12 Strong

Year: 2018
Directed by: Nicolai Fuglsig
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, William Fichtner, Rob Riggle

Written by Tom Sheffield

If you’ve read some of my reviews on here before, you’ll know I’m a sucker for films based on true events, such as ‘Deepwater Horizon‘, ‘The Founder‘, and ‘Jackie‘ to name just a few I’ve written about for JUMPCUT. So with ’12 Strong’ riding into cinemas recently I thought I’d add another under my belt!

Following the devastating 9/11 terror attacks, a highly trained team comprising of CIA paramilitary offices and US forces, ‘Operational Detachment Alpha 595’ (ODA 595) flew out to Afghanistan to begin a secret and highly dangerous mission to fight back against Taliban forces. Once there, the task force must work alongside General Abdul Rashid Dostum of the Northern Alliance to push the Taliban out of Mazar-e-Sharif for good.

Hemsworth takes the lead as Captain Mitch Nelson, who was just about to start a role working behind the desk in an office rather than on the front lines before the terror attacks. It goes without saying that Michael Shannon gives another strong performance, despite his character getting less screen time than probably deserved. Michael Peña, Trevante Rhodes, Thad Luckinbill, and the rest of the squad also deliver believable and fantastic performances, often resorting to humour and wise cracks to lighten tense and serious situations, however these don’t feels shoehorned in and are delivered like genuine banter amongst brothers in arms. William Fichtner only appears briefly in a handful of scenes as Colonel Mulholland, but he certainly makes an impression as he sports a shiny bald head (which I found very distracting!).

Fuglsig may not be a director you recognise the name of, but there’s a very high chance you’ve seen some of his previous work, which has mostly been commercials. One that might ring a bell is for Sony Bravia in which 250,000 colourful bouncing balls were let loose on the largest hill in San Francisco. It would seem producer Jerry Bruckheimer took a risk offering the director’s chair to Fuglsig, given his lack of experience on feature films, but all in all I think he did a reasonably good job on such a demanding film. The direction is good and it has a familiar feel to war films we’ve seen before, which is by no means a bad thing.

Lorne Balfe provides the accompanying score for the film and does an incredible job of keeping you in the moment. There are some truly heart racing scenes in amongst some slower, and quite frankly boring, moments but Balfe’s score fits in so perfectly to whatever is going on that it keeps you engaged. Another winner from Balfe!

’12 Strong’ has got a lot of heart and, from what I’ve read, doesn’t steer too far from the truth for dramatic effect, unlike other films based on true events, and it’s the solid cast at the forefront of this film that really make it what it is. It’s a real slow burner that never really has it’s BIG moment, but it does well to deliver edge-of-your-seat tension. The big, slow build up to the third act is definitely worth it as we witness the events that lead to the mission’s conclusion. I highly recommend seeking this out at the cinema if it sounds like your kind of film.

Tom’s Rating: 6.5/10

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Chris Hemsworth Rides Into War In The First Trailer For ’12 Strong’

“The film the story of the first Special Forces team deployed to Afghanistan after 9/11; under the leadership of a new captain, the team must work with an Afghani warlord to take down the Taliban.”

Directed by: Nicolai Fuglsig
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, Elsa Pataky, Taylor Sheridan
Release Date: 26th January 2017

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The Shape of Water

Year: 2018
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, Doug Jones

Written by Sarah Buddery

It is hard to believe that over 11 years have passed since arguably Guillermo del Toro’s finest work, ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. Considered by many as his magnum opus, his films have been varying in quality since, although never not magnificent to look at. Supposedly the only film the visionary director has been 100% happy with, ‘The Shape of Water’ is possibly the only other del Toro film to rival the masterpiece status of ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, and that is not something which should be said lightly.

Back in familiar territory of dark, gothic fairy tales, ‘The Shape of Water’ is an absolute masterstroke, full of fantasy, wonder, gorgeous visuals, and a subtle nod in the direction of influential old Hollywood movies. This does put it into the category of films the Academy will unquestionably fawn over, but it is impossible not to fall in love with this film. ‘Pan’s’ was beautiful and twisted tragedy, whereas ‘The Shape of Water’ is beautiful and twisted romance, and it is completely stunning.

Eliza Esposito (Sally Hawkins) plays a mute woman, obsessed with routine, she works nights at a government facility. Whilst she has strong friendships with her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer), and her neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins), her disability prevents her from forging meaningful connections with the people she comes into contact with. That is until she happens across an amphibious creature which is being held at the facility she works at for testing. Somehow able to develop an unexplainable bond to this creature, they connect through basic communication and a mutual understanding.

To spoil much more of the story than mentioned above would be a crime, and this is one of those films which is good to go into as blind as possible; although its festival buzz may be hard to silence! The relationship between Eliza and the creature goes to wonderful and incredibly unexpected places, and despite being fantastical in nature, it never feels anything less than completely and utterly genuine. To watch this relationship develop is simply mesmerising, and Sally Hawkins gives a performance which is breathtaking. To be able to communicate so passionately and with the range that she does, without words, is a monumental achievement, and if you were yet to make your mind up about Best Actress Oscar prospects, it might just be worth putting some money on Hawkins right now.

The supporting cast, particularly Octavia Spencer and Michael Shannon, are also perfectly matched to their characters. Spencer provides some welcome light relief, and fresh from her acclaimed supporting role in ‘Hidden Figures’, she continues to be a dependable and consistently watchable actress. Whilst normally the best thing about any film he is in, Michael Shannon does play second fiddle to Hawkins’ incredible lead performance, but he excels at playing the genuinely menacing and detestable villain. He’s not quite up there with the abhorrent Captain Vidal from ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ – few people are – but he is on fine form and gives an incredibly memorable performance.

Whilst on the whole it is a thing of beauty, it equally never shies away from some truly horrifying moments, and there’s a couple of genuinely shocking, gory scenes, just in case you’d forgotten you were watching a del Toro film! Initially this may not seem in keeping with the rest of the film, but it works so perfectly, and gives it an edge which helps it to truly stand out.

Put simply, ‘The Shape of Water’ is utterly magical in every sense of the word, and “more” than what you could wish for in all conceivable ways. It is more than a love story, more than a fantasy, more than a story, and more than a film; it is a transcendental masterpiece, and one which words can hardly do justice. With incredible performances, absolutely stunning visuals (special nod to the underwater scenes which are totally breathtaking), masterful direction, and a unique and memorable story, ‘The Shape of Water’ deserves to be looked back on with the same fondness and reverence that ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ is. A modern masterpiece, and a truly spectacular film.

Sarah’s Rating: 10/10

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Golden Globes 2016 Nominees Announced

The Oscars may be the biggest awards event of the year (after the JumpCut UK Film Awards of course), but The Golden Globes are pretty big too, and can often be used as an indicator of what films might be successful with The Academy. Earlier this week, the nominations for the 73rd Golden Globe Awards were announced, with Todd Haynes’ ‘Carol’ leading the way. You can see all the nominations here, and my attempts to predict the winners.

Best Motion Picture (drama): Carol, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight
Prediction: Carol

Best Motion Picture (comedy/musical): The Big Short, Joy, The Martian, Spy, Trainwreck
Prediction: The Martian

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (drama): Cate Blanchett (Carol), Brie Larson (Room), Rooney Mara (Carol), Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn), Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)
Prediction: Brie Larson

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (drama): Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl), Will Smith (Concussion)
Prediction: Leonardo DiCapro

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (comedy/musical): Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Melissa McCarthy (Spy), Amy Schumer (Trainwreck), Maggie Smith (Lady In The Van), Lily Tomlin (Grandma)
Prediction: Jennifer Lawrence

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (comedy/musical): Christian Bale (The Big Short), Mark Ruffalo (Infinitely Polar Bear), Steve Carell (The Big Short), Matt Damon (The Martian), Al Pacino (Danny Collins)
Prediction: Matt Damon

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture: Jane Fonda (Youth), Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Helen Mirren (Trumbo), Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)
Prediction: Alicia Vikander

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture: Sylvester Stallone (Creed), Idris Elba (Beasts Of No Nation), Paul Dano (Love & Mercy), Mark Rylance (Bridge Of Spies), Michael Shannon (99 Homes)
Prediction: Michael Shannon

Best Director: Todd Haynes (Carol), Alejandro G. Inarritu (The Revenant), George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), Ridley Scott (The Martian), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)
Prediction: Todd Haynes

Best Screenplay: Emma Donoghue (Room), Tom McCarthy/Josh Singer (Spotlight), Aaron Sorkin (Steve Jobs), Charles Randolph/Adam McKay (The Big Short), Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight)
Prediction: Aaron Sorkin

Best Animated Feature Film: Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur, Anomalisa, Shaun The Sheep Movie, The Peanuts Movie
Prediction: Anomalisa

Best Foreign Language Film: The Club, The Fencer, Mustang, The Brand New Testament, Son Of Saul
Prediction: Son Of Saul

Best Original Score: Carol, The Revenant, Steve Jobs, The Danish Girl, The Hateful Eight
Prediction: The Revenant

What are your thoughts on the nominations and my predictions? Let us know who you think the big winners will be at The Golden Globes in 2016. You don’t have to wait long to find out where the awards end up, with the ceremony taking place on January 10th 2016.

Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes

Watch This Space: September 21 – 27

Welcome to your weekly go-to film guide – WatchThisSpace – where we recommend what to watch in the cinema and on the television, and remind you of those brilliant films hiding in your DVD collection.

IN THE CINEMA

It’s not a great week for cinematic releases, with the highlight likely to be Dane DeHaan and Robert Pattinson starring in the latest biopic to hit our screens, ‘Life’. James Dean is the subject of this movie, as we experience a couple of weeks of the famous actor’s life through the eyes of a photographer. Is DeHaan up to the job of playing one of history’s most iconic actors? We think there is enough potential here to warrant a trip to the cinema to find out.

Alternatively, Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon clash in ’99 Homes’, which quite frankly, looks and sounds pretty dull. We could be wrong, but it’s unlikely that Garfield being evicted from his home, then working for the realtor who forced him out (Shannon), will provide much more than mediocre drama. You’d be better off catching one of last week’s releases, ‘Everest’, which we can guarantee will blow you away.

ON THE TV

Monday 21:00 GMT: Michael Fassbender has certainly made a name for himself as one of the best actors working today. So, before he takes to the throne in ‘MacBeth’, or the phone in ‘Steve Jobs’, why not catch ‘300’ on ITV2, which was actually Fassbender’s first role in a feature-length cinema release. At the same time tonight, you could go for the 90s sci-fi thriller ‘Twelve Monkeys’, starring Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis, on Syfy.

Wednesday 23:05 GMT: We all know that Denzel Washington is a talented actor, and now he’s a talented producer, with his latest project ‘Shame’ having been added to the 2015 UrbanWorld Film Festival. However if you are more interested in simply watching him kick some ass, ‘Man On Fire’ is the film for you. See Washington at his best on Film4, satisfying the needs of all the action junkies out there.

Thursday 21:00 GMT: Winning just one Academy Award is no mean feat, but Clint Eastwood and ‘Million Dollar Baby’ managed to scoop all FOUR major awards in 2005. If that doesn’t stir you to switch to Sky Atlantic and enjoy this boxing drama, I don’t know what will.

Friday 21:00 GMT: Sticking with the ferocious female lead, see Saoirse Ronan make her big screen break in the action-packed ‘Hanna’ on E4. Like a young, female version of Jason Bourne, the titular anti-hero is one with a mysterious and intriguing backstory, and a long line of assassins waiting to hunt her down. If this doesn’t take your fancy, you can always head to ITV2 for the ultimate classic, ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, also at 21:00 GMT.

Sunday 17:05 GMT: What kind of people would we be if we didn’t offer something for the kids too? You know what, we don’t even need an answer, because we’ve got the little ones covered too. Hop on board ‘The Polar Express’ with ITV2, a beautifully animated film featuring the vocal talents of Tom Hanks.

DIG IT OUT

This is our favourite part of the WatchThisSpace section. We delve into our own DVD collection and pick out some amazing films, that may not instantly spring to mind when you’re stuck for inspiration to make your movie night a success. Maybe you’ve never seen a film that we pick – or even heard of them for that matter – but you’re gonna have to trust us on this one, and Dig It Out.

The Jungle Book: Disney really are going all out with their upcoming movie slate, and last week we were enthralled by the first trailer for Jon Favreau’s live-action reimagining of ‘The Jungle Book’. This was my favourite film as a child, so I am beyond excited for next year’s star-studded attempt. But, I cannot imagine anything improving the 1967 classic, so I say “forget about your worries and your strife” and settle down for some nostalgic, animated fun.

Saving Mr. Banks: In the same vein, Disney also announced plans to start work on a ‘Mary Poppins’ reboot/sequel, so what better time than now to dig out this 2013 effort. Emma Thompson wonderfully portrays P.L. Travers, the author and creator of the iconic nanny, whilst Tom Hanks features as Walt Disney himself. ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ is a delightful film that we think you will enjoy, and watching this film might even enlighten you as to what Travers herself would think about this recent news. 

Fruitvale Station: What a week it was for trailers huh? Rocky Balboa returns to our screens for ‘Creed’ in February of next year (Novemeber 2015 if you’re in the USA), where he becomes trainer to the son of his old friend and rival, Apollo Creed. Michael B Jordan will take to the ring for what is sure to be a hard-hitting performance, but did you know, Michael B Jordan and director, Ryan Coogler, have worked together before? Well, check out ‘Fruitvale Station’ for a hint of what the pair can do when they combine – a true story based on the tragic events leading to Oscar Grant III’s death on New Year’s Day, 2009.

Chronicle: So it’s no secret that Josh Trank’s ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot didn’t quite live up to expectations, with critics dedicating much of their summer to trashing the film.  However, I urge you not to discount Trank’s directing skills, as only a few years ago he directed this fantastic, sci-fi sleeper hit. This film takes a look at the results of three friends obtaining super powers after a strange discovery, showcasing just what Trank can do. If you needed more reason to dig it out, ‘Chronicle’ features star of this week’s ‘Life’, Dane DeHaan, in one of his best roles to date, and that man Michael B Jordan too.

This week’s WatchThisSpace was compiled by Jakob Lewis Barnes and special guest Hamish Calvert, of HCMovieReviews. Get more from HC by checking out his movie blog or his Twitter account.