt For Red October’, ‘Das Boot’ and ‘Crimson Tide’, right? Then possibly ‘U-571’ at a pinch, even though I said “good” movies. ‘K-19: The Widowmaker?’ Remember that?

Anything else? ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ or ‘X-Men: First Class’? Now you’re just clutching at straws. ‘Down Periscope’? I’ll accept that even though it’s total nonsense.

In a nutshell, it’s hard to do. The submarine genre is as dead as the western in mainstream cinema as it proves to be one of the most technically challenging and narrative dependant genres out there. You have the confines of a submarine no wider in places than a grown adult, and action based in a hulking great steel and iron vessel under water. It’s dark, it’s claustrophobic, it’s gritty, and to be fair it’s the best place to develop a really immersive, character-driven story. Yet nowadays, military thrillers are set above water for greater allowances for explosions, sweeping geographical action and mostly using stories based on the war on terror or armed force operations

But when we have Gerard Butler heading a new sub movie, you will have flashbacks of the loud, 2-D popcorn fests of ‘Olympus Has Fallen’, ‘300’ and even ‘Geostorm’. But wait, as much as we secretly all love the no-brainer action world of Butler, here he plays a pretty restrained and down to earth part. And he doesn’t even fire a gun. And still, the genre lets him down sadly.

As our captain, Butler has only one job to do – care and see over his submarine and his crew to get in, get the job done, and get out. He’ll do whatever it takes with his decorated military past as experience in navigating minefields, evading enemy subs or facing down those who have no faith in him. While the thought of what Butler could do in a submarine movie with a sub-machine gun, some grenades and outrageous stunts are exciting, director Donovan Marsh reins him in and allows him to do some good acting for a change based on character relations and a few great tense set-pieces.

The frantic calls around the ship as crew battle to prepare for diving out of range of torpedoes, or preparing to be hit, or making no noise at all to avoid sonic mines….it’s simple things, but all very humane things which capture you from the start. You can’t get distracted or bored, because the pressure and risk are so high at all times, your palms may even get a little sweaty and your breath will be baited before the all clear.

This is where the genre shines (it’s just a shame there’s not enough of it).

Cut between the submarine segments, we have top-billed Gary Oldman in about 10 minutes of edited screen time who heads up the political tension between America and Russia, barking orders about what to do and when to do it along with Common and Caroline Goodall as our US President. We also then have the Tom Clancy-esque Navy SEALS out in Russia led by a bearded, rugged Toby Stephens who talk tough, shoot often and deliver the oo-rah! might of America.

While this blend of genres may work on their own, together it proves a sloppy mix of story-telling, jumping from one to another just as you’re getting into something. While the cast is strong around Butler, Oldman, and Stephens in their segments, everything else just comes out a little generic and stitched together. I’d much prefer a stronger focus on Butler and the Hunter Killer itself, especially when the late great Michael Nyqvist arrives on the scene as a Russian sub captain holding a lot of aces up his sleeves in a “is he or isn’t’ he” a good guy. His screen time with Butler and the US crew only helps enhance the action they share.

When the finale arrives after the bullets fly and explosions ring out, I couldn’t help feeling a sense of ‘X-Men: First Class’ for some reason. I’ll leave that to you to discover, but it certainly goes on 20-minutes longer than it needs to, and sadly I was disengaged from the whole thing by then.

Submarine wise, technically, it’s brilliant. Wonderfully shot, edited and choreographed with satisfying SFX. It’s this I wanted to see more of without the need for bullets and bombs – just raw emotion mixed with doing your duty in the hardest environment possible where it feels the walls are closing in but the fate of the world and your colleagues rests on your decision.

Butler and the Hunter Killer didn’t disappoint and earn their star each. The rest of the film, however, sinks.

CHRIS’ VERDICT:

2

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The Headliners & Hidden Gems At The 62nd BFI London Film Festival

Yesterday saw the announcement of the full line-up of films for the 62nd BFI London Film Festival (LFF), and boy is there a ton to get your teeth stuck into! But this year we have even more reason to be excited as JUMPCUT will attending and covering the festival for the first time ever!

We’ll be covering a whole range of films screening at the festival, including some of the headliners and hidden gems! JUMPCUT’s LFF Queen Sarah has kindly picked out just some of the films she thinks you are going to want to keep your eye on!

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The Headliners

Widows
Directed by: Steve McQueen
Starring: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya

Why it is worth a watch: I mean that cast list alone is worth the admission price, but this female-fronted action thriller is also helmed by the man who brought us 12 Years a Slave, a film which previously enjoyed awards success. But the talent doesn’t end there, Widows is penned by Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn and Hans Zimmer provides the score. This is an action movie of the highest calibre and one that will be well worth your time and money.

Screening at LFF: 10th, 11th, 12th October
UK Wider Release Date: 6th November 2018

Stan & Ollie
Directed by: Jon S Baird
Starring: Steve Coogan, John C Reilly, Nina Arianda, Shirley Henderson, Danny Huston

Why it is worth a watch: An ode to cinema, entertainment, and with two leading actors known for their brilliance as physical comedians, Stan & Ollie seems like the perfect film to close out London Film Festival. Coogan and Reilly bring beloved comedians Stan Laurel and Ollie Hardy to life on the big screen, focusing on the twilight years of their career. This is set to be a real crowd-pleaser and the most fitting curtain call for the festival.

Screening at LFF: 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: 11th January 2019

The Favourite
Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz

Why it is worth a watch: A divisive filmmaker, but certainly one that gets people talking, Yorgos Lanthimos brings his third English-language film in four years to the London Film Festival. With stand-out performances from Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, The Favourite promises to be bizarre, bonkers, and brilliant!

Screening at LFF: 18th, 19th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: 1st January 2019

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Tim Blake Nelson, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan, Bill Heck

Why it is worth a watch: It’s the Coen Brothers! In all seriousness, the latest from the incomparable Coens promises to be wild (west) entertainment, hilarious, offbeat, and surprisingly melancholic. Dark humour and the trademark Coen brothers flair will be here in abundance

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Screening at LFF: 12th, 13th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: TBA

Beautiful Boy
Directed by: Felix Van Groeningen
Starring: Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan

Why it is worth a watch: Just try and get through the trailer to this one without crying. Sometimes you just need to let it all out, and this will be the film that gets audiences at LFF reaching for the tissues. Starring man-of-the-moment Timothee Chalamet, hot off the heels of last year’s Call Me By Your Name, and Steve Carell in what is set to be another great dramatic role for him, Beautiful Boy will be the one to watch for those early Best Actor hints…

Screening at LFF: 13th, 14th, 16th October
UK Wider Release Date: 18th January 2019

Suspiria
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Jessica Harper, Chloe Grace Moretz

Why it is worth a watch: Full disclaimer, I am a massive horror wuss and will therefore not be seeing this on the big screen, but it would be very remiss of me not to mention it here. There is no denying the trailer is stunning, and the hype levels amongst the JumpCut team have reached fever-pitch for this one. It won’t be for everyone but it’ll certainly be a talking point. And also it has Tilda Swinton in it; you can’t go wrong!

Screening at LFF: 16th, 17th, 19th October
UK Wider Release Date: 16th November 2019

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The Hidden Gems

Wild Rose
Directed by: Tom Harper
Starring: Jessie Buckley, Sophie Okonedo, Julie Walters

Why it is worth a watch: After impressing in Beast, Jessie Buckley stars in what is set to another impressive film. A Glaswegian single mum dreams of being a country singer, how hard could it be?! This is the sort of film that will make your heart soar, and with Julie Walters also appearing, it is hard not to draw comparisons with the underdog story of Billy Elliot. This film is already set to be one of the truly underrated gems of the festival.

Screening at LFF: 15th, 16th, 20th October
UK Wider Release Date: 8th February 2019

The Hate U Give
Directed by: George Tillman Jr
Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, KJ Apa, Common

Why it is worth a watch: Adapted from Angie Thomas’ ‘Black Lives Matter’-inspired Young Adult novel, this film certainly feels like an important one, and one which is sadly still so relevant. Focusing on the young lives affected by the tragic shootings of their peers, the BFI are also offering £5 tickets to see this one for 16 to 25 year olds. Even outside of this age range, this film has a lot to offer, promising to be a powerful and timely watch.

Screening at LFF: 20th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: 26th October 2018

Assassination Nation
Directed by: Sam Levinson
Starring: Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef, Abra, Bella Thorne

Why it is worth a watch: Don’t let the early trigger warnings put you off, this is a film that bears everything upfront and then unleashes all hell. Assassination Nation is the Salem witch trials meets the digital generation in this thoroughly modern cautionary tale, and one which is poised to join other teen cult classics such as Heathers and Spring Breakers. Subversive and utterly unique, this could be one of the surprise hits of the festival.

Screening at LFF: 19th, 20th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: 23rd November 2018

Burning
Directed by: Lee Chang-dong
Starring: Yoo Ah-in, Jeon Jong-seo, Steven Yeun

Why it is worth a watch: This film wowed audiences at Cannes, which is often the mark of a successful festival film! This lean slow-burning thriller promises to have you gripped right from the start, as well as exploring complex themes such as obsession, class-conflict and suppressed male rage. It will be unlikely to have a wide cinema release, so catch this one at the festival whilst you can!

Screening at LFF: 19th, 20th October
UK Wider Release Date: 1st February 2019

Mandy
Directed by: Panos Cosmatos
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache

Why it is worth a watch: Yes, Nicolas Cage. Stop reading now! Just kidding, this synopsis alone is enough to make you want to see it so we’re not even going to add to it: “In a mountain-cabin idyll, lumberjack Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) lives in perfect harmony with his great love Mandy (Andrea Riseborough). But the couple’s blissful utopia is cruelly shattered when a ragtag band of Satanic cultists invade their humble abode and claim Mandy for their own. Traumatised and distraught, Red is left with no option but to exact a bloody revenge.” (Michael Blyth, BFI)

Screening at LFF: 11, 12, 17th
UK Wider Release Date: 12th October 2018

Blaze
Directed by: Ethan Hawke
Starring: Ben Dickey, Alia Shawkat, Sam Rockwell

Why it is worth a watch: Ethan Hawke is having quite the year, and fresh from his acclaimed performance in First Reformed, his latest directorial offering his heading to LFF. This biopic about a little known musician is shot with affection and true passion that is hard to replicate, and quite frankly anything Ethan Hawke is passionate about, we love already!

Screening at LFF: 20th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: TBA

Gerard Butler Is Tasked With Rescuing The Russian President In New UK Trailer For ‘Hunter Killer’

“Deep under the Arctic Ocean, American submarine Captain Joe Glass is on the hunt for a U.S. sub in distress when he discovers a secret Russian coup is in the offing, threatening to dismantle the world order. With crew and country on the line, Captain Glass must now assemble an elite group of Navy SEALs to rescue the kidnapped Russian president and sneak through enemy waters to stop WWIII.”

Directed by: Donovan Marsh

Cast: Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Common, Linda Cardellini, Toby Stephens

Release Date: October 19th, 2018

Watch The Powerful First Trailer For ‘The Hate U Give’

“Starr Carter is constantly switching between two worlds: the poor, mostly black, neighborhood where she lives and the rich, mostly white, prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Now, facing pressures from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what’s right.”

Directed by: George Tillman, Jr.

Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, KJ Apa, Algee Smith, Lamar Johnson, Issa Rae, Sabrina Carpenter, Common, Anthony Mackie

Release Date: November 2nd, 2018

 

Keanu Reeves Is Back! Watch The New John Wick: Chapter 2 Trailer

John Wick is an ex-hitman who came out of retirement in the the first film to settle a few, very personal, scores. The film was an overall crowd pleaser, with it’s artful violence and heavy hitting action sequences. In 2017, John Wick returns and is once again brought out of retirement and he’s as trigger happy as ever, if the trailer is anything to go by! 

I loved the first film and cannot wait to watch Chapter 2. The trailer gives me a strong feeling that they really took on-board what people loved about the first one and they’ve tried to go bigger and better, rather than just a rinse and repeat job. 

The official synposis for ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ is: 

Keanu Reeves returns in the sequel to the 2014 hit as legendary hitman John Wick who is forced to back out of retirement by a former associate plotting to seize control of a shadowy international assassins’ guild. Bound by a blood oath to help him, John travels to Rome where he squares off against some of the world’s deadliest killers.

‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ fires into cinemas 17th February 2017

Written by Tom Sheffield

The Oscars 2015: Winners & Losers

What a night! What a long night! From this side of the pond, watching The Academy Awards live was hard work, but ultimately a satisfying and worthwhile experience. The 87th annual awards show was hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, but I have a feeling we may have witnessed his swansong appearance as the presenter of the show. Aside from a theatrical, energetic and rather funny opening gambit, Patrick Harris quickly sunk into an apparent depression, barely even cracking a smile (even at his own jokes).

On a positive note, we were treated to some truly great acceptance speeches, from Patricia Arquette’s rousing feminist speech, to Graham Moore’s emotionally charged display, culminating in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s modest show of gratitude. The highlight however, has to be John Legend and Common, with their powerful, moving rendition of their track ‘Glory’, which won the award for Best Song. The performance, swiftly followed by the award, drew tears and a standing ovation from the crowd, with the emotive connotations linking the song to the story of ‘Selma’ and Martin Luther King’s drive for racial equality.

All of the eight nominees in the Best Picture award managed to get their hands on at least one of the little, gold statuettes, but it was ‘Birdman’ who stole the show with wins in the major categories. ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ swept the board for design-oriented categories, whilst ‘Whiplash’ also enjoyed three victories. Richard Linklater will probably be the most disappointed, with many fans taking to social media to vent their anger and disbelief at The Academy’s oversight.

Here’s how the night unfolded:

Lupita Nyongo takes to the stage to present the award for Actor In A Supporting Role. This category was pretty much sewn up weeks ago, by J K Simmons for his role in ‘Whiplash’ and there were no surprises this time.

A quick-fire double for ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ as they check in with the awards for Achievement In Costume Design, and Achievement In Hair & Make-Up. A lot of people saying ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ should have took the latter.

Nicole Kidman and Chiwetel Ejiofor present the award for Best Foreign Language Film to Polish flick ‘Ida’. Director Pawel Pawlikowski ignores the get-off-the-stage-now music and completes his rather long acceptance speech.

The award for Best Live Action Short goes to ‘The Phone Call’ whilst Best Documentary Short is given to ‘Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1’. More of those long acceptance speeches.

Sienna Miller and Captain America present the awards in the sound category. Sound Mixing goes to team ‘Whiplash’ and Sound Editing to ‘American Sniper’. I feel Sienna Miller may have rigged the votes on that one.

Last year’s winner of the Supporting Actor award, Jared Leto takes to the stage, head to toe in baby blue, to present the award for Actress In A Supporting Role. Another relatively predictable win as Patricia Arquette takes home the award, for her role in ‘Boyhood.

The award for Achievements In Visual Effects goes to ‘Interstellar’, rightly so. Disney’s ‘Feast’ scoops the award for Animated Short, whilst a stunning Zoe Saldana and Dwayne Johnson AKA The Rock present the Oscar for Animated Feature Film to ‘Big Hero 6’.

‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ makes it a hattrick of wins, taking the award for Achievements In Production Design. Swooping down to grab the award for Cinematography, with a strong indication that more are to follow, ‘Birdman’.

A big win for ‘Whiplash’, taking the award for Achievement In Film Editing, is preceded by the ever-emotional In Memoriam montage. A pair snubbed by The Academy this year, Jennifer Aniston and David Oyelowo step up to present the award for Documentary Feature to ‘Citizen Four’. This is all soon forgotten as John Legend and Common raise the roof with their performance of ‘Glory’, which takes the award for Best Song soon after. Common poetically describes Selma Bridge, “this bridge was built with hope, welded with compassion and elevated with love for all human beings”. A truly powerful performance and speech which is worth watching.

The last of the relatively minor categories, the award for Best Original Score goes to, you guessed it, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’. Screenplay appreciation time, with ‘Birdman’ taking the award for Original Screenplay and ‘The Imitation Game’ writer, Graham Moore, recognised for his Adapted Screenplay.

Time for the big four. Richard Linklater took 12 years to create his epic ‘Boyhood’, but that counts for nothing apparently. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu steals the show again, taking the award for Best Director and claiming to be wearing Michael Keaton’s “tighty whiteys”.

No such surprises in the category of Best Actor In A Leading Role and Best Female In A Leading Role, with Eddie Redmayne and Julianne Moore picking up the awards we all knew they deserved. Last but by no means least, the big one, the award for Best Picture. Before the big night I had ‘Boyhood’ down to take this one, but as the night went on I think we all realised that it was, of course, going to be ‘Birdman’ and Inarritu who would scoop the number one prize.

Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes