Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

1917 (2019)

Image is property of Universal, DreamWorks and New Republic Pictures

1917 – Film Review

Cast: Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch

Director: Sam Mendes

Synopsis: In the height of the First World War, two young English soldiers face a race against time in order to prevent a British battalion walking into a deadly enemy trap…

Review: When it comes to war films, filmmakers so often choose World War II, and/or the plethora of amazing human stories that took place during this time period as inspiration. However, for Sam Mendes, his inspiration for telling a story set in the heart of the First World War, came from a much more personal connection. After being inspired by the tales told by his grandfather during his time as a soldier, Mendes chooses World War I as the backdrop for his second foray into war film-making. He takes us straight to the front line, to the year seen by many as the turning point in the Great War, for an exhilarating cinematic experience that you’re unlikely to forget in a hurry.

Two young English soldiers, Privates Blake (Charles-Chapman) and Schofield (MacKay) are given an extremely perilous mission by their commanding officer. Intel has been received that one of their battalions is about to walk into a deadly enemy trap that would annihilate the battalion, and Blake’s brother is among their ranks. Setting off on a seemingly impossible mission, these two young soldiers must venture behind enemy lines and deliver the message calling off the attack, in order to prevent the massacre of his brother’s battalion.

As the two soldiers whose journey is at the centre of this pulsating story, the performances of Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay are phenomenal. The entire film is focused on their journey, meaning that it is all resting on their shoulders and they rise to that challenge in extraordinary fashion. The screenplay by Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, keeps things focused with military like precision on the two soldiers and their mission, while simultaneously fleshing both of them out to be so much more than just the uniforms they are wearing. The plethora of British acting talent that pop up throughout are welcome presences, but ultimately they are nothing more than extended cameos to drive the plot forward.

With the flawless acting in front of the camera, the work done behind the camera is equally sublime. In the build up to the film’s release, there was considerable promotion of the one shot method that Sam Mendes utilises to tell this story. While this could be a seen as a gimmick, its use here is tremendously effective to fully immerse the audience in this setting, which is likely to be in no small part down to Roger Deakins.  After finally grabbing that long overdue Oscar, Deakins continues to be at the peak of his powers as a cinematographer. While Blade Runner 2049 showed him at his visual best, the work that he does in making the continuous tracking shot to be such an effective method of story-telling for this mission proves once again that in terms of cinematographers working today, he is almost second to none.

By all accounts, life in the trenches during WW1 was horrendous. and the work of the production design team to recreate these horrors are jaw-dropping. The sheer amount of meticulous details that are present in these sets is completely astounding, it only helps to add to the increasing suspense of the unfolding mission. Likewise for the sound teams, with every bullet fired and every time a plane flies overhead, you feel every moment of it, capturing the brutality of war with frightening realism. It makes you feel like you’re on that front-line with these men, every step of the way.

After a staggering fourteen Oscar nominations and no win to his name, this has to be the time for Thomas Newman to break his Oscar hoodoo, as his accompanying score is truly breath-taking and befitting of the emotional journey that is being depicted on screen. Mendes and every single member of his crew have pulled off an astonishing, remarkable cinematic triumph. Above all, thank you to Alfred Mendes for telling your stories, that will now live on forever.

From the powerfully emotional performances of its leading men, to the technical mastery behind the camera, 1917 is simply put, one of the finest war films that has ever been put to screen.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox and Marv

Kingsman: The Golden Circle – Film Review

Cast: Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Sophie Cookson, Pedro Pascal

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Synopsis:  After their organisation comes under attack, The Kingsman seek the help of their US Counterparts, the Statesman, to help them save the world…

Review: It is always nice when a film knows exactly what the audience wants and doesn’t take itself too seriously. In addition, when said film knew that it was a ridiculously over the top, almost parody of the the spy films that it obviously drew inspiration from, and plays that to its advantage to deliver an absurd amount of entertainment, and laughs, that’s always a most welcome outcome, and this is precisely what Kingsman: The Secret Service was. Therefore, a sequel to this surprise hit was almost inevitable, and Vaughn despite perhaps some initial hesitation, eventually came back to the director’s chair.

The first film was, for the most part British-centric, and more specifically on the Kingsman and the recruitment of young Eggsy into this elite spy organisation. The plot now goes a bit more global, well across the Pond to be exact. With the Kingsman on their knees following a vicious attack, a clue leads them to their US based allies, the Statesman. Their research leads them to something that is known as the “Golden Circle” and with the Kingsman and Statesman now side by side, they must band together to help save the world because as you would expect, as there’s always some dastardly villain looking to wreak world havoc.

Eggsy’s development from deadbeat chav, to a sophisticated gentleman spy was a central theme of what The Secret Service was all about. All the while saving the world with mentor Harry Hart (Firth) by his side. Though Harry initially seems to have suffered a grim demise, but with a presence that is hard to miss if you have seen any promotional material, it indicates that Harry did not meet said demise. Their character development was a key arc of the first movie, but there is much less focus on that arc, and indeed character development as a whole, which can be frustrating to say the least.

“We are the three amigos…”

Instead Vaughn and Goldman zone in on the action stakes, turning up the volume to maximum. If his past work is anything to go by, Vaughn is certainly a director who knows how to helm jaw dropping action scenes,  the church scene from the first film certainly stands out. They’re very fast paced and exhilarating, although sometimes they way they are cut together, with very fast, quick cut editing can make them a bit jarring to watch. The plot is again a bit far fetched to say the least, even more so than the last film, but the movie knows that this is part of its charm, and it uses that to its advantage.

Taron Egerton remains on great form as Eggsy and he is ably supported by the familiar faces of Merlin and Roxy, whilst continuing a relationship with his royal girlfriend. The main bunch of new recruits comes in the shape of the Statesman cast, with Bridges giving Rooster Cogburn a 21st century makeover in the form of Statesman top dog Champ. Tequila and Ginger Ale (Tatum and Berry) are welcome additions but both feel somewhat underutilised. Meanwhile Pedro Pascal as Whiskey is perhaps the most interesting of the new bunch, honing his Oberyn Martell-esque fighting skills to great effect, and while she does have some time to shine, Julianne Moore as the antagonist would have benefited from a bit more screen time.

Though it doesn’t get too bloated, the film does feel perhaps a tad too long, perhaps because Vaughn does cram so much into this new adventure. but there’s more than enough good material here for audiences to enjoy. Like last time, the movie remains very self-aware, it knows it is a bat shit crazy experience with spies, espionage, gadgets, action and VERY adult humour. And that’s just what you signed up for, suited and booted and all.

There’s not a great deal of character development to be found, but like its predecessor, The Golden Circle delivers those insane and thrilling action set pieces and adult humour that make it such a blast to watch.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Kingsman- The Secret Service (2015)

Kingsman
Image rights belong to Marv Films, Cloudy Productions, Shangri-La Entertainment, TSG Entertainment and 20th Century Fox

Kingsman: The Secret Service – Film Review

Cast: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Michael Caine, Mark Strong, Samuel L Jackson, Sophie Cookson, Sofia Boutella

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Synopsis:  A young man, down on his luck, is given the chance to turn his life around, and to apply for a unique organisation called the Kingsmen.

Review: When you think of the spy movie genre, the likes of a sophisticated gentleman sipping a Vodka Martini whilst dressed in a sharp looking tuxedo may come to mind. Over the years, the James Bond franchise has dominated the spy genre, and this film recognises that. Yet it is not a rip off, not at all, it is director Matthew Vaughn’s love letter to the genre. It’s not quite From Russia with Love, more like From Vaughn with Love. The class and sophistication that is reminiscent of 007 is most certainly present, but Kingsman comes along, and ups the fun ante by a considerable amount.

The focus of this story is Eggsy (Taron Egerton). Immediately it is apparent that this is a guy who is seemingly on the road to nowhere, almost destined for prison. This is until a gentleman in the shape of Harry Hart (Colin Firth) comes in. An opportunity has arisen to apply to become one of the Kingsman, a very unique organisation. All the while, as with almost all spy movies, there is a crazy villainous dude (Samuel L Jackson) who has some rather disturbing plans to bring about the end of the world via a device that many of us find ourselves glued to these days. Thus we descend into familiar territory, gadgets, crazy fights, and just some good fun entertainment, that is definitely worth the price of an admission ticket, and then some. The fun is here, and so is the vulgarity and the violence that would make Quentin Tarantino very proud indeed.

As in 2010 with Chloe Grace Moretz, Matthew Vaughn has unearthed another gem of a young, talented actor in Taron Egerton. His character transformation from young troubled kid living in a rather sorry looking estate to a sophisticated gentleman is a joy to watch. There providing his support is an electric Colin Firth, who is definitely having the most fun he’s had in quite some time. Here is a gentleman who will sip a beer and then smash you over the face with the glass! Together their chemistry is enthralling to watch. You really witness that Harry sees something of a kindred spirit in Eggsy. While his character’s lisp is a little bit annoying at times, Samuel L Jackson also brings his A game to his villainous role, and like Firth, he definitely looks as though he’s having an absolute blast. Accompanying him is a lethal femme fatale in Gazelle, who is armed with some dangerous blades on her feet in a throwback to old school Bond villains.

To some this may feel like a James Bond rip off, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. There is no denying that James Bond has a big influence, what with all the references that are littered throughout, but this is definitely a Matthew Vaughn picture. The action is handled extremely well with exhilarating scenes aplenty. Although some scenes may unsettle some as they venture into the Tarantino scale of madness. There are also times when it is seemingly apparent that there is a stunt double in action. However, the sharp, funny screenplay by Vaughn and Jane Goldman packs plenty of emotion in there as well. The villainous plot is a little bit ridiculous and implausible, but you leave your brain at home here, you are here to be entertained, and Vaughn and co bring that in abundance, shaken and stirred to the best degree possible. Fasten your seatbelts, cos you’re in for a blast, innit bruv!

Enormously entertaining with plenty of wit, humour, vulgarity and some terrific action scenes, the gauntlet has been well and truly thrown down to Daniel Craig and co with this year’s Spectre. 

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