As a high concept film – two soldiers are tasked with reaching a Colonel in enemy territory to prevent 1600 men being massacred – the plot is very simple, something which means you can focus on the characters and the actors rather than any narrative complexities.
The bulk of the film is designed to look like it is one single shot, something done with remarkable skill by Sam Mendes, cinematographer Roger Deakins and all the camera operators and the crew. It's underpinned with a wonderful score by Thomas Newman and it's clear a lot of work has gone into the design, costumes, and by every part of the art department to faithfully recreate the numerous aspects of First World War combat in northern France.
This is a brilliant film, one which is gripping from beginning to end, two parts of the film which mirror each other, and sucks you in at the outset and does not release its hold until the credits roll at the end. I hope to see it again at the cinema that, if not, I'll buy it when it's released and look forward to watching the film and the bonus features about how it was made.
The idea of some ex-military criminals being hunted at night by some malevolent scarecrows seems like the plot for a comedy horror, not a serious genre film, yet somehow – and slightly surprisingly – this is an effective and atmospheric horror flick.
A lot of credit must go to Terry Plumeri, whose score is one of the main reasons this works. It's a really good piece of music, combining perfectly with the visuals and sets the tone early on for a film which is strangely unsettling and, as someone says early on in the film, "This is some creepy shit."
I don't know if it's because there is something primal about being lost in a strange place at night and unsure about what exactly is happening, but something makes this an engrossing watch where you begin to feel for the antagonists.
I'm glad there's no explanation during a dénouement which neatly wraps everything up because leaving the scarecrows as an inexplicable and unknown entity seems somehow more satisfactory that if there was a rational and logical explanation for what was going on and why they were doing what they were doing. If the film had better calibre of acting or perhaps a subtext with a sociopolitical commentary then it would be better. However, as it is, I like it despite any narrative or thespian shortcomings.
This is the second time I've seen F. Gary Gray's biopic about N.W.A, the Los Angeles hip-hop outfit which became a critical part in making rap music and accepted art form and part of the mainstream music scene.
The casting is spot on, making the younger versions of Eazy E, Dr Dre, Ice Cube, and DJ Yella completely plausible and even likeable young men. I could watch Paul Giamatti in just about anything as he is one of the best character actors alive, and his performance as Jerry Heller, N.W.A's first manager, oozes compassion and experience.
The film doesn't shy away from the violence and drug use which was so prevalent in the lives of men like the founding members of N.W.A – indeed it makes the lyrics, attitudes and behaviour more understandable – so is an important part of documenting the rise of West Coast rap artists.
Perhaps the most impressive parts of the film are the live performances, particularly the Detroit concert when they disobeyed the police's order not to play 'Fuck tha Police'.
It would be easy for a biopic like this to become bogged down in familiar clichés and tropes, so it's to F. Gary Gray's credit that it feels fresh, provocative, and exciting all the way through to the moving final segment focusing on Easy E's death and Dr Dre's rise to superstardom.
The film is beautifully shot by acclaimed cinematographer Matthew Libatique, has a superb score by Joseph Trapanese, and the use of original music is smartly blended into the performances by the actors, giving the movie an authenticity and sense of familiarity which is invaluable. I highly recommend it to everyone, regardless of your feelings about hip-hop/rap music.
Nicholas Cage has been in some great films during his long career, most notably Leaving Las Vegas for which he won multiple awards for his performance. He's also been in some utter dross such as Ghost Rider, which was (in my opinion) justifiably panned by critics and earned Cage a Golden Raspberry for Worst Actor. He is clearly an actor capable of great performances who can recognise a brilliant script and help make a fine film, or do the complete opposite. Sadly, this is one of his weaker efforts.
One thing an action film should never be is dull and sadly Drive Angry is boring. It seems to be made by someone who finds muscle cars exciting and deserving of pride of place in a major feature film. Because of its flimsy high concept storyline, this needed a blend of snappy dialogue, memorable music, and exciting action set pieces but failed on all fronts. I didn't really care about any of the main characters so my attention and began to drift long before the halfway point; there was nothing in the third act to make it suddenly compelling so it was a minor miracle I watched until the end credits.
I think a different director would have made this obviously self-referential and shot with a Grindhouse aesthetic, perhaps throwing in some gratuitous sex and nudity for the hell of it. Patrick Lussier isn't one of those filmmakers. Nor is he a director like Michael Bay who would throw in some explosions in absence of narrative coherency.
Nicolas Cage can be a great actor, often been impressed by William Fichtner but he was also wasted here. This is a film to watch if you are morbidly curious, have nothing else to watch, and want something on in the background while you are ironing. Otherwise, give it a miss.
I didn’t know much about the Apple Corporation and its history prior to watching this film, and I didn’t know much more when it finished. The same can’t be said about the subject of this film, a man credited with revolutionising the mobile telephone.
When you have an actor as good as Michael Fassbender as the lead, it makes sense to give him as much screen time as possible, and Fassbender probably appears in every frame of the film, or at least every scene. His interactions with Steve Wozniak (a very impressive Seth Rogen) and assistant Joanna Hoffman (the always excellent Kate Winslet) probably take the most time, but the ones which have the most emotional resonance are with his daughter, Lisa, played by three actresses as she grows up from age 5 to 19.
The setting of the film, at his famous launches, allows you to see into his interactions with the most significant people in his life, how he prepares for the public, what product he is about to sell to the world and the state of the business. This is probably the most aesthetically low-key film Danny Boyle has made, but the visuals suit the subject and the technology for which he was famous. It isn’t a typical biopic, it’s a film which tries to get to the private Steve Jobs, the man with poor interpersonal skills, a difficult childhood, and a strange way of interacting with his daughter.
When I said I didn’t learn much about Apple computers or phones, it’s not a problem because it’s not something which interests me. What I wanted was an engaging and somewhat informative character study of the main subject, the film delivered exactly that and that’s why I will quite happily watch it again.