Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Yesterday (2019)

Image is property of Working Title Films and Universal Pictures

Yesterday – Film Review

Cast:  Himesh Patel, Lily James, Kate McKinnon, Joel Fry

Director: Danny Boyle

Synopsis: Struggling musician Jack Malik (Patel)  finds that he’s the only person on Earth who remembers the Beatles. Sensing an opportunity, he makes an attempt to pass their songs in a bid to achieve worldwide stardom…

Review: It’s almost inconceivable to imagine a world in which one of the greatest bands of all time had never existed, indeed the thought of such a world alone is a horrifying one. Given that two musical related biopics about two hugely influential British musical icons have recently graced the big screen, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a Beatles biopic. Though that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, this film is unique in that it’s not that, though the iconic music that Messrs McCartney, Lennon, Harrison and Starr created is front and centre.

Jack Malik is a talented musician doing little gigs here and there, desperately looking for his big break. He’s on the brink of giving his music career up but after a freak accident on his way home, he soon discovers that he’s the only one in the world who remembers the Beatles and their wonderful music. With this knowledge, he tries his best to reconstruct the iconic songs of The Beatles discography, and passes them off as his own work. As the whole world discovers this great music, seemingly for the first time ever, his popularity goes through the roof and he becomes an overnight superstar.

Of course the music of a great band alone, does not make a great film. With that in mind, screenwriter Richard Curtis crafts a very sweet story around this clever concept. Like any great song or piece of art, it all comes together (pun definitely not intended…) rather sweetly thanks to a very warm leading performance from Himesh Patel. He comes across as a very sincere, genuine hard working bloke just looking for that big break that he craves. However, as his career turns from pub singer to huge international superstar, it begins to test his relationship with his best friend/manager Ellie (James), who also gives a very sincere performance. Whilst at the same time, doubts begin to form in Jack’s mind as to whether he should admit the truth about the songs.

The screenplay blends the music of the Beatles with an insightful look at the music industry and what constitutes a successful career in that industry, with one current pop star in there for good measure. Danny Boyle on first glance might not seem the most obvious choice to direct a film like this, but he keeps everything moving along in a very light-hearted manner. Though the concept behind the film is extremely clever, it falls short in that certain things could could have explored in much more detail. In addition, it can’t help but be somewhat formulaic in terms of the ensuing drama and how everything plays out. It can come across as a bit saccharine, but if you are a fan of one of the Beatles, just let it be because Boyle and Curtis will sweep you along for a joyous ride.

No matter who we are, or what we do, music is an integral part of our lives, and our culture, and this film celebrates that in abundance. It just so happens to celebrate the music of one of the best bands to have ever graced our eardrums to tell its story, and you will find it difficult to not sing along and be smiling from ear to ear when the credits start to roll.

Taking some of the best songs ever recorded, and combining them with a sweet story about the music industry, and the end result is a charming, delightful ode to the Fab Four from Liverpool.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Darkest Hour (2017)

Image is property of Universal, Working Title and Focus Features

Darkest Hour – Film Review

Cast: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ben Mendolsohn, Stephen Dillane

Director: Joe Wright

Synopsis: In the early days of World War II, with the rest of Europe falling under the iron grip of the Nazis, Winston Churchill ascends to the role of Prime Minister, with the country seemingly on the brink of almost certain defeat…

Review: In periods of war, strong leadership from those who hold positions of power can be the difference between victory and defeat. Never is this more applicable than for the United Kingdom in the early years of the Second World War, which like the film’s title success was truly some of the darkest days for the country. The Nazis closed in having swiftly conquered the majority of Western Europe, and there seemed to be no one capable of stopping Hitler from his mission of total domination across the continent. This is of course, until one man came to the fore, and that man is of course Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill.

Being one of, if not the most prominent Prime Ministers in UK history, there has been a great many actor to play Churchill, and Gary Oldman becomes the latest man to assume the role, and it is one that he fully commits to, giving an absolutely incredible performance that has rightfully installed him as a hot favourite to finally scoop a Best Actor Oscar this year. His performance captures Churchill and his mannerisms so well that at times you forget that it is indeed Oldman under all that makeup.

Having seen his predecessor Neville Chamberlain being forced into resignation, Churchill assumes office and immediately realise the enormity of the task facing him as the British forces find themselves stranded on the French coast with the Germans closing in fast. While Churchill favours a more guns blazing approach, there are those who would prefer to negotiate a peace treaty with Hitler and as one character calls him, his “lackey” Mussolini. As the days go by and the situation worsens, pressure and indeed opposition towards him grows stronger, but Churchill will not yield.

Given the gravity of the situation, it would be easy for the script to be completely dreary. However, the screenplay by Anthony McCarten allows for plenty of humour, of which Churchill is of course front and centre. Aside from Oldman’s towering performance, the rest of the supporting cast all deliver assured performances. Chief among these are Kristin Scott Thomas as Churchill’s wife Clementine and Lily James as his secretary Elizabeth Layton, while neither are given extensive amounts of screentime, they both make their mark on Churchill and are figures of support as he battles his opponents who are calling for him to negotiate for peace, led by the stern Viscount Halifax, who is expertly portrayed by Stephen Dillane.

With meticulous production design by Sarah Greenwood, director Joe Wright and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel capture 1940s London in intriguing visual style. The scenes in Parliament especially stand out in the way Wright shoots them, using lighting that gives the scenes an almost melancholic feel to them, which to be fair wouldn’t entirely be out of place in war time. Yet it is here where Oldman shines brightest, giving the rousing “We shall fight them on the beaches” speech that has taken its deserved place as one of the best speeches in history.

In what is almost a companion piece to the gripping retelling of the Dunkirk evacuation from Christopher Nolan, while that film focuses on the evacuation itself, Darkest Hour focuses on the man who at a time when his country needed him most, rose to the challenge and helped to make it all possible. In the darkest hour that perhaps the UK has ever faced, one man showed us the light.

A gripping story of a country on the brink at its centre, with a magnificent performance from Oldman at its core, this is Wright’s and Oldman’s finest hour.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Baby Driver (2017)

Image is property of Tristar Pictures, Working Title Films and Big Talk Productions

Baby Driver – Film Review

Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, Eiza González

Director: Edgar Wright

Synopsis: Whilst working for a ruthless crime boss, a young get away driver becomes one of the best in the business. When he meets a woman, he sees a chance to make his escape, but not before one last job…

Review: Whenever there’s a film that is released in the middle of the crowded summer movie season, that boasts a wholly original and extremely intriguing premise, that is always something to savour. Furthermore when you find out that said original film is from the man who gave the world the glorious Cornetto trilogy, that immediately is something to look forward to.

This is a project that Edgar Wright had in the works for well over two decades now. Yet it was only until after a messy exit from Marvel’s Ant-Man which he had been scheduled to direct, he turned his attentions back to his passion project, and hit the accelerator. Focusing on Baby (Elgort) a supremely talented get away driver who plays music via an iPod to drown out the tinnitus he suffered following a childhood accident. He’s one of the best in the business and Doc, the crime boss running the operations (Spacey), knows it. However when Baby falls head over heels for a waitress named Debora (James) he sees his chance to make his escape from the lifestyle. Unfortunately, Doc has other ideas, and one last heist beckons.

Leading the way in an impeccably acted cast, Elgort is immediately very likeable in the lead role as Baby. You have sympathy for him and his circumstances, and he has the charisma to carry the film on his shoulders. Likewise for Lily James as Debra, the two of them build a relationship and the chemistry between them is excellent. As the head honcho crime boss, Spacey too bosses every second of screen time he has, with the usual authority he brings to his roles, yet he can also show his more compassionate side. Jamie Foxx, for a man named Bats feels somewhat appropriate as he’s the most batshit crazy one of the group. Completing the core gang is Jon Hamm’s Buddy and Eiza González’s Darling, neither of whom have a great amount of backstory and character development, but are effortlessly watchable.

The coolest get away driver in the world…

Wright’s screenplay does occasionally meander, there are moments where you feel like it could be something of a dead end, but everything is eventually steered back on course. The Cornetto trilogy demonstrated great humour throughout and there’s just the right amount of humour to be found here. With a premise that focuses on heists and getaways, it’s a given that there’s going to be some rather high octane action scenes, and that is most certainly the case. Wright steers these scenes superbly, the editing is slick and the action is so fast paced, there’s a very good chance that the audience is going to be on the edge of their seats throughout. Sure we have had heist movies in the past with a great get away driver, but Wright pulls it off in a manner that makes it feel fresh. Furthermore, the accompanying soundtrack, is one of, if not the best we have had so far in 2017.

The first two acts keep things for the most part at a steady pace, yet the third act is when things really move into the fast lane. It’s something to to savour, and could also lay claim to the best third act we have seen so far this year. It is breathless stuff that hits top speed in no time at all and barely slows down until the final credits. This might be a movie almost twenty years in the making, and to see it come to fruition in such spectacular style, is extremely satisfying, especially when it’s a movie that takes a very familiar concept, and makes it feel so unique and original, that has to be applauded.

Stylish, with slickly made action scenes that are pulsating to watch accompanied by a stellar soundtrack, fasten your seat-belts ladies and gentlemen, you’re in for one hell of a ride!