Pieces of a Woman – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Vanessa Kirby, Shia Labeouf, Ellen Burstyn, Iliza Shlesinger and Benny Safdie
Directed by Kornél Mundruczó
Written by Kata Wéber
Length: 127mins

Now that Netflix is most likely a lot of people’s first call when it comes to watching new releases, ‘Pieces of a Woman,’ seems to have been released at the perfect time. A film filled with incredible performances and an emotionally-charged story like this may before have been seen by some people as simply another Oscar-bait release, but now that there is a lot fewer choices when it comes to new releases, ‘Pieces of a Woman’ will hopefully get the wider reception it deserves.

After a traumatic home birth, Vanessa Kirby’s character Martha Weiss is left to deal with the emotional and physical fallout of what she has experienced as a mother. Friends and mainly family come and go throughout the film, but for a large part it’s the experiences of Martha and her partner Sean (Shia Labeouf) that the film focuses on. For anyone who feels hesitant about the drama of the film, and worries that it might be too slow for them, I would simply encourage you to just watch the first five minutes. The story grabs you immediately and I would struggle to picture anyone turning the film off during its opening scenes. The main title card doesn’t appear until nearly half an hour into the film, and I’m pretty sure I was holding my breath the entire time. What director Kornél Mundruczó manages to achieve in almost one continuous take during this time is not only gripping, but also establishes key character traits that will develop and unravel throughout the rest of the film. 

‘Pieces of a Woman’ has been widely praised for the performances that litter the film, and for good reason. Vanessa Kirby’s expressions of guilt, fear and anxiety remain consistently believable and impressive throughout. Shia Labeouf plays the broken father figure brilliantly too, but in a way that feels fresh compared to previously similar roles that he is taken up before, such as his performance in 2018’s ‘Honey Boy.’ Ellen Burstyn remains one of Hollywood’s greatest treasures, playing a role that I imagine will earn her a lot of attention throughout awards season, even with her character having fairly limited screen time. More than anything ‘Pieces of a Woman,’ feels like a showcase for great acting, and everything else in the film seems as if it’s focussing on allowing these performances to shine through. 

The problem with opening a film in such a strong way like ‘Pieces of a Woman’ does, is that you have to keep the momentum going for the rest of the runtime. The fallout of the film’s opening event is essentially what carries the story for the next hour and a half, and whilst this is a necessary element of the story to tell, there are definitely some parts which feel slightly unnecessary. It’s difficult to walk the line between realism and a narrative that will provide a satisfying or poignant end to the story, and whilst one character in particular does receive a satisfying conclusion, there are definitely some ]who seem to have a large influence on the film in the first and middle act, but simply fade out by the end. 

One of the key reasons why ‘Pieces of a Woman’ is an important story in some regards, is because it allows for discussion around the topics that play out on screen. Whilst intense and gut-wrenching at times, everything that occurs is human, and has a chance of affecting any of us in our lifetime. By creating films that cover these topics, a greater understanding and willingness to talk about these things will develop, and may provide some small relief to anyone who has experienced anything similar to what happens in the film.

It might not be the most light-hearted film in the world, but I would highly recommend giving ‘Pieces of a Woman,’ a watch. There are some great things to take away if you have a keen interest in performance, and it definitely has one of the most gripping opening acts I’ve seen in a long time.

Mulan – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Yifei Liu, Li Gong, Jet Li, Jason Scott Lee, Chen Tang, Doua Moua and Jimmy Wong. Directed by Niki Caro Written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin Length: 115mins

Mulan is one of the cinematic victims of Covid:19, with it’s initial release set for March 2020 the film was postponed until the summer and then, much to the dismay of many cinema goers, released on Disney plus for a premium price. It follows the story of a young maiden who disguises herself as a male warrior to fight for the Imperial army in place of her ageing father.

When Disney announces a live action remake you can almost palpably hear the cries of half the audiences dismay at yet another remake, the fear of ‘ruining’ a classic whilst the rest of the audience celebrates at another reimagining of something magical that helped shape their childhood. When Mulan was announced it was very much the same. While it is perhaps a less popular animation, the original is filled with catchy songs, loveable sidekicks and a strong moral focus. With a live action remake that was poised to eliminate both the songs and the sidekicks, many were concerned that the remake would just be a waste of time. 

Niki Caro entrusted Yifei Liu with the titular role that comes with a quite a hefty responsibility. The character requires an authentic portrayal of strength, passion and heart without getting too headstrong or becoming a heroine of mythology that breaks the connection intended to inspire it’s focal audiences. Liu brilliantly takes Mulan through the process of rebellious and inexperienced through to a mature, commanding leader. I have heard some comment on the lack of heightened emotion but I think that this was a solid choice that lends itself to the action. 

Caro interweaves the story’s ancient poetic roots with nostalgic moments from the 1998 animation, but it’s very much its own artistic endeavour. You can tell Caro’s intention for this film through her choices, the focus being very much on female empowerment. The director highlights women standing up for themselves and each other and demanding that men hear and believe them. As family-friendly as it is,  the film also carries the unmistakable spirit of the #MeToo movement. This is so brilliantly done with lessons and reminders for every age group.

I’ve been really impressed with the Disney remakes so far and I surprised myself by finding Mulan topping the list as my favourite. It feels so important whilst being thoroughly entertaining, there’s a clear line between that which was included for the sake of the story and that which was included for the sake of humanity. Mulan couldn’t be more relevant, vital, and alive today. Mulan’s feminine strength was what made her an outcast in this male-dominated world, but one of the key lessons lies within the fact that Mulan can’t achieve her own full potential until she’s fully honest about her identity. It’s truly a shame that this film wasn’t able to release in cinemas, what a joy it would have been for a generation of young girls to watch and learn together. Covid:19 took away the chance for youngsters to look around a filled theatre, to see potential in the others around them as well as themselves. But hopefully the film will be seen, the lessons will be learnt and a spark of passion will be ignited with the help of this brilliant film.

“Loyal. Brave. True.”

Lovers Rock – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Amarah-Jae St Aubyn, Micheal Ward, Shaniqua Okwok, Kedar Williams-Stirling, Ellis George
Directed by Steve McQueen
Written by Steve McQueen and Courttia Newland
Length: 70mins

The first of Steve McQueen’s ‘Small Axe’ series – an anthology of films released through the BBC at the tail end of last year – ‘Lovers Rock’ is probably the closest anyones going to get to a party for the next few months. Set in London during the early 1980’s, for the entire seventy minutes of the film’s runtime, you become completely engrossed in the celebrations as they play out on screen, feeling every change in rhythm and song.

The story’s concept is fairly simple – following a few key characters as they enjoy their night out. However, the execution is entirely different, with moments of joy and intrigue being portrayed through a wide variety of film and story devices. McQueen knows exactly when to draw back from the high intensity of the party and allow characters to have more intimate moments, before bringing the sound and movement back together in a crashing wave of energy. 

McQueen has clearly shown himself as the master of either celebrating or highlighting the stories of people of colour in cinema, particularly in his 2012 release, ‘12 Years a Slave.’ The ‘Small Axe’ series looks to further explore and celebrate black culture, and whilst this will mean delving into stories of prejudice and hatred, ‘Lovers Rock’ feels like the perfect way to begin the anthology. It’s a film of pure joy and energy, and whilst there are a few cracks that show moments of bigotry and hate, for almost the entire runtime the viewer is drawn into a world of celebration. 

Everything in this film works to immerse the viewer in the party that’s taking place, with the camera gliding effortlessly from one character to the next, and the soundtrack playing one great song after another. Despite there not being too much time for overt character development, you still feel engaged in the stories of those at the party, with particular traits being shown within different people, allowing the story to feel believable throughout and preventing the audience from ever feeling as if the energy of the party has lost its momentum.

Overall, I would definitely recommend ‘Lovers Rock’ to anyone looking for something to watch. With its short runtime and joyful, high-energy story making it less of a film and more of a party in your living room – exactly the kind of thing that’s needed during a global lockdown.  

Let Him Go – Review

Rated: 15 Cast: Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Kayli Carter, Lesley Manville and Will Brittain Directed by Thomas Bezucha Written by Larry Watson (Novel) and Thomas Bezucha (screenplay) Length: 113mins

While for the majority of 2020 the cinemas were shut and films weren’t being released, a few films crept out to market during the short periods of time that they could hit the big screen. Thomas Bezucha’s Let Him Go was released towards the end of the year and, despite the draw of Kevin Costner, went widely unnoticed. A story of a retired sheriff and his wife, filled with grief after losing their son, journey through the emotional tug of whether they’re prepared to let their grandson go once their daughter in-law remarries. 

It was such an odd time of year to release this movie, while any cinemas that were open were showing festive reruns and Christmas classics it’s such a contrast to throw Let Him Go into the mix. I don’t pretend to know the complexities of getting a feature released, especially during 2020, but this just seemed like a very unusual choice. Though I’m supportive of any production company prepared to release films despite the financial implications of a pandemic in an attempt help keep the industry afloat, I fear the timing may have done this film more harm than good. 

The plot is solid, it’s peaks an interest with several possibilities of where it could go. However there was a turning point for me about two thirds in – to avoid spoilers I wont discuss it in detail but I felt like there was a moment of high emotion, the build of anticipation was brilliant, but then a choice that changed the trajectory of the plot ruined it for me. I feel like some choices to shock the audience can detract from any work of building tension, then the final third seemed unrealistic and a bit ridiculous. 

That being said, the cast of this film were faultless. I don’t say that lightly but every single character had depth and weaved through stereotypes in a way that delivered the desired effect upon it’s audiences while still creating a unique persona. While Kevin Costner was unsurprisingly brilliant and Lesley Manville created this quietly terrifying villain it was Diane Lane who shone. She was phenomenal, I love to see a flawed character that still manages to get the audience on side and can share her characters emotional journey throughout each moment of the film. 

Unfortunately, for me this film was a heavy, dark piece that was released at the wrong time of year and shot off in a direction that destroyed my interest by a choice meant to shock. It’s arguably worth watching for the character depictions, but other than that I don’t feel that it will particularly entertain, provoke thought or change the lives of it’s audiences.

Wonder Woman 1984 – Review

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Rating: 12A Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Pedro Pascal, Kristen Wiig and Robin Wright Directed by Patty Jenkins Written by Patty Jenkins, Dave Callaham and Geoff Johns Length: 151mins

Returning to the big screen for a limited audience around the world, the sequel to 2017’s hugely successful ‘Wonder Woman’ finds Gal Gadot’s character distancing herself further and further from those around her whilst the rest of the world delves further into Hollywood’s interpretation of the 80’s, with shopping malls, yoga pants and grandiose hairstyles around every corner. Appropriately, the villain of the story achieves his power through commercial greed, and in true superhero fashion, it’s only Wonder Woman who can stop him. 

Perhaps the boldest – and most marketable element of the film – is the aesthetic. This could easily be attributed to the current nostalgia-fest which plagues Hollywood, with multi-colour tinted glasses allowing for a fond recollection of the 1980’s, and all of the eccentricities which come with it. Shows like ‘Stranger Things’ have found huge success in recent years through this choice of setting, and it’s no surprise that as a result more releases are cashing in. However, the original ‘Wonder Woman’ comics date back to 1941, and the first film takes place in 1918, so it’s not entirely unbelievable that the film might take place in this decade. Through the advertising for this film, it appears as if the viewer is promised a trip back in time, and the film certainly delivers as much in the first half an hour or so, with camp dialogue and glamorous commercialism littering the story. However, by the end of the film, we’re returned to the safety of dull aesthetics and predictable settings that many superhero films seem unable to escape. The inconsistency of the visuals is not exactly detrimental to the story, but when including the setting in the actual title of the film and basing the entire marketing campaign around cliches of the 80’s, it feels as if the creators could have had a little more fun throughout the entirety of the film, rather than just going all out in the first act, and then slowly fading back into the usual superhero story.

Although some superhero films deliver much more, it’s widely agreed that the main aim of these films is to entertain. In the case of ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ this is relatively accurate. At this point in cinema’s history, when superhero films are what fills the seats most at cinemas, you would imagine that the creators would feel a responsibility to try and evolve the genre as it goes on. Despite this, ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ doesn’t feel as if it has anything new to offer in terms of the entertainment that it provides. Moments of action never seem especially gripping or visually impressive, and if anything, the stakes of the film feel as if they’re even lower than the first ‘Wonder Woman.’ 

The saving grace of this film undeniably comes from Pedro Pascal’s performance as Maxwell Lord, the corrupt businessman who will do anything to achieve financial domination over his competition. The charisma and twisted charm that Pascal brings to his character creates the most engaging moments of the film, with each of his scenes bringing life to a story that is ultimately fairly forgettable. 

Although this might not be the most complimentary of reviews, seeing ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ on the big screen brought back all of the charm that comes from going out to see a film in the cinema. Hopefully this is something we can all look forward to in the future, and if you have the chance to support your local cinema, you definitely should.

Mank – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Tom Pelphrey and Charles Dance Directed by David Fincher Written by Jack Fincher Length: 133mins

Over the last twenty-five years David Fincher has established himself as one of the most exciting and innovative directors working today. Known for his smooth and precise camerawork, as well as hidden CGI (his 2010 film ‘The Social Network’ featured more VFX than 2014’s ‘Godzilla’), his ability to have complete control over a scene means that everything featured in the shot is always relevant either to the story or character. As a result of this almost-obsessive approach to filmmaking, Fincher always produces high quality films which draw in the audience and tell the exact story they set out to. In his first feature film collaboration with Netflix – a name that seems to crop up more and more when talking about studios working with some of today’s greatest directors – he set out to tell the story of Herman Mankiewicz, Oscar-winning screenwriter best known for being the man behind one of cinema’s most critically acclaimed releases, ‘Citizen Kane.’

David Fincher is often known for littering his stories with strange and unusual characters. Initially working with the dregs of humanity, films such as ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Se7en’ work to explore exactly what makes these people tick, and even go as far as to portray them as the protagonist – an idea which his audiences have been known to mistake for idolisation in the past. However, as Fincher has progressed through his career, these sort of lead characters have evolved from being downright sadistic to simply a little morally corrupt. More recently, Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in ‘The Social Network,’ and Ben Affleck’s performance as a lackluster husband in ‘Gone Girl’ have led us away from the grittier side of Fincher’s filmography, and more towards a character like Gary Oldman’s Herman Mankiewicz, who may not be the most considerate man in the world, but is downright saint-like when placed next to the likes of Tyler Durden or John Doe. The director is clearly obsessed with character, and I feel that this evolution of morality shows that the humanity within a corrupt person is what draws him to a script. As a result of this, ‘Mank’ feels like the next logical step. 

Written by his late father, Jack Fincher, the words ‘passion project’ may be quickly tied to the film. However, this isn’t a negative attachment at all, and in fact I would argue that the film plays into a more personal and emotional narrative than many of Fincher’s previous releases. There are no grand climaxes or overtly-terrible people featured, and instead he turns his attention to the state of America and the role that the arts play in politics – a storyline that can all too easily relate to a contemporary audience. In some ways this feels like Fincher’s least-Fincheresque film to date, but despite this, the story always has your attention and the characters never feel uninteresting or outdated. This may perhaps be a result of the combination of care which Fincher allows for each scene, as well as the strength of the performances from leads Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried.

When considering the great variety and strength of Gary Oldman’s back catalogue, there was never any need to doubt that he would give anything less than a great performance in this film. His portrayal of a man who has to work to prove himself to those who hold power over him, whilst also staying true to his moral values in terms of politics and creativity is brilliantly brought to the screen, alongside a hidden layer of immorality when it comes to his private affairs. Despite all this, Amanda Seyfried’s performance as Marion Davies, the atypical 1940’s Hollywood star, might just beat out Oldman for the best performance in this film. Her frequent use of smaller, more expressive actions work perfectly both within the context of the film’s setting and the type of showmanship that was celebrated at the time, as well as providing the perfect energy for a supporting role that plays off the worn-out and cynical persona of Oldman’s character.

‘Mank’ is nothing if not authentic – the score was recorded using period appropriate microphones, many of the original locations that they used for the film were untouched since the actions of the story actually played out, the camera equipment works to perfectly capture the style of filmmaking in the 1940’s, with no colour version of the film existing. Fincher is a perfectionist, and he realises his father’s vision with extreme technical ability.

Despite all this, I would struggle to describe ‘Mank’ as anything more than a really well-made film. Perhaps it’s the protagonist’s disregard for his family life that prevents the audience from truly connecting with him, or instead the lack of any great narrative climax as a result of realistic grounding for the story. This feels like a film that may divide audiences, but will definitely bring up plenty of talking points in the future, hopefully with particularly high praise for it’s impressive technical feats and cast performances. It’s on Netflix, it’s an interesting film, definitely give it a watch if you’ve got the time.

Catch Me If You Can – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Amy Adams, Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen Directed by Steven Spielberg Written by Jeff Nathanson Length: 141mins

Now that we’re into December, I’m sure many of you will be revisiting Christmas movie lists, thinking about what you might want to watch over the coming weeks. There are of course the obvious choices, with films such as ‘Love, Actually’ and ‘Home Alone’ topping such lists, but sometimes it’s the Christmas films that are a little more subtle in their inclusion of the holiday season that get forgotten about. Steven Spielberg’s 2002 release, ‘Catch Me If You Can,’ is one such film, with the seasonal influence coming from the repeating idea that Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks’ characters always cross paths on Christmas eve during their continued game of cat and mouse.

Based on real events, ‘Catch Me If You Can’ follows the criminal accomplishments of Frank Abagnale Jr, a highly successful con man who had stolen millions of dollars worth of checks before he was even nineteen. Originally working a scheme under the pretence of being a Pan Am pilot, the tactics he used to con businesses only became more elaborate as he grew older, and were fuelled further by the pursuit of FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Hanks).

Steven Spielberg is widely regarded as one of the greatest directors to have ever lived, particularly in relation to his ability to turn out high-quality blockbusters year after year, having done so since the release of ‘Jaws’ in 1970, a film that is generally considered to have been one of the first blockbusters ever. He’s continued with such success all the way up to cinema hits like ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ in 2011. Despite this, sometimes it’s easy to forget just how easy Spielberg makes bringing a great film together look. In ‘Catch Me If You Can’ every element of the film comes together so seamlessly that you can’t help but be drawn into the story – a practice that is found throughout Spielberg’s filmography.

With Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks leading the film, the acting is never anything less than exceptional. They both seem to be at the top of their game here, and DiCaprio in particular delivers an extremely versatile and charming performance, excellently showing the chameleon-like nature of his character. Hanks provides a level of humanity to his character that compliments the extravagance of DiCaprio excellently, and creates a dynamic between them that can range from being full of tension to extremely heartfelt. The relationship created by Spielberg is one that is full of charm, and leads the audience to wish for nothing but a happy ending.

Janusz Kaminski, the cinematographer for the film, provides smooth and precise camerawork which allows the visual storytelling to keep up with the fast and frequently changing story of ‘Catch Me If You Can.’ On top of this though, the camera seems to know exactly when it should and shouldn’t draw attention to itself, with great moments of the film being allowed to play out without the audience being drawn to the cinematography rather than the story. Of course, visually stunning films are always impressive, but Spielberg is a director who truly seems to want to tell stories in their purest form, and by working with a cinematographer who knows exactly when the camera should present itself, this is achieved brilliantly.

All in all, I would highly recommend ‘Catch Me If You Can’ at any time of year, but it works especially well as a great starting point for the holiday season, with the Christmas themes remaining understated enough for it to not be overwhelmingly festive, but apparent enough that you can starting getting into the Christmas spirit.

Dick Johnson is Dead – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Dick Johnson, Kirsten Johnson
Directed by Kirsten Johnson
Written by Kirsten Johnson and Nels Bangerter
Length: 89mins

Released by Netflix in 2020, but drawing from a long and loving relationship between Kirsten Johnson and her father, Richard, ‘Dick Johnson is Dead’ proudly seeks to tackle the one area of life that is so often neglected – death. The first documentary we’ve ever reviewed on this site, the film still uses elements of fiction within the story that it tells, as the director, Kirsten herself, frequently utilises practical and special effects to create scenarios that ultimately end in her father’s untimely demise. Despite the morbid tone to the synopsis that accompanies this documentary, ‘Dick Johnson is Dead’ is perhaps one of the greatest celebrations of life brought to the screen this year.

In the years prior to Dick Johnson’s 86th birthday, his daughter directed a film that seems to work not only as a documentation of her father’s life as it becomes corrupted by alzheimers, but also an attempt to visually show the uncertainty and struggles that are brought on people when someone they love is diagnosed with the illness. As the story progresses, we begin to learn to a greater extent how much the disease has affected the Johnson’s lives, and this documentary almost feels as if it’s the result of understanding that your family will not always be there for you in the same way they once were. ‘Dick Johnson is Dead’ seeks to combat this issue with film itself. Being an acclaimed filmmaker, Kirsten Johnson clearly understands the power of the art form, and in her latest release, utilises the great potential that it has to mimic reality. She may not always have her father, but she will always be able to remember their time together through this film.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of films that are created in dedication to someone that was loved by others, or someone who did something great for someone else, but where ‘Dick Johnson is Dead’ truly shines is in the frequent change between reality and fantasy. To fantasise about something is often considered a positive instinct, but when you begin to make your fantasy a reality, and it comes in the form of acting out the death of someone who you fear you may soon lose, the whole idea comes across as slightly insensitive and cruel. To define the documentary in this way, however, would be to completely miss the point of the whole story. ‘Dick Johnson is Dead’ boasts such a bold title because it’s a celebration of life rather than a mockery of it. Dick Johnson lives as a charming and funny man, so why can’t he die in such a way? Furthermore, to look death in the face and laugh with the people you love takes the edge off of something that will one day happen to all of us, and in ‘Dick Johnson is Dead,’ both Kirsten and Dick choose to spend their time celebrating the life they have together, rather than worry about the one that they one day won’t. 

All in all, ‘Dick Johnson is Dead’ focuses on some fairly heavy topics. It’s not a film that will one day have a happy ending, and for many the story will hit close to home. But these aren’t reasons to avoid watching it, and are instead things that will only allow you to greater connect with and appreciate the storytelling that is going on here. I would recommend the documentary to anyone, and I believe it provides a fresh perspective on the entire film genre.

Summerland – Review

Rating: PG Cast: Gemma Arterton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Penelope Wilton, Lucas Bond and Tom Courtenay Directed by Jessica Swale Written by Jessica Swale Length: 99mins

Summerland is set during World War II and tells the story of writer Alice (Gemma Arterton), who’s surprised one day when discovering she is to provide housing for young London evacuee Frank (Lucas Bond). Though she had no intention to open her door to the boy, Alice eventually opens her heart, discovering that she shares more in common with Frank than she had initially anticipated. 

In Jessica Swale’s debut feature film, she manages to juggle the balance of storytelling between the relational journey of Alice and Frank as well as the romantic narrative that we experience through flashbacks. The flashbacks work really nicely; it’s clear when they’re happening, they aren’t dragged out and their purpose allows the story to progress and character to build rather than just ‘throwing them in’ to make the film more interesting. While elements of the script might be far-fetched, Swale (who wrote the film as well as directed it), was able to create such strong, realistic bonds between her characters which overrides any uncertainty with the action.

As soon as the movie started I wasn’t too concerned with the plot, straight away the ever-dependable Gemma Arterton created such an interesting character in Alice. You see that she’s a bit damaged and bitter but Arterton allows Alice to have a bit of a sense of humour in her own world – demonstrated perfectly when the surprised locals think she’s about to buy a child some chocolate, only to keep the sweet treat for herself and leave with a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face. Lucas Bond did a great job as Frank as well, while there was a risk of his character becoming a little annoying, he managed to keep a steady mix of the child having fun with new friends and the child thrown into a strange new world with the dark shadow of a war-torn London hanging over him. He presented a real sense of maturity in his performance and it was a pleasure to watch.

Essentially Summerland is a film full of wit and charm, Swale knows how to create a smooth tone whilst slipping between the past and present, alternating between two sides of her focal character, the realist and the romantic. The film boasts real substance beneath the surface but keeps it’s feet on the ground. It’s a wonderful example of a great character based film – the story doesn’t matter, anything could have been written in around these characters and I would argue it would be just as captivating. There’s a wonderful sense of humanity to the story and the characters which is why it provides a sense of escapism whilst the world is in turmoil. Though many audiences might have missed its release, I highly recommend trying to watch this movie if you get chance.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Yahya Abdul-Matee II, Jeremy Strong, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levit and Michael Keaton
Directed by Aaron Sorkin
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Length: 130mins

In August 1968, a protest that sought the end of the war in Vietnam was held in Chicago. Amongst those protesting, groups such as the Youth International Party, Students for a Democratic Society and Black Panthers were all involved. Five months after the protest and it’s bloody aftermath, we witness the case against the leaders of these parties, and ‘The Trial of Chicago 7’ portrays their struggle against an unjust injustice system.

Marketed by Netflix as having an outstanding ensemble cast, and being both written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter behind some of the greatest-written films of the last decade, such as ‘Moneyball’ and ‘The Social Network,’ it’s easy to see the appeal of a film like this from the audience’s perspective. However, the deeper you dive into the story that’s on show here, the greater you can see parallels being made between the injustices of 1960’s America and our modern society, and ultimately this idea becomes one of the most important elements of the film.

It’s no secret that there’s a lot less films in consideration at awards shows for 2020 releases, and there’s been talk of nominations for members of the films cast, such as Eddie Redmayne in the position of Lead Actor. To give credit where it’s due, Redmayne’s performance both vocally and physically was impressive, with his interpretation of the character feeling entirely natural, despite it being a contrast to his regular persona. Within the context of the film however, the story never seemed to spend enough time developing his character to where it appeared to be a lead role. Towards the latter end of the film there are conflicts that he must overcome, but until that point, the film truly does seem like a portrayal of an equal ensemble cast. In fact, I would say that there’s a fair argument to make that Yayha Abdul Mateen II gave perhaps the most impressive and important performance of the film. In recent years he has only gone from success to greater success, and I imagine that in years to come he will be a very big name within the industry. The use of an ensemble cast is definitely not a bad thing however, as each member of the ‘Chicago 7’ and their defence team bring something fresh and exciting to the table. Narratively, they progress the story seamlessly through their relationships with one another and their actions inside and outside of the courtroom, ultimately making it a very entertaining watch. 

In terms of the film’s cinematography and structure, it doesn’t really add anything new or exciting, but it can’t be denied that even despite the heavy issues at hand, the story flows excellently and at no point did I feel uninterested in the verbal conflict that was fought within the courtroom. Whilst Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue within this particular film can often feel unnaturally overdramatic through its use of statistics, quotes and overall timing, there is an undoubtable rhythm to his work that he himself attributes to his time spent watching theatre as a child. He states that “even though I didn’t understand what was happening on stage I loved the sound of dialogue, it sounded like music to me and I wanted to imitate that.”

Despite the occasional cheesy line of dialogue, ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’ is an entertaining watch with a strong, real-life story behind it, and I would recommend the film to anyone scrolling through Netflix, unsure what to put on during this second lockdown.