Social Sheffield Film Editor, Natasha Edgington, picks the top three films screening in Sheffield, Mon. 11 – Sun. 17 Sept. 2017
1. – The Chess Players (1977) – – – (PG) (Showing at Showroom on Monday 11 September at 5:50pm)
[Genre: Drama/History. Dir: Satyajit Ray. Starring: Sanjeev Kumar, Saeed Jaffrey, Shabana Azmi, Amjad Khan, Victor Banerjee, Richard Attenborough, Tom Alter. Language: Hindi/Urdu/English]
A rare treat comes to Showroom Cinema for one evening only with a chamber drama directed by Bengali master of cinema Satyajit Ray. The story takes place in the illustrious city of Lucknow, capital of the Oudh province in 1856, exactly one year before the Sepoy Mutiny. With many Indian provinces submitting to British colonisation, the disconnected and culturally ignorant General Outram (Richard Attenborough) focuses on Oudh as the East Indian Tea Company’s next target. King Wajid has taken for granted Oudh’s independence treaty with the British, shrugging his duties for languid days spent reciting poetry, dancing and attending to his vast harem. When Outram ask for his Urdu-speaking captain to translate one of the king’s verses, he bluntly refutes its beauty and eloquence. For intricacies are often lost in translation, and Outram shows no urgency to understand the people whose lives he wishes to govern. Meanwhile, two noblemen obsessively partake in a ceaseless battle on the chessboard, unbeknownst that they too are mere pawns being played. Whilst a slight departure from his definitive works, The Chess Players marks Ray’s first film in Hindi and scintillates with its exuberant use of colour. Though its extravagancy and uneven structure detracts from the modest magnificence of Ray’s neo-realist creations, it still remains a must-see for fans of the filmmaker. The Chess Players brings to life a particularly tenuous period of India’s history and respectfully traces both sides of the board. The screenplay veers more into comedy than the majority of Ray’s oeuvre and explores addiction, our need for distraction and cultural cacophony. Despite the odd zoom choices, Soumendu Roy’s cinematography is splendid, many compositions evoke the aesthetics of Sergei Parajanov and Pier Paolo Pasolini. Should you find yourself longing for more Satyajit Ray, catch his 1958 classic The Music Room on Sunday. The Chess Players is a wonderfully opulent and metaphorical study of control, or lack thereof.
See the trailer: The Chess Players (1977)
2. – Wind River (2017) – – – (15) (Showing at Cineworld, Curzon, Showroom)
[Genre: Crime Drama/Mystery. Dir: Taylor Sheridan. Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Kelsey Asbille, Graham Greene, Julia Jones. Language: English]
Actor turned screenwriter Taylor Sheridan has been thriving behind the scenes for the past few years and now hops into the director’s chair for a second time with murder mystery Wind River. Having worked alongside Denis Villeneuve on the script for Sicario and David Mackenzie on Hell or High Water, Sheridan fuses together his directorial vision and skillful knack for storytelling with gripping results. As U.S. Fish & Wildlife agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Remmer) treks the snow-blanketed wilderness of Wyoming’s Wind River Indian Reservation in search of a mountain lion predator, he uncovers the frozen body of Indian teenager Natalie. His discovery harkens painful memories for Cory, whose teenage daughter was raped and murdered three years prior. Vowing to deliver the justice he was unable to do for his daughter, Cory reports the body to local sheriff Ben (Graham Greene), who enlists FBI rookie agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) to lead the investigation. As the team trudge deeper into their investigation, the desolate and unforgiving territory grows harsher with each development. Considering this is Sheridan’s first ‘real’ directorial effort, Wind River marks a strong and respectable debut. The stark Wyoming landscape is as essential to the story as the characters that drive it, permeating the atmosphere with disquieting isolation. Sheridan’s sure-handed direction and well-written screenplay ensures the film is engaging throughout, bolstered by his decision to live on an Indian reservation to carry out research. Billowing the tension and quivering the heartstrings is another exceptional score by music dream team Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Exploring the abandonment of Native American communities and the disparities that sadly persist, Wind River provides plenty to mull over long after the credits roll.
See the trailer: Wind River (2017)
3. – The Villainess (2017) – – – (18) (Showing at Showroom)
[Genre: Action Drama. Dir: Jung Byung-gil. Starring: Kim Ok-bin, Shin Ha-kyun, Sung Jun, Kim Seo-hyeong. Language: Korean]
There’s something about revenge cinema that South Korean filmmakers are so naturally inclined towards, and Jung Byung-gil’s The Villainess makes a gnarly addition to the nation’s roster. The film opens with seven minutes of sheer carnage propelled by Sook-hee, a petite and unsuspecting young woman with a thirst for vengeance. Having been raised by ruthless gangsters who trained her as an assassin, Sook-hee lashes back after her husband’s assassination on their honeymoon. When the Korean Intelligence Service track her down, they propose a deal that promises a better life for Sook-hee and her unborn child. As Sook-hee is thronged into training once more, her past life as a cold-blooded killer is never too far behind. A punchy and kinetically-charged thriller, The Villainess is a must see for action junkies. Largely comprised of cleverly-choreographed sequences, the film takes a bow to The Raid, Hardcore Henry and Kill Bill. The psychological flaws of Sook-hee’s character allow room for compelling dissection, torn between her killer instinct and fanciful dreams of motherhood. While not without its faults, The Villainess confirms Byung-gil as a budding new voice in South Korean cinema.
See the trailer: The Villainess (2017)
– – – PREVIOUS EDITOR’S PICKS – – – STILL SCREENING IN SHEFFIELD – – –
Baby Driver (2017) – – – (15) (Showing at 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)
Detroit (2017) – – – (15) (Showing at Cineworld, Curzon, The Light, Odeon, Showroom)
[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)
Dunkirk (2017) – – – (12A) (Showing at Cineworld, Curzon, The Light, Odeon, 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)
Taxi Driver (1976) – – – (18) (Showing at Cineworld on Monday 11 September at 8:15pm)
[Genre: Drama/Crime. Dir: Martin Scorsese. Starring: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Peter Boyle. Language: English/Spanish]
Gracing Showroom Cinema this month is the 4k restoration of Martin Scorsese’s seminal feature Taxi Driver. After their previous work together on Mean Streets, Scorsese teamed back up with Robert De Niro, resulting in career-defining moments for both. Discharged marine Travis (Robert De Niro) takes up work as a cabbie in New York City, often navigating the streets at night due to his PTSD-triggered insomnia. His nocturnal observations shape his moral outlook, despairing at the degradation that greets him at every street corner. This depravity manifests in Travis’ mind through the course of the film, warping his perception of humanity and fuelling his isolation. Travis’ work leads him to cross paths with a young girl (Jodie Foster), who is entangled in the criminal underbelly he disdains so passionately. Taking up the gauntlet, he decides to enact justice the only way he knows how. Martin Scorsese’s tour de force character study continues to impress audiences forty years after its release. It shows how misunderstood individuals can turn to contempt if connections with others fail. Screenwriter Paul Schrader took inspiration from the personal diaries of Arthur Bremer, who shot presidential candidate George Wallace in 1972. The use of voice-over narration as Travis charts the grungy streets has become one of its most iconic features. Cinematographer Michael Chapman, who later went on to work with Scorsese on Raging Bull, gorgeously captures the decaying urban landscape of ‘70s New York City, with looming camerawork simulating voyeurism. The effective use of slow motion during pivotal scenes gently nods to the techniques of samurai cinema, a genre that Scorsese continues to champion to this day with his film preservation work. The legendary influence of Taxi Driver is seen in the likes of Luc Besson’s Léon: The Professional and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. All roles regardless of size are performed realistically, though of course Robert De Niro steals the show as the malcontented anti-hero. A gritty, modern-day tale of sin and redemption, Taxi Driver stands tall as a perfectly-crafted psychological drama.
See the trailer: Taxi Driver (1976)
War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) – – – (12A) (Showing at 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)
Latest posts by natasha edgington (see all)
- Top 3 Films Screening in Sheffield (Mon. 16 – Sun. 22 Oct.) - October 15, 2017
- Top 3 Films Screening in Sheffield (Mon. 9 – Sun. 15 Oct.) - October 8, 2017
- Top 3 Films Screening in Sheffield (Mon. 2 – Sun. 8 Oct.) - October 2, 2017