Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review, London Film Festival 2019

Knives Out (2019)

Image is property of Lionsgate and Media Rights Capital

Knives Out – Film Review

Cast: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Christopher Plummer

Director: Rian Johnson

Synopsis: After a family patriarch dies in mysterious circumstances, a highly renowned private investigator is hired to lead the police inquiry…

Review: After making one of the most polarising blockbusters of all time in The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson would have been forgiven for taking a break from film-making, given the fierce, at times toxic, reaction that his Star Wars film generated. Yet, Johnson was having none of that and has wasted no time getting back into the game. After conceiving the idea of a murder mystery following the release of Looper, he takes obvious inspiration from the likes of Agatha Christie to give his own unique take on the “Whodunnit” genre, with extremely enthralling results.

As with all entertainment that centres on a murder mystery, it pays to know as little as possible about any plot details before diving head first into the madness. Therefore, vagueness is the name of the game from this point onwards. As he celebrates his 85th birthday party with his family, a family patriarch dies. Sensing something suspicious about the circumstances of the death, an official investigation is opened. As the tagline reads: “Hell, any of them could have done it.” As such, with everyone who attended the party a suspect, the detectives must interview the family members, and use those “little grey cells” in a bid to piece together the clues and to try and crack the case.

The most attractive group of suspects you’ll maybe ever see…

With such a stacked, A-list, ensemble cast, to give everyone their moment to shine would be extremely difficult. However, with a sharp and brilliantly witty script, Johnson does exactly that, and it enables him to get excellent performances out of everyone. Every member of this family is given fascinating, fleshed out back stories, which enables the audience to try and establish their potential motivations. Though, like all great murder mysteries, the audience is kept on their toes. Though, to go into too much detail about who gives the best performances is running the risk of getting into spoiler territory. With that in mind, let’s just say that, apart from Daniel Craig’s brilliant turn as the lead detective channelling his inner Poirot (if Poirot ever became a gruff Southern sleuth), the characters who wind up being at the centre of this investigation, are the best of a truly outstanding bunch.

There’s some ingenious subtext to the story that could have been a massive turn-off. However, it’s written so cleverly into the plot that makes it relevant and extremely entertaining. With every line of dialogue, Johnson’s passion for the genre comes across effortlessly, and he proves that he is a master of his craft. There’s also the distinct possibility that with some of the lines that these characters spit venomously at each other, that it’s Johnson’s subtle way of firing back, following the vitriol that was aimed in his direction following his Star Wars venture. For a film that centres on a murder investigation, it seems absurd that there’d be so many hilarious moments throughout. They are plentiful and they never feel out of place as the jokes keep the plot moving along at such a thrilling, kinetic pace. It ensures that not a single moment of the film’s run-time is wasted.

Bolstered by some immaculate, very colourful production design, this was the perfect film for Johnson to “bounce back” from the endless mire of the The Last Jedi backlash. It proves, if it were somehow ever in doubt that, Johnson’s mastery of the craft remains intact, and that he’s at the very top of his game as a writer and a director. Furthermore, it’s evident from every frame, that the cast are having a blast with this script, and there’s a good chance that this feeling will be reciprocal for the audience. It will make them want to grab their deerstalker hat and magnifying glass, and strive to  solve the riddle at the centre of this enthralling mystery.

A razor sharp, ingenious screenplay, backed by an impeccable ensemble cast ensures that Johnson’s modern update on the Whodunnit genre is an audacious, riveting spectacle. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Image is property of Warner Bros. Pictures, Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures and Scott Free Productions

Blade Runner 2049 – Film Review

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Ana De Armas, Sylvia Hoeks

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Synopsis: Set thirty years after the original Blade Runner, after uncovering a decades old secret, Blade Runner Officer K (Gosling) goes on the hunt for information, and his investigation leads him to a very familiar face…

Review: In terms of a challenging project for a director to get their hands on, being tasked with making a sequel to one of the most beloved science fiction films of all time, is surely right up there with the hardest.  Having garnered quite the cult following, in spite of decidedly mixed critical reactions upon release, Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic has built a legacy that has endured.

So in a time when Hollywood certainly likes making a sequel or two, one was perhaps almost inevitable. Though a sequel was for a long time in development, with Scott considering the possibility of directing, those plans were shelved. As such, the chance and indeed the enormous pressure of making this fell to Denis Villeneuve, and well simply put, it’s a challenge that he rose to in magnificent style delivering a superb blockbuster that combines tremendous style with emotional substance.

I see your true colours shining through…

Right from the off, Villeneuve, re-teaming with the great Roger Deakins following Prisoners and Sicario, they beautifully recreate that futuristic and visually mesmerising world that was so elegantly brought to life, but once more with those murky undertones. With superb production design this time being provided by Dennis Gassner, it’s all just a stunning visual treat to watch. Having shown his ability to dabble in mind-bending science fiction with his astonishing masterpiece Arrival, Villeneuve has once again shown he’s a formidable force to be reckoned with behind the camera. Oscar nominations are surely bound to follow, and hopefully this time, this will be the time that Deakins takes the statue, one can hope. But Oscar or not, Deakins has added another visual masterpiece to his glowing portfolio.

The great risk of making a sequel to something so beloved is that if you fail to live up to those lofty expectations, it could taint the original for some. However, the story crafted by original Blade Runner scribe Hampton Fancher along with Michael Green, delivers a deeply personal story that expands the world that was so elegantly brought to life in the original film. At the centre of the new story is Officer K who works as a Blade Runner, and stumbles upon a secret that opens up a can of worms. Much like its predecessor, the film is a slow burn in terms of pacing, it is not all out guns blazing action. Instead the film takes time with its story, which works to its advantage, whilst delivering those moments of intense action when it really needs to.

In a world where humanity and replicant are deeply intertwined, the lines between the two are almost non existent, and no one exemplifies this better than K. Gosling’s performance shows him in his much grittier, more melancholic mood in the same a similar manner to his performance in Drive. Charisma to boot (as well as a cool coat) he makes for a very compelling protagonist. For Harrison Ford meanwhile, after having made a triumphant return as Han Solo, he’s on masterful form once again as Deckard.

Ford is not here to just collect a pay cheque, as he delivers a performance that really packs the emotional punch making Deckard a relevant piece in this dystopian world of futuristic Los Angeles. Other new figures also include Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace and his associate Luv (Sylvia Hoeks). Leto might have copped a lot of flak following the much maligned Suicide Squad, but he is effective as the eccentric leader of a global corporation. Meanwhile, Hoeks’s Luv certainly makes her presence known.

The expectations were enormous. And with the pressure to deliver something to stand shoulder to shoulder with a film that has help to significantly define this genre, was equally gargantuan. Yet Villeneuve once again shows his remarkable credentials by delivering a sequel that beautifully pays homage to its predecessor, whilst at the same time, making things feel almost new and fresh. There will have been those who said that the original was untouchable, but we have seen things you people wouldn’t believe, and it is truly something to savour.

As visually mesmerising as its predecessor, and continuing the themes that are just as thought-provoking now as they were when the first film was released. A worthy sequel to one of the most significant films ever made.