Social Sheffield Film Editor, Natasha Edgington, picks the top three films screening in Sheffield, Mon. 31 – Sun. 6 Aug. 2017
1. – Williams (2017) – – – (15) (Showing at Curzon on Tuesday 1 August at 6:30pm)
[Genre: Documentary. Dir: Morgan Matthews. Starring: Sir Frank Williams, Claire Williams, Ginny Williams, Emily Bevan, Jenny Funnell. Language: English]
Williams marks the second Formula One documentary in recent months, with Morgan Matthews’ study of motorsport legend Sir Frank Williams. As Williams Grand Prix Engineering enjoys its 40th year, the film delineates the charged career of the 75-year-old Williams Formula One team founder. Conforming to a traditional biopic structure, the reflection begins with Frank’s regimental upbringing. After his father’s abandonment, Frank was raised in a Catholic boarding school until the age of 16. His idolatry of racing began early and saw him working as a travelling grocery salesman to fund his budding career. After founding Frank Williams Racing Cars at the ripe old age of 24, Frank cemented his dogged determination on the track and ran cars in Formula Two and Formula Three. The team worked with Formula One icons Piers Courage and Tony Trimmer, and championed through the 1960s. They experienced their first fatality in 1970 with the loss of Frank’s close friend Courage at the Dutch Grand Prix. Tragedy runs deep in the history of circuit racing, particularly in the high-risk early years that Frank knew so well. The team’s success continued through the 1970s, elevated by the input of technical director Sir Patrick Head, who rendered their car designs with safe and innovative improvements. Frank’s fierce focus was thrown off course in 1986 after a road accident left him a quadriplegic and in intensive care for 12-weeks. Despite his devastating setback, Frank endured through his physical hardship by his unwavering obsession. Matthews (X+Y, Shooting Bigfoot) respectfully traces Sir Frank’s legacy using interviews with the man himself, and industry titans Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Sir Jackie Stewart and Sir Patrick Head. Intimate insight into Frank’s personal life is gained from daughter Claire and pre-recorded interviews with late wife Ginny. Altruistic Ginny reflects that family were always runner-ups to Frank’s infatuation, a bitter truth that became their norm. Admirable in its honest approach to the subject, Williams refuses to shy away from the sacrifices inherent to all great success.
See the trailer: Williams (2017)
2. – Land of Mine (2015) – – – (15) (Showing at Curzon, Showroom)
[Genre: Historical Drama/War. Dir: Martin Zandvliet. Starring: Roland Møller, Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard. Language: German/Danish/English]
Martin Zandvliet’s drama Land of Mine sheds light on a lesser-known chapter of World War II history so rarely confronted on film. The Danish-German production takes place in Denmark, as the German occupation comes to an end in the aftermath of World War II. With around 2.2 million landmines strewn across the western Danish coast by German forces, the Allied troops hatch an amoral plan to address the threat. The hordes of German POWs are used to their advantage, with the weight of the mass operation resting in their hands. Land of Mine follows a band of 14 woefully young soldiers, overlooked by hard-faced Danish Sergeant Carl Rasmussen. The teenagers are tasked with clearing a beach of 45,000 hidden explosives, which many accept as an imminent death sentence. Ruthless in his treatment of the soldiers, Rasmussen shows little concern for the inexperienced boys, believing their deaths to be fitting atonement. As they plough deeper into their perilous duty, Rasmussen unearths his lost understanding of humanity. Land of Mine delivers an emotionally gruelling narrative charged by the all-pervading fear of death, as the youths fumble through each defusal attempt. The unpredictable nature of disarming explosives, coupled with the boys’ evident lack of experience, sets the ground for tension that escalates throughout. This tension also works excellently at nurturing investment in the soldiers’ wellbeing, making the blows all the more powerful. Akin to Christopher Nolan’s recent Dunkirk, Land of Mine seeks to highlight the tragically young age of those sent to war, boys that became the enemy due to their heritage. Camilla Hjelm’s 1960s-inspired cinematography is nothing short of beautiful, its spectrum of sandy muted tones chime well with the backdrop of the Danish dunes. Whilst it may follow a familiar direction to other war-based dramas, Land of Mine is a thoroughly gripping and contemplative piece of filmmaking.
See the trailer: Land of Mine (2015)
3. – Maudie (2016) – – – (12A) (Showing at Cineworld, The Light, Showroom)
[Genre: Biography/Drama. Dir: Aisling Walsh. Starring: Sally Hawkins, Ethan Hawke, Kari Matchett, Gabrielle Rose, Zachary Bennett. Language: English]
Irish director Aisling Walsh’s biopic Maudie chronicles the life and love of Nova Scotian folk artist Maud Lewis. Though Lewis’ joyful paintings are lesser known this side of the water, Maudie offers insight into the arduous life of the humble artist. The film begins in 1930s Nova Scotia, as 30-something Maud ekes out a miserable existence under the roof of her glacial aunt and indolent brother. Despite her physical hindrances, premature arthritis and a contorted spine since childhood, Maud yearns for a life of independence. After scoping a job vacancy at the local store, Maud glides into the home of local fisherman and grouchy introvert Everett Lewis. Raised as an orphan, Everett’s troubled upbringing has gnawed at his ability to make meaningful connections. He initially hurls loutish denigrations at housekeeper Maud, who stubbornly endures in the hopes of discovering the person within. Time finally interlocks the opposites together and Maud illuminates Everett’s life with the vibrancy it was sorely missing. Portraying 35-years of the artist’s life, Maudie charts the challenges of stormy relationships and forms a compassionate tale of empowerment. For narrative purposes, director Walsh reshapes the artist’s later life to lighten the tone and draw to a sufficient close. Avid fans may feel dissatisfied with this altered portrayal, but considering the film is largely about Maud’s romance and subsequent awakening, Walsh’s decision is understandable. Guy Godfree’s cinematography pays homage to Maud’s artwork and perfectly captures her definitive scenes of rural Nova Scotian life. As to be expected, British actress Sally Hawkins gives a spectacular performance as the film’s driving force. She is wholly believable as Maud, her social awkwardness, timidity and physical limitations are remarkably perceptible. One might argue that this is her finest performance to date. Despite not venturing more into the subject’s psyche, Maudie celebrates finding light in the darkest of circumstances.
See the trailer: Maudie (2016)
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Baby Driver (2017) – – – (15) (Showing at Cineworld, Odeon, Showroom, The Light)
[Genre: Action/Crime. Dir: Edgar Wright. Starring: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey, Eiza González, Jon Bernthal, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm. Language: English ]
From the writer-director behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz comes Edgar Wright’s latest release Baby Driver. Ansel Elgort leads the tune-pumping carnage as getaway driver Baby, whose mixtape playing masks his droning tinnitus problem. Fast-footed Baby is one of the sharpest drivers around, and is currently working off his debt for criminal mastermind Doc (Kevin Spacey). Despite facilitating bank heists and hold-ups, Baby has a charming innocence ill-equipped for his criminal tendencies. When he meets diner waitress Debora (Lily James), the pair are drawn to one another through their shared passion for music. In his attempt to start anew, Baby agrees to one final job for Doc, a local post office heist with the potential to reap millions. Wright has once again devised another unconventional action-comedy with Baby Driver. The director has achieved a refreshing approach to the heist genre, whilst also honouring classics such as Michael Mann’s Heat. Music is integral to the momentum of the story, cleverly choreographing action to the rhythm of each track. Though his earlier films are typically spoof genre pieces, Baby Driver is more serious in tone. Rampant action courses through the film from start to finish, featuring some intense and viscerally violent moments. The character-driven plot allows Wright the room to explore the protagonist’s backstory, making it his most emotionally complex release so far. The film boasts a solid supporting cast from Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm, and an excellent central performance from Elgort. Wright’s distinctive brand of filmmaking makes Baby Driver an adrenaline-fuelled joyride worth hitching on to.
See the trailer: Baby Driver (2017)
Dunkirk (2017) – – – (12A) (Showing at Cineworld, Curzon, Odeon, Showroom, The Light, Vue)
[Genre: War Drama/Historical. Dir: Christopher Dunkirk. Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Harry Styles. Language: English]
Christopher Nolan made his directorial debut in 2000 and went on to become one of the most successful directors of the century. His latest release, gargantuan war epic Dunkirk, marks an exceptional milestone in his career and unveils a craftsman really coming into his own. The ambitious creation is presented in a triptych of separate stories, spread across three locations. Seven months into World War II, Hitler’s Wehrmacht army have surrounded the Calais stronghold and overpowered the French port of Boulogne. Caught within the Nazi’s trap, the 400,000 Allied troops have nowhere to turn, marooned on the barren beaches of Dunkirk. Young and visibly startled from the horrors of war, Private Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) heads to the shore through the shower of propaganda leaflets and hurtling gunfire. As he wanders across the vast expanse of stranded souls, Tommy encounters a private by the name of Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) burying a fallen soldier. After they brace against another assault by the German Stukas, the pair seize the stretcher of a wounded soldier and head for the only rescue ship in sight. Elsewhere, civilian captain Dawson (Mark Rylance) charts a brave expedition to the titular beach, after his boat is enlisted as an evacuation vessel. Also commandeering the runtime are white-knuckle sequences of RAF Spitfire pilots Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden) defending ships against Hitler’s Luftwaffe bombers. Little can be said about the plot of Dunkirk without revealing too much, although its narrative simplicity is one of its greatest assets. For Dunkirk doesn’t suffer the complexities of the director’s previous works, the attributes that have long confused – and divided – fans and filmgoers alike. Nolan takes the reins of his uninhibited freedom in the film industry and creates one of the most immersive depictions of war for some time. Dunkirk is all about the experience of being in war, and the film achieves just that by the dizzying sound design alone. Hans Zimmer provides a suitably droning soundtrack, which proves a welcome departure from the all too familiar sounds of his earlier collaborations with the director. Instead, he charges the scenes with momentum, blending together clock-ticking, shredding strings and jarring diegetic effects. The restrained use of dialogue is duly effective here, relying on the beautifully realistic performances and Nolan’s sure-handed direction to do the storytelling. What makes Dunkirk so special is that quietly powerful moments are respected as just that, quiet. The camera never dwells on a scene for too long, refusing to succumb to the overt sentimentality of Hollywood storytelling. Fans of Nolan will be prepared for his trademark narrative structure, though it fits in well with the subject matter. The filmmaker cleverly plays with time to weave together the three storylines, forming a powerful conclusion. A visceral and unsettling assault on the senses, Dunkirk shines as one of Nolan’s most impressive spectacles thus far.
See the trailer: Dunkirk (2017)
Hounds of Love (2016) – – – (18) (Showing at Cineworld, Showroom)
[Genre: Thriller/Crime Drama. Dir: Ben Young. Starring: Emma Booth, Ashleigh Cummings, Stephen Curry, Susie Porter. Language: English]
Australian director Ben Young makes a sterling directorial debut with serial killer thriller Hounds of Love. Based on a series of abductions and murders in ‘80s Australia, Young’s handling of the events is admirable and never sensationalises the crimes. The film unfurls with a chilling slow-motion sequence of high school girls playing softball outdoors. The camera assumes an uncomfortable gaze as it crawls across the shot, gradually revealing the voyeurs to be John (Stephen Curry) and Evelyn White (Emma Booth). Their ill-intent becomes clear as the couple coax a young girl into their car and leave without a trace. Set during December 1987, seventeen-year-old Vicki Maloney (Ashleigh Cummings) is having a difficult time dealing with her parents’ divorce. After sneaking out to go to a party, Vicki unknowingly hops into the car of the depraved couple and is taken to their home. As Vicki undergoes unspeakable torture, she starts to see the psychological hindrances of her assailants with clarity. Hounds of Love is certainly not for the faint-hearted, but will be positively received by crime thriller fans. Those who enjoyed the Australian release Snowtown will be well at home here. The film refuses to follow the expected path of captive narratives, which really separates it from the rest. Young opts for unsettling implication over gore, which proves far more disturbing. The script delves into the power dynamics of murderous couples, exploring the fears and insecurities that compel them to continue. Elevated by its intense and cerebral execution, Hounds of Love sets the benchmark high for its genre.
See the trailer: Hounds of Love (2016)
The Beguiled (2017) – – – (15) (Showing at Showroom)
[Genre: Drama. Dir: Sofia Coppola. Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning. Language: English/French]
Genre pieces have long been the forté of American director Sofia Coppola, and her latest accomplishment The Beguiled makes no exception. Coppola swaps the vapid modernity of The Bling Ring for the chaste torment of 1864 Virginia, with a reworking of Don Siegel’s 1971 film of the same name. Amid the quaint Virginian countryside three years into the Civil War, matron Miss Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) and teacher Edwina (Kirsten Dunst) hold their French lessons outdoors for the young ladies of Farnsworth Seminary. When young Amy (Oona Laurence) ventures into the woods to forage for mushrooms, she discovers wounded Dublin-born Union Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell). Amy dutifully notifies Miss Martha of her discovery, who hesitatingly allows the soldier into the school until recovered. Disturbing the dynamic of the sisterly dwelling, John’s presence steadily rouses desires that were better left dormant. Arguably her best film of the past decade, The Beguiled is a wonderfully subversive Southern Gothic tale complemented by Coppola’s refined aesthetic. While there are slight issues with gender representation in Coppola’s inevitably feminine approach, black humour and carnal tension help to balance the flaws. Those who found the languid pacing of the director’s earlier films off-putting will find the plot progression here more engaging. As expected, Coppola’s latest looks absolutely sumptuous. Cinematographer Philippe le Sourd (The Grandmaster) has achieved a work of chiaroscuro magnificence, mostly shot in natural daylight with nighttime scenes illuminated by candlelight. The Beguiled is an alluring and polished period drama, peppered with dark wit and sharp quips.
See the trailer: The Beguiled (2017)
Victim (1961) – – – (12A) (Showing at Showroom)
[Genre: Crime Drama. Dir: Basil Dearden. Starring: Dirk Bogarde, Sylvia Syms Dennis Price, Anthony Nicholls, Peter Copley. Language: English]
For a limited time only, Basil Dearden’s ground-breaking equality thriller Victim graces Showroom Cinema. Dearden’s bold vision caused ripples in the film world, addressing the oppressive law against homosexuality in Britain at the time. Dirk Bogarde stars as Melvin Farr, a prominent London barrister married to his school teacher wife Laura (Sylvia Syms). Farr’s closeted sexuality is threatened when he becomes the target of blackmail scheme, exposing a brief relationship he had with young construction worker Barrett (Peter McEnery). When Barrett makes contact with Farr to help with his situation, Farr treats his enquiries with suspicion believing him to be the blackmailer. After Barrett meets a doomed fate in prison for theft, Farr vows to honour his memory and ultimately abolish the persecution once and for all. Victim was regarded as one of the most daring films of its time, being the first cinematic production to confront the victimisation of homosexuals. Bogarde took huge risks with his decision to play the starring lead, stepping out of the matinée limelight for something of higher importance. The fact that Bogarde himself was a closeted gay man adds enormous weight to this social monument. Fiercely admirable for its conviction and sacrifice, Victim is a well-written, suspenseful social thriller.
See the trailer: Victim (1961)
War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) – – – (12A) (Showing at Cineworld, Curzon, Odeon, The Light, Vue)
[Genre: Action/Drama. Dir: Matt Reeves. Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval. Language: English]
Matt Reeves takes to the helm once more for the prequel trilogy finale with War for the Planet of the Apes. Taking place two years after Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and the apes are forced deeper into the woods by invading soldiers from the northern military encampment. When the apes outwit and capture squad leader Preacher, he’s released as a warning to the Tyrannical Colonel McCullough (Woody Harrelson). Antagonised by the Preacher’s news, the callous Colonel retaliates with an ambush that leaves Caesar longing for revenge. Drawing to a respectable close, fans of the trilogy will be undoubtedly pleased with War for the Planet of the Apes. Understandably, the film is really for those who are already familiar with the previous two instalments to appreciate the significance of the story. Reeves and co-writer Mark Bomback have crafted a brilliantly absorbing story, woven together with biblical, historical and political themes. As to be expected, the work of Weta Digital continues to astound, demonstrating the full potential of motion-capture technology. The apes are sumptuously rendered, with remarkable attention given to the finest detail. The coupling of Michael Seresin’s noir-esque cinematography and Michael Giacchino’s enthralling score delivers great impact. War for the Planet of the Apes forms as a compelling conclusion to the beloved Apes trilogy.
See the trailer: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)
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