Operation Mincemeat – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Colin Firth, Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Penelope Wilton and Johnny Flynn. Directed by John Madden. Written by Michelle Ashford and Ben Macintyre. Length: 128mins

Operation Mincemeat was the bizarre real-life scheme cooked up by British intelligence in 1943 to fool Nazi Germany into thinking the allies planned to invade Greece, rather than their actual target, Sicily. The corpse of a tramp was dressed up as fictitious “Capt William Martin” and carried elaborate plans for this nonexistent invasion; the body was dumped into the sea so that it would wash up in Spain where the British were confident this incorrect intelligence would be passed to the Germans. It sounds as if it was written with a screenplay in mind, but the fact that this is based on real events makes gives this film a different feel. Had the plot been fictitious, I’m not sure people would necessarily be on board, but a glimpse into this bizarre piece of history that played a role in the outcome on the war is truly fascinating. 

Adapted from the non-fiction best seller by Ben Macintyre, the plot takes us steadily from the birth of the idea, through all sorts of ‘phases’ of the operation and right up to the suspense filled moment of finding out whether it was successful or not. As I understand, this isn’t the first film re-telling of the story, however the fact that the corpses real name was only revealed to the public in 1996 allowed the filmmakers to include a more personable approach with regards to he who was known, simply, as ‘The Man Who Never Was’. 

This movie was funnier than I expected it to be, which made a real difference to me as a member of the audience. I was intrigued and excited to learn more about a situation I only knew small amounts about, but to be honest, I was expecting quite a heavy, suspense filled piece. While, of course, there were brilliant moments of that suspense; built with a great score and really authentic performances by the two leading men – the fact that there were moments of humour mixed in throughout just brought the mood up enough to keep things interesting and me engaged. 

As a James Bond fan I particularly enjoyed the involvement of the character Ian Fleming. Of course he was actually involved in the planning of the operation, I don’t mean to belittle his importance in the actual history of the event, but the film gave us plenty of little Bond Easter eggs that I have no idea if they actually happened, but I like the idea that his novels were inspired by that which he had seen. Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen didn’t put a foot wrong, both managed to play likeable but imperfect characters, and lets be honest, any Pride and Prejudice fans will be delighted to see both contemporary ‘Mr Darcy’s’ sharing the screen. 

This is another of the home front wartime ‘Brit-films’ that we’ve seen plenty of in recent years. Focussing their emphasis on domestic morale, strategic questions and political shenanigans, rather than battlefield action. Operation Mincemeat is watchable enough, but certainly not the best ‘war film’ i’ve seen. It’s a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours, but not a must watch. 

Coda – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Emilia Jones, Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur, Daniel Durant and Eugenio Derbez. Directed by Sian Heder Written by Sian Heder Length: 111mins

As a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults), Ruby Rossi (Jones) is the only hearing person in her family. We are steadily introduced to the life that the Rossi’s have created for themselves, the family fishing business as a key part of their day to day routine and Ruby serves as the ears on the boat listening out for the radio calls, and plays translator when communicating with the other fishermen. But when the future of their fishing business is threatened, Ruby is torn between following her passion to get into Berklee College of Music and the heavy weight of abandoning her family at a time they need her most.

There’s nothing spectacular in the plot, nothing that’s particularly unexpected or included to shock the audience. Just a story of normal people, their struggles and how they grow together to resolve their issues. Although a simple plot, the characters are written well. Each character within the focal family has their own opinion on their familial situation and as we get to know them as the audience, the slight differences show through and the cracks start to show. It’s a situation where even if you disagree with a characters opinions or demands, you are given enough information or emotion to at least realise why they might feel the way that they do – I appreciate that sounds pretty basic but it creates an atmosphere where none of the characters (apart from the high school bullies) are the ‘bad guy’.

 I did find it a bit difficult at the beginning of the film in the family scenes, because I was trying to watch the performances at the same time as read the subtitles; an element that I’m certainly not complaining about but just had to adapt as a viewer. Having said this, it didn’t take long to adapt and it’s really quite incredible to see the skill of emotional and comedic acting while the actors are also communicating through sign language. All of the performances were strong, Troy Kotsur was obviously recognised by the Academy as well as other award bodies. Emilia Jones played the lead brilliantly, audiences can really feel the emotional tug of war that she plays throughout, all while dealing with the usual teenage ‘stuff’ that everyone faces throughout education. Daniel Durant and  Eugenio Derbez also gave really memorable performances that broadened the character mix, keeping the film and it’s little twists and turns interesting. 

In all honesty, I’m a little bit torn on it’s Best Picture win. I loved the film but it definitely felt like more of a ‘viewers choice’ than an academy choice. I say this lightly as it’s probably one of my favourite best picture winners, but it lacked some of the elements that you would usually expect from the nominated films. Perhaps it’s a shift in how the academy is voting or maybe the film moved it’s voters so much that they didn’t care about what is usually done. Either way it doesn’t matter, Coda gained the film worlds greatest accolade and I truly hope that more people see it because of their win, because it’s a movie that should be seen. 

I had the privilege of watching Coda with a good friend of mine who is hard of hearing herself and who has hearing loss within her family. I think most would struggle to hold their tears in by the end of the movie, but to watch my friend well up and comment on moments, sharing “thats how ****** felt” or “I can totally relate to that” made me realise that even as someone who tries to be considerate to people, not knowing how well they can hear or see etc…that I haven’t always considered just how difficult and exhausting it must be to struggle with a disability that is invisible and can be so devastatingly isolating. Coda helped me open my mind and be more aware of being deliberately kind rather than ‘passively decent’, to anyone around me who may be struggling.  

Coda is so pure, and it deserves to be seen. If it’s showing at your local cinemas I urge you to watch it on the big screen, but if not, you can find it on Apple TV. 

Ambulance – Review

Rating:15
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eiza Gonzalez, Garret Dillahunt, KeirO’Donnell and Jackson White.
Directed by Michael Bay
Written by Chris Fedak
Length: 136mins

Michael Bay’s Ambulance is tale of two estranged brothers, Danny (Gyllenhaal) and Will (Abdul-Mateen), and a bank heist gone wrong. Based on a 2005 Danish picture of the same name Michael Bay drags the story out to a much longer telling of the story. While the plot is relatively basic, Bay manages to pad out the movie with a whole lot of extra ‘stuff’, some of it nonsensical and some of it to add the Michael Bay wow-factor. 

Watching this film was unusual for me, mostly because having watched the trailer a couple of times I thought it looked awful. The trailer really put me off. It’s a pity, because at the core of the film, partially concealed by Bay’s posturing is a relatively slickly executed action film – Danny and Will hijack an ambulance: inside is a critically injured cop and a ballsy paramedic (González); outside are guns, explosives and a lot of very angry law enforcement officers. While in general I thought it was better than the trailer suggested it would be, it was frustratingly ridiculous at some points. I’m not just talking about the slow motion stunts or classic ‘Bay’ whoosh of a camera down the side of a building to heighten drama, but some of the core plot points, that used up so much time, just made no sense. One example that I can give without spoilers is a big emphasis on confusing the police by joining with other ambulances, thus stretching the polices attention and giving an opportunity to escape. However, the plan was to spray paint the focal ambulance, which makes no sense at all, and they spend so long discussing and achieving this and they somehow manage to slip a neon green ambulance past a police blockade…I’m all for a bit of creative licence, but it surely should be at least a tiny bit plausible! 

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jake Gyllenhaal are fine; there’s nothing in their performances that will blow the audience away but that’s more down to a relatively basic script and character stereotypes.  The tension building is effective throughout, the score having a strong impact, however the whole film is a build. They don’t really let it drop, which either exhausts it’s viewers, or loses their attention. The film essentially plays out as one extra-long car chase, with Bay’s trademark direction present in all its glory. Throughout, Bay’s camera rarely stays still, sweeping and swooping through the LA streets as the ambulance does its best to evade the constantly growing police presence. This kinetic camerawork, coupled with Bay’s choppy editing style can at times leave it’s audience feeling nauseous. 

Despite it’s glaring flaws, audiences seem to quite enjoy it. Ambulance wasn’t for me – but I appreciate that many others might enjoy the escapism and high speed car chases to allow them to step into a couple of hrs without thinking about todays troubles. If you can forgive some nonsensical choices and enjoy a high speed action film, then there’s a good choice you’ll enjoy it. 

Uncharted – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Antonio Banderas. Sophia Ali and Tati Gabrielle. Directed by Ruben Fleischer Written by Rafe Judkins, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, Jon Hanley Rosenberg and Mark D. Walker Length: 116mins

Uncharted is a straightforward action/adventure flick and a bit of fun for all the family. Of our leading characters we have Nathan Drake (Holland), a tough kid with a passion for history, making money as a cocktail waiter/pickpocket, ripping off rich people in the bar and ‘Sully’ (Wahlberg) who observes Nate’s thieving and presents him with a proposition: a scene with similarities to that of George Clooney meeting Matt Damon for the first time in Ocean’s Eleven. Sully entices Nate into helping him track down a golden key that could lead them to riches, riches that Nate had heard about and studied with his brother, who incidentally is now missing. In preparation for their quest to seek out Magellan’s  16th century loot, Sully’s admission that he once knew Nate’s brother, only adds a personal drive for Nate to assist his new partner in crime. 

Nate and Sully’s relationship is the heart of the narrative, though the film takes an origin story approach in this first instalment. Our two heroes learn to trust each other as their adventure unfolds, even if the road to get there is a bumpy one. They’re a far cry from the chummy partners in crime that are portrayed in the origin materials, with Nate questioning Sully’s motives every step of the way. Chloe Fraser (Sophia Ali) adds an extra layer of intrigue as a fellow treasure hunter, with a steely focus and determination of her own. Nate is never quite sure who to trust, or if he can trust anyone at all.

Tom Holland is the real driving force of the film. He brings his usual ‘cheeky chap’ vibes while throwing himself fully into the widespread story. Wahlberg has been criticised for his role in this movie, it seems several fans of the games were upset with his casting initially, but his portrayal of Sully is a bit flat – it’s fine, but nothing to shout about. Sophia Ali and Tati Gabrielle bring sass and strength to both of their characters which helps to broaden the overall feel of the movie. Of course, Antonio Banderas is the ultimate family movie villain, he’s just threatening enough to know he’s the ‘bad guy’ without engaging in a darker side that wouldn’t be appropriate for a movie of this type and certification. 

Uncharted isn’t a great action movie, but it is a good one. It’s definitely a good option as a film for all the family. It’s simplistic ‘solve the clues onto the next’ type plot doesn’t keep you guessing and it’s twists are obvious to audiences to enjoy a film of this genre. But purely based on entertainment value, I can’t really criticise it too much – it’s simple, possibly a bit forgetful, but enjoyable in the moment. 

The Batman – Review

Rating: 15 Cast: Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, Paul Dano and Andy Serkis Directed by Matt Reeves Written by Matt Reeves and Peter Craig Length: 175mins

One of the most anticipated movies of the year has landed after delays from it’s original release date due to Covid:19. A famous character, a famous city, a top billed cast and a whole lot of pressure to satisfy one of the more vocal fan bases. The Batman, presents us with the Riddler; a sadistic serial killer, who begins to murder key political figures in Gotham and forces Batman to investigate the city’s deep rooted corruption in positions of power, and causes our hero to question his own legacy. 

Immediately, audiences are going to compare this movie to The Dark Knight trilogy which is so well loved by many. Fans of the character seem fairly loyal to Christian Bale’s portrayal of Batman in the Christopher Nolan films which places a lot of pressure on Pattinson to perform. Pattinson is not shy of a challenge though, and while he shot to stardom in 2008 teen hit ‘Twilight’, he has constantly proven himself to be a highly skilled, deeply intricate performer. His presentation of Batman is fairly standard, it’s a shame we don’t get very much of Bruce Wayne in this film, while Pattinson is great as the Dark Knight, I don’t think he’s given very much material to utilise his abilities as an actor. Perhaps, if more films do follow, we will be allowed to explore more of Bruce Wayne’s personality rather than the vigilantes hard exterior. Having said this, I put none of this on Pattinson’s performance, he works intricately with the dialogue and plot that is in front of him, quietly portraying ‘vengeance’  and the dilemma that presents as the plot progresses. While the casting of our hero was largely talked about, no one seemed to doubt the immovable Zoe Kravitz when she was cast as Selena Kyle. Kravitz brings a really human reaction to the events in the film and the chemistry between her and Pattinson brings their shared scenes an exciting level of energy. Her mystery, vulnerability, strength and humanity create a really layered character and is captivating every moment she’s on screen. With a cast of this calibre it’s difficult to not write an essay on each performance, Paul Dano is haunting and unique in his role as Gotham’s sadistic villain, entirely captivating throughout andJeffrey Wright is solid in his portrayal as James Gordon, highlighting the characters’ need for justice to prevail even when surrounded by corruption.

The length of this film may be it’s downfall. At a run time of nearly three hours it’s a commitment to ask of a paying audience. While the majority of the film remains captivating, I feel like the first half hour could take cuts without anything being lost to the story. It’s a shame, as the rest of the content really does serve the plot. While a slow start may put people off, I hope that they give the rest of the movie the attention it deserves.

Matt Reeves takes on a very particular challenge with this movie, no doubt aware of the big boots it has to fill and the comparison that would follow. Reeves somehow manages to create a real piece of art with this film, visually it’s really impressive; it’s dark, yes, but that’s to be expected in Gotham. They took such care with the choices around cinematography and I think it paid off beautifully, theres a lovely balance between pleasing the technical ‘film buff’ and the ‘Batman fan’ and I hope that audiences recognise the detail put into creating the overall look and feel of the world we step into. 

The plot is great. It’s clever without being confusing, it’s not predictable and has so much intricacy written into the dialogue that knits the film together. I personally really enjoyed seeing the detective side of our hero, it’s not just about rocking up and knocking out the ‘bad guys’ (though there is plenty of that, don’t worry), it’s a wise choice to move in a slightly different direction with the lead character, giving audiences a fresh perspective. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this film, it’s escapism at it’s finest, and as often is the way with hero movies, allows us to consider basic themes of good vs evil, right vs wrong, bravery, discernment and wisdom in our choices. It’s length is forgivable for the feeling that the audiences leave with and I highly recommend going to watch this on the big screen. It is worth noting, however, that for UK audiences it is certificate 15, which does limit those who can go and enjoy in cinemas. 

Death On The Nile – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Tom Bateman, Emma Mackey, Armie Hammer and Gal Gadot. Directed by Kenneth Branagh Written by Michael Green (Screenplay) and Agatha Christie (Novel) Length: 127mins

In the second of Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot adventures, the famous detective finds himself tagging along on the honeymoon of the extremely wealthy Linnet Ridgeway (Gadot) and her new husband, Simon Doyle (Hammer). Others accompanying the happy couple include Linnet’s godmother, the bride’s former fiancé, a mother and son pairing, and a celebrated jazz singer and her niece as well as Simon’s jealous ex (Mackey), an uninvited but unshakable presence throughout the story…

It’s always tricky to comment on the plot of a movie that is an adaptation from a much loved author, especially one that has been made into film more than once. But to me, this story seems like a bizarre choice. The audience finds itself waiting for a good portion of the story until we  are presented with a murder, up until which point our lead character; a detective, is just awkwardly tagging along to a couples honeymoon party. Once he is released to do what he does best the plot becomes a little more interesting, though to me, the whole case is relatively predictable. 

While I would love to say that Death on the Nile was excellent, it falls slightly flat. The plot, as previously mentioned, accounts for a good portion of that. But also some of the creative choices throughout. The film is long, much longer than it needed to be and the time was used commenting on unusual aspects, for example, Poirot’s moustache gets its own pre-titles origin story, which is considerably more background detail than most of the other characters are afforded.

Some of the acting, however, was fantastic. British breakout star Emma Mackey was truly brilliant. Surrounded by Hollywood A listers, her scorned, possessive Jacqueline de Bellefort stood up to the ranks of those around her, bringing a deeply emotional, interesting performance. While Mackey is the one I chose to mention by name, as per Branagh’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, the film is filled with outstanding talent. This talent, and of course Branagh’s direction (which has just seen him nominated for an academy award), is the main draw of the movie. 

This film was a victim of Covid:19 and was due to release originally in early 2020 which means that audiences were left waiting and wanting to see the picture. I think that this can have a negative affect on it’s audiences – keen fans were left building up hopes for this film that may not have reached such heights had the film released when originally planned. It also suffers due to the controversy around several of it’s top billed cast which perhaps leaves a foul taste as people finally get in to watch the film. 

Death on the Nile is ‘fine’. It didn’t blow my mind, I wouldn’t rush to watch it again, but it’s a film that I could see myself re-watching at some point in the future as something to have on in the background. It isn’t as engaging or exciting as Murder on the Orient Express and left me wanting more. 

The 355 – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Jessica Chastain, Penelope Cruz, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o, Bingbing Fan, Sebastian Stan and Jason Flemyng. Directed by Simon Kinberg. Written by Simon Kinberg and Theresa Rebeck. Length: 122mins

When a top-secret weapon falls into mercenary hands, scorned CIA agent Mace Brown (Chastain) goes off grid in an attempt to retrieve the weapon. She joins forces with former rival and German intelligence agent Marie (Kruger), her MI6 ally and computer scientist Khadijah (Nyong’o) and Colombian psychologist Graciela (Cruz) to track the weapon down, all while staying one step ahead of a mysterious woman, Lin Mi Sheng (Fan), who is tracking their every move.

The plot is relatively basic in the ‘spy film’ genre; a threat is established and the intelligence agencies around the world race against time to get their hands on it. Although somewhat generic, the fast pacing of the movie keeps the audiences attention, meaning the audience doesn’t sit and think too deeply into logistics or intricate details. The writing does lack surprise, the main twist isn’t difficult to see coming, and its missing any real suspense or humour. But I think it works. Audiences have such high expectations in this genre and of course it will be compared to the well established, male led franchises like James Bond, Mission Impossible or Jason Bourne, but I think it’s our job as audiences to try to avoid such comparisons. Not to say that it shouldn’t be scrutinised to the same level – we have expectations and a desire for those to be met, but I think it’s an obvious concept that a female led movie in a genre that is dominated by male leads should be different. Celebrating the strengths and weaknesses of the characters, as you would expect in any other film, depending on who they are and how their stories unfold.

While the character relationship development is perhaps a little clunky, particularly between Mace and Marie, the group forms with an interesting chemistry. The writers do manage to avoid some of the cliches one might expect to see; our group doesn’t become really close, really quickly, they don’t all use their appearances to get what they want (apart from one of the characters, once…but even then it’s not a massive plot point). The focus relies on the concept of five, highly trained individuals who are going after their mission. The writing also allows our leading ladies, to retain their own sense of feminimity throughout, without changing for the sake of making any of it’s audience ‘feel better’, they are strong, they are determined, they are skilled, they have vulnerabilities and they are human. It makes it work.

It’s been said that the cast are ‘wasted’ in The 355, and yes, I can understand that the acting abilities of the cast were not stretched to reach the full potential of their skill, but the work didn’t need it. Chastain’s character goes through real emotional turmoil throughout and she rides it with just the right level of drive, Kruger brings a real strength and passion to Marie, while Cruz doesn’t push too hard for her character to be anything other than it’s written to bes. Nyong’o and Fan play roles who are somewhat more mysterious with their past experiences hinted at but not really explored. All of the women are generous in their performances, none demand focus and quite frankly having 5 leading ladies in an action movie who are all aged between 38-48 is something I would like to see more of.

Unfortunately, I’ve already seen some folk turn their nose up and not being willing to watch the film purely because it features “women playing mens roles” (not my words, but a quote from a moviegoer who didn’t buy a ticket for this particular feature…), which is really sad to me. It’s a thoroughly entertaining film that isn’t trying to push any agenda and it’s really worth a watch. While not a perfect movie it had everything that I wanted from a film in the action/spy genre.

Tick, Tick…BOOM!  – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesus, Vanessa Hudgens and Joshua Henry. Directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda Written by Steven Levenson (screenplay by) and Jonathan Larson (based on the musical by) Length: 115mins

Tick, Tick…BOOM is a heartfelt tribute to Broadway talent Jonathan Larson, played here by Andrew Garfield. A show written by Larson himself to tell his story and express his struggle, adapted by screenwriter Steven Levenson from Larson’s autobiographical piece that came just before Rent to tell the story of his first major musical project: a wildly ambitious futurist fantasy called Superbia that almost no one seemed to get. In short; it’s a musical about making a musical based on an autobiographical one man show…

This film is explicitly theatrical, going back and forth between Larson’s story and his one-man show of him telling that same story. This will undoubtedly not be to everyones taste, however I feel like this film was created for a certain audience; then if others enjoy it then its a bonus. It’s a true love letter to musicals and the artists that create them, with a wider scope of anyone who is grinding for a career in the arts. Tick, Tick…Boom throws its audience into the Larson’s ordeal of the quarter-life crisis, the first glimmers of approaching mortality and the realisation that options are closing down, something that particularly afflicts those approaching their 30s in the creative arts who don’t seem to be making it. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda saw Rent on his 17th birthday, he saw that musicals could be about every day people in places and situations that he understood..two years later he started writing his tony award winning show‘In The Heights’. It’s a really great to see a director take on a movie about someone who directly impacted his life – Larson was the composer who inspired his own creative awakening. Miranda, who also starred as Larson in a theatrical performance of this, directs the film with a deep understanding of the passion, struggle, and ebullience of an artist committed to an art form that requires a lot of money and a lot of other people to be brought to life.

Some people will be frustrated by Larson’s sense of his own importance and neglect of those around him. But theatre kids of all ages will appreciate that it’s not his own importance he’s excited by, so much as the importance of the stories he wants to tell, even if they are not yet awards worthy.

This film is really stylised which fits perfectly with the somewhat chaotic narrative and you can see how much heart has been put into it’s creation. As stated earlier I’m not sure it’s for everyone, but it’s an opportunity to get a glimpse of struggle demonstrated on this particular path of life. Had this film been based around another subject matter, I probably wouldn’t have connected to it to the same degree, but for what it is, I think it’s brilliant.

Jonathan Larson died at 35, just before the opening night of Rent, an almost unbearable metaphor for the backstage heartbreak of musical theatre. This film helps remember him and his creativity in a beautiful way. 

King Richard – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Jon Bernthal, Saniyaa Sidney and Demi Singleton. Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green Written by Zach Baylin Length: 144mins

King Richard follows Richard Williams, as he executes his long imagined planned for two of his daughters, Venus and Serena, to become tennis champions. The genre of this film isn’t explicitly clear – it’s sort of a sports flick, sort of a family drama, but I’m not sure it matters. The brilliance of this film is the fact that it’s based on reality, with both Venus and Serena Williams serving as executive producers on the movie which relieves concerns about the use of too much artistic licence. As well as this the flawless cast that bring the characters to life; Will Smith, a fan favourite, leads the charge and certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Smith, who is arguably the main draw of the movie, plays a man who refuses to acknowledge anything besides his own opinion, yet he is hauntingly effective when forced into silence.

The scenes where he shows Williams’ vulnerability have a damaged quality that lingers long after the moment has passed. The silence and the subtext are so powerful in this film and Smith lands them expertly, allowing the audience to capture a glimpse of the wounded man under all the bravado. While she doesn’t feature quite as predominantly as Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, matches Smith in screen presence in her portrayal as Brandi Williams. She brings a warmth and dignity as well as expressing a quiet power that she isn’t afraid to release when necessary. The scenes where she stands up to her husband, are some of the more powerful scenes in the movie and Ellis is flawless. It would be unfair to comment on the actors without a nod to Sidney and Singleton, who play Venus and Serena; they both shoulder the responsibility of mimicking two of the greatest athletes with absolute class. They do well to match the pressure on their characters against the warmth of their youth and lives within their family, it’s a pleasure to watch their work.

Reinaldo Marcus Green’s direction is wise, he clearly knew that the strength of the storytelling is in the acting, in trusting his cast to carry the story. He manages to hit the beats that you want without falling into melodrama, allowing the fact that it’s the telling of a true story to resonate with it’s audience. The most frustrating element of this movie for me, is the marketing, which is know is a bizarre aspect to comment on. I have spoken to so many regular cinema goers who haven’t even bothered to give it a look in due to the name – many people assuming that it’s Shakespeare or a period drama of some sort, while also commenting that the poster isn’t particularly eye catching. It just seems a shame to know that people are missing such a brilliant film due to relatively simple problems.

I don’t say this lightly, but I truly believe that King Richard is one of, if not, the best film released in 2021 (so far). Obviously everyone has different taste and that is to be celebrated but I really do feel that most people would enjoy; or at least take something from this film. It’s a shame that it seems to have flown somewhat under the radar but I really do encourage you to watch this film in a cinema if you can, but definitely at home once it’s been released for the ‘small screen’. 

The Harder They Fall – Review

Rating: 15 Cast: Jonathan Majors, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, LaKeith Stanfield and Idris Elba. Directed by Jeymes Samuel Written by Jeymes Samuel and Boaz Yakin. Length: 139mins  

When outlaw Nat Love discovers that the man who murdered his parents in front of him as a child is being released from prison, he reunites his gang to take revenge. What more could you ask for? A revenge Western packed with memorable characters played by brilliant actors, each scene and moment staged for power and authority. 

This movie caught my attention while scrolling through Netflix, mostly thanks to the big name cast. The trailer presents a very accurate snapshot of what it is, a contemporary Western, which is an interesting concept in itself. Now the plot is relatively basic, but the content is just so interesting to watch. You can see a lot of Jeymes Samuels influences within the film, it feels very Tarantino at times and is a really artistic film. The framing and the camerawork is beautiful, the colour palette is vibrant and the music is something else. While the general aesthetic is classic western,  there are quick-draws, large-scale gunfights, horse stunts, and chases, a train robbery, bank robberies, and a couple of hand-to-hand brawls with several cliches that we would expect in a Western; bottles smashed over heads, fights with pitch forks, men thrown out of windows etc…the soundtrack and fight sequences are the main elements that keep it feeling modern and fresh.

The Harder They Fall is Jeymes Samuel’s debut feature film but his CV boasts experience of working with some incredible talent. In this film he gifts his actors with precious moments where their characters are allowed to listen to each other and quietly glance at each other. It truly feels like a ‘filmmakers film’ and I can only imagine that the cast leapt at the opportunity to be a part of it. While the whole cast is strong, lead by the brilliant Jonathan Majors, there are a couple who stand out. Idris Elba, unsurprisingly, brings a cool, mysterious quiet to the high energy of the rest of the cast and Regina King who we all know delivers in every single role. King brought everything that her character required, moments of vulnerability countered with absolute brutal, no nonsense reactions.

Now the film does feel quite long, the plot isn’t particularly captivating and some of it is fairly predictable, but it’s very difficult to criticise a film that really does feel like art. Yes, it wont be to everyones taste, but it really is worth the watch for all of the heart that comes through in its presentation. While speaking to GQ, Samuel said  “I always loved Westerns, but they would always present a very narrow scope in those stories. They’d be very white male-centric. They wouldn’t even show women with any power in those stories.” and I think you can really feel his words in this movie, he explores human nature, gives voices to powerful women and explores a genre that he clearly cares so much about.