Social Sheffield Film Editor, Natasha Edgington, picks the top three films screening in Sheffield, Mon. 7 – Sun. 13 Aug. 2017
1. – Detroit (2017) – – – (15) (Showing at Cineworld at 8:00pm and Odeon at 8:15pm on Tuesday 8 August)
[Genre: Drama. Dir: Kathryn Bigelow. Starring: John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore, Hannah Murray. Language: English]
American filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) returns with latest socio-political docudrama Detroit. Bigelow’s sprawling saga chronicles the racially-charged uprising of 1967, a period in the city’s history that feels alarmingly relevant today. Amongst the many tumultuous events during the 5-day riots, The Algiers motel incident garnered significant press coverage, and understandably so. It’s this particular story that Bigelow and former journalist cum scriptwriter Mark Boal seek to portray with Detroit. The film opens with a sequence depicting the Great Migration of African-Americans in 1916, the movement which would fan the flames of disenfranchisement in largely black communities. Working chronologically from 1967, Detroit kicks off with the police raid on an unlicensed drinking establishment that would become the impetus to the chaos. The botched club raid sparks mass rioting and looting, with the citizen’s allegiances torn between authority and race. As conflict wreaks havoc into the third day, many seek refuge in The Algiers motel, including the group The Dramatics, whose concert has been cancelled. The predominantly black guests of the motel attempt to pass the time and socialise with each other in their rooms. However, when a small joke between friends results in Carl Cooper (Jason Mitchell) firing his starter pistol, the authorities believe a sniper lay in their midst. The razor-sharp tension in the air throngs the National Guard, Michigan State Police and Detroit Police forces into the building with devastating results. Detroit will prove a difficult watch for many viewers, particularly in its harsh second act that features some deeply unsettling torture scenes. Detroit serves as a stark and harrowing reminder that fundamental facets of society have experienced little progression since the events of 1967. However, to comprehensively tackle this weighty moment in American history, Bigelow would require far more than the 143-minute runtime. This lack of time means vital chapters in the timeline are either omitted entirely or glossed over, and fail to provide sufficient context for those unfamiliar with the incidents. Detroit showcases some fantastic performances from its huge cast, including John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Imperial Dreams) as a security guard conflicted by his loyalties and Will Poulter (The Revenant, Son of Rambow) as the inherently racist tyrant fuelling the brutality. A powerful and gut-wrenching dramatisation of historical events, Detroit will leave viewers contemplating the barbaric tendencies of humankind.
See the trailer: Detroit (2017)
2. – Atomic Blonde (2017) – – – (15) (Showing at Cineworld, Curzon, Odeon, The Light, Vue)
[Genre: Action. Dir: David Leitch. Starring: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Eddie Marsan, John Goodman, Toby Jones. Language: English/German/Russian]
Charlize Theron leads David Leitch’s slick spy flick Atomic Blonde, and gifts the genre with a new bad-ass heroine. Having co-directed John Wick alongside Chad Stahelski, stuntman turned director Leitch calls on his past experience to craft sharp, well-choreographed carnage with Atomic Blonde. The film takes place during the Cold War in 1989, covering the final days of the Berlin Wall. Diligent MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is dispatched to Berlin to retrieve a list of double agents working undercover in the Soviet Union. The classified list was swiped by Russian operative Yuri Bakhtin (Jóhannes Jóhannesson) after the assassination of secret agent James Gasciogne. To prevent the document falling into K.G.B. possession, Broughton teams up with Berlin MI6 station chief David Percival (James McAvoy) to track down Bakhtin. However, with each moment spent with her loose-cannon partner, Broughton grows suspicious of who she can really trust. Adapted from Antony Johnstad and illustrator Sam Hart’s graphic novel The Coldest City, Atomic Blonde is a visually-satisfying, blood-pumping thriller. While the narrative treads into the familiar territory of spy cinema, the film’s most substantial exploration is that of politics and the strong distrust that courses throughout. However, audiences will most likely flock to Atomic Blonde for the female-fronted action, which is by far its greatest asset. Charlize Theron’s cool and collected performance embodies the role with the attitude and agility needed to take a heroine seriously. Honouring the film’s location, cinematographer Jonathan Sela contrasts sallow shots of Communist Berlin against the neon radiance of the city’s renowned club scene. Leitch also threads in a surprise for cinephiles by paying homage to the Russian visionary Andrei Tarkovsky. Though not without its flaws, Atomic Blonde hits all the spots for those in need of an espionage fix.
See the trailer: Atomic Blonde (2017)
3. – A Ghost Story (2017) – – – (12A) (Showing at Curzon, Showroom)
[Genre: Drama. Dir: David Lowery. Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Barlow Jacobs, Grover Coulson, Will Oldham, Kesha. Language: English]
David Lowery returns to the director’s chair for his pensive requiem A Ghost Story. A diverse talent in American indie cinema, Lowery worked as editor on Shane Carruth’s contemporary sci-fi Upstream Colour and producer on Alex Ross Perry’s comedy Listen Up Philip. Though his elegiac Deep South romance Ain’t Them Bodies Saints was an aesthetic masterpiece, the story lacked the grit such a setting demands. A Ghost Story follows in the wake of Lowery’s work on Pete’s Dragon last year, the proceeds of which helped Lowery self-fund this intimate passion project. Opening with an epigraph by Virginia Woof, the film moves into the rural Texas home of M (Rooney Mara) and C (Casey Affleck), as they’re awoken one night by mysterious noises coming from their piano. The spectral presence bound to their home sparks discord between the couple. M would rather move somewhere more populated, whereas songwriter C is sentimentally attached to his creative space. After C is suddenly killed in a car accident, he awakens as a ghost transformed, leaving the morgue cloaked in a white sheet. Returning home, C is unable to console his despairing wife and enters the grieving process through a ghost’s perspective. A mysterious meditation on time, loss and memory, A Ghost Story is a lyrical and thought-provoking wonder. As to be expected from the filmmaker the use of dialogue is restrained, although the winning fusion of Andrew Droz Palermo’s cinematography and Lowery’s editing maintains visual engagement throughout. Violinist and frequent collaborator Daniel Hart enchants with another hauntingly evocative score. Filmed just days after the completion of Pete’s Dragon, it’s clear that Lowery is brimming with masterly potential. A beautifully transcendent, heart-on-sleeve gem, A Ghost Story casts the mirror on ourselves and existence as we know it.
See the trailer: A Ghost Story (2017)
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Baby Driver (2017) – – – (15) (Showing at Cineworld, The Light, Vue)
[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)
Land of Mine (2015) – – – (15) (Showing at 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)
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)
War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) – – – (12A) (Showing at Cineworld, 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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