Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Imitation Game (2014)

imitation game
Images is property of Black Bear Pictures, FilmNation Entertainment Bristol Automotive, StudioCanal and The Weinstein Company

The Imitation Game – Film Review 

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Mark Strong, Matthew Goode, Allan Leech, Rory Kinnear, Charles Dance,

Director: Morten Tyldum

Synopsis:  An account of how mathematician Alan Turing and a team of analysts helped to crack the Enigma code to help the Allies in their efforts to win the Second World War.

Review: When images of World War II come to mind, you tend to think of aspects such as the air raids or the Normandy landings, and the heroes are those who took part in those Normandy raids. Yet the the breaking of the German enigma code was a vital part of the war effort that almost flew under the radar of history and behind this incredible feat lies the story of one particular war hero. A torn and brave man whose story is one that is not widely known among the general public, but a very important one that needs to be known by everyone, for the work he accomplished and for the gross injustice he suffered in the years following the war, this is the life of Alan Mathison Turing.

The film documents the vast majority of Alan Turing’s life, from his school years which included suffering from bullies, discovering cryptography and of course his vital work in the Second World War playing a key role in the breaking of the enigma code, through to his persecution as a homosexual, due to the fact it was a criminal offence at the time.  A script that was on 2011’s Black List, and sold for a seven figure sum, a poignant and hard hitting story about a true war hero has been wonderfully brought to life thanks to the brilliant screenplay by Graham Moore and the wonderful direction of Norwegian director Morten Tyldum. He captures the period of late 1930s early 1940s England perfectly.

In a role that has landed him his first Oscar nomination, Benedict Cumberbatch is on stellar form as Alan Turing. Interestingly Leo Di Caprio was intended to play Turing, but it arrived on the busy shoulders of Cumberbatch, and although Di Caprio would have been an interesting choice, Cumberbatch was perfect in this role. The man, the genius, the outcast who was hated by his colleagues and superiors initially for his stubbornness and refusal to co-operate with his co-workers. Yet through all this his brilliance and incredible intelligence shone through. In equally outstanding form is Keira Knightley playing fellow code breaker Joan Clarke. The chemistry between her and Cumberbatch is wonderful. The rest of the cast also are outstanding, Matthew Goode as fellow code breaker Hugh Alexander and Charles Dance, channelling his inner Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones, are the key stand out performances in an excellently acted movie.

With a movie set in the heart of the Second World War, not a single shot is fired, yet the film packs riveting  scenes, that can get you off your seat as easily as an intense action scene, with some heartbreaking moments on top of that. The cracking of enigma was a major factor in the success of the Allies, and although the part the Polish played in the breaking of enigma is glossed over, the story triumphantly delivers . It is horrific to watch as we see Turing go through what he does after the war is over and what the brutal treatment of people, like Turing who were homosexual endured. It was something people incredulously at the time believed to be a curable condition and also was a crime on top of that.

The story does do a Tarantino and jumps back in time to his days as a schoolboy and back to his days at Bletchley and forward to his persecution, yet it all flows superbly and comes to a head incredibly well with an emotional punch with a heartbreaking closing scene. The work that Turing did was vital not only to the success of the Allies but for the future as through his work he is widely believed to be the father of computer science. An achievement like that cannot be ignored, and this film honours Turing in the best way possible.

Wonderfully acted, brilliant dialogue, directed beautifully with a gripping story that everyone the world over should know about, this is a film that gives one of Britain’s true war heroes the credit he strongly deserves. 

a

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014)

Mockingjay
Image rights belong to Lionsgate and Color Force

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – Film Review 

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Jeffrey Wright, Natalie Dormer, Sam Claflin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Willow Shields.

Director: Francis Lawrence

Synopsis:  Following her rescue from the Hunger Games arena, Katniss finds herself in the unknown District 13, where she has to decide if she wants to take a stand against the Capitol, and become the Mockingjay and the symbol of hope…

Review: One inevitable fact of life is that when movies adapted from a series of books are adapted for the big screen, the last book is going to be split up into two movies. Harry Potter and Twilight did it, and Divergent will also follow suit. While it may be hard to look at this decision as anything more than a money related one, if the movies themselves deliver enough content to leave the viewer satisfied, then all is right with the world. With this first part, it feels like an elongated starter before we reach the excitement of the main course.

With Katniss being rescued from the 75th Hunger Games and arriving in the unknown District 13,  the initial focus is on her dealing with the events of the last movie. Her home has been destroyed, her best friend captured, and having to decide whether or not to become the Mockingjay, the leader who will take down the evil Capitol and the cold President Snow (no pun intended.) The film focuses on her psychological struggles, dealing with everything she’s been through and at the same time see the two sides using propaganda to try and rally people to their cause with her being the key piece in the puzzle for the rebellion. The propaganda does provide some compelling viewing with a particularly emotive and powerful scene at a lake, but there is a desire to get to the action scenes that you know are brewing.

The film is not devoid of action, and there are some great scenes to get the heart pumping, but they are over before they have had a chance to really get going. The main focus of the film is on the propaganda and the political speeches and in that we get a new angle on the story that we have not seen before. The Games themselves are now old news,  the brewing war between the Capitol and the Districts is the bigger picture of the story, and those who have read the books know what is coming. This part could have very easily fallen flat due to the surplus in action but it is held up by the scheming and the propaganda which is riveting to see. On top of this, it provides a beautiful piece of cinema with a song performed by Katniss herself, which is a nice companion piece to the film’s excellent soundtrack.

Jennifer Lawrence, is once again the driving force of the film. The Oscar winner shows the horrible Katniss struggles and her determination to save her family in the face of sheer horror and desolation make for some gripping moments. The audience has grown with her over these last two movies and she’s the one you really care about. With the majority of the rest of the characters, there is not the same level of connection and in that some of the characters do feel expendable. The one new character that stands out is Julianne Moore as President Alma Coin. As the charismatic leader of District 13, it is her task to rally the rebels and prepare for war, and she does this with great aplomb.  Of course the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman remains on form as former Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee, as he did throughout his illustrious career. The acting on the whole remains solid from everyone else, but with all the build up and the political subtext we have, there is just not enough action to leave the viewer satisfied.

A step down from the highs of Catching Fire but there is enough in this instalment of this popular franchise to keep your attention. With Lawrence remaining as solid as ever in her role as Katniss, the odds are definitely in our favour for an action packed conclusion to this franchise.

b

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

dotpoa
Image is property of Chernin Entertainment, TSG Entertainment and 20th Century Fox

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Film Review 

Cast:  Jason Clarke, Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman,  Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell
Kodi Smit-McPhee

Directors: Matt Reeves

Synopsis:  Ten years after the events of the first film as humanity has been devastated by the virus. The colony of Apes, led by Caesar are prospering . However when  a last batch of surviving humans resurface, tension resurfaces and it is poised to erupt into a war  to establish control over the planet.

Review: Sequels, seemingly an ever present in the world of Hollywood and film making.  Sometimes, they come along and disappoint, failing to top its predecessor, or nothing more than a cash grab. Yet when a sequel takes the first film and tops it, in many ways, it is something to be admired. 2014 showed itself to be the year of remarkable sequels.  With the Matt Reeves directed Dawn, a sequel to 2011’s Rise, we continue that great sequel trend with a beautifully directed and riveting story that will ensure that the Planet of The Apes franchise is not going anywhere any time soon.

With humanity obliterated in the wake of the Simian virus that was unleashed at the end of Rise, Caesar, once again brilliantly motion captured by Andy Serkis, and his crew of apes have their spot where they live. With a whole community established, it is enthralling to watch the apes interact with each other. They have their own language and their population is thriving. There are no humans about (or so they think) and all is right in the ape world. They live, and they prosper. This is, until a group of humans come along looking for something to help their population return to normality. Instantaneously,  conflict threatens to break out once more between the two factions amid uneasy truces. Distrust is brewing in the ranks of both camps and it threatens to completely boil over into all out war as there are those on both sides who simply do not trust the other. In some cases, these reasons are clear and in others, they are not.

Through the marvel of motion capture realised by WETA Digital, it is Andy Serkis in the role of Caesar who completely steals the show once again. His performance is incredible to watch, it is almost as if it is not brilliant computer generated imagery and is actually a real life ape communicating with the humans. He is the glue that binds the ape community together and he is the star of the show. The motion capture technology looks astoundingly for all of the ape community, with different actors playing different apes, the different personalities of all of the apes shine through. Yet Caesar’s not the only ape who takes the limelight, the more hostile angry Koba, portrayed by Toby Kebbell is an ape on a mission, to eradicate humanity. He is vicious and angry, and is determined to gain the revenge on the humans.  The computer generated imagery is flawless and it is a strong contender to scoop some awards for its breathtaking visuals in this year’s awards season. With great apes also come some interesting human characters, namely Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) also come into conflict about what to do with the Apes. One wants peace, the other wants war, and it threatens to boil over at any given moment.

The action in this film is taken up a notch from the first movie, with some enthralling battle scenes. 2014 offered some sweet action scenes but some of the battles in this sequel are some of the stand out moments of cinema in 2014. As the title poster illustrates, apes on horses is a sample of this brilliance. Under Matt Reeves’ masterful direction, Dawn provides a compelling and somewhat moving story about a fight to survive, mixed with compassion and a desire for both species to co-exist, whilst some factions of both communities strive for supremacy over the other. With a third film in the works, once again directed by Reeves and scheduled to be released in 2017, more Apes goodness will be on the way.

With incredible visuals, interesting human characters and even more interesting apes, combined with a really well told and interesting story, this is arguably the best entry of the revitalised Apes franchise, and with Reeves returning for a third outing, the stage is set for something special. 

a