The late Tom Clancy’s most famous character is dusted off and rebooted once again in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, an entertaining if rudimentary assembly of familiar espionage plot devices and characters. Those who remember the previous Ryan films – in particular the original trilogy of The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger – will feel immediately at home in this new take, which moves the character in to the present day whilst portraying a reasonably faithful version of his origins. But the uncomplicated plot, brisk pace and short-ish running time mean that, compared to those previous outings, this is a lightweight take on Clancy’s hero, lacking the murky politics which usually dragged him out of his depth.
Full review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit | Film @ The Digital Fix
Following swiftly in the footsteps of 12 YEARS A SLAVE and MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM comes yet another real life tale of human brutality and endurance. After a very shaky start, THE RAILWAY MAN emerges as a modestly moving portrayal of psychological trauma and unlikely reconciliation. But Jonathan Teplitzky’s film is hamstrung by miscast stars and some extremely uneven editing, which negates much of the story’s emotional impact. What remains are honourable intentions and a reliably strong performance from Colin Firth as Eric Lomax, whose book about his experiences during World War II has been adapted by Frank Cottrell Boyce and Andy Paterson.
Full review: The Railway Man | TAKE ONE
A deserving subject is given an ill-deserved biopic treatment in MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM. Though Justin Chadwick’s film may work as a superficial overview of the late icon’s life, from his upbringing in a tribal village to the moment he entered office as South Africa’s first black president, it suffers from a script that tries to do too much in too little time and is chock full of trite directorial devices, as though the audience couldn’t be trusted to stay awake. What makes the film entirely watchable are the central performances from Idris Elba and Naomie Harris, who bring much needed dignity and gravitas to the piece.
Full review: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom | TAKE ONE
Director Peter Jackson took a risk when he decided to break up his epic prequel to The Lord of the Rings in to three parts rather than the originally-planned two. After all, this was clearly never going to be a simple page-to-screen adaptation of The Hobbit, and it threatened to stretch an already slender plot beyond breaking point. Yet he just about succeeds in pulling it off. The Desolation of Smaug is an exciting adventure romp, providing two and a half hours of solid entertainment, while at the same time failing to come anywhere near the highs of The Two Towers, Jackson’s middle section of his earlier Rings cycle which, for many, was the best film in the entire trilogy.
Full review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug | Film @ The Digital Fix
If a gold standard for gothic cinema had to be chosen, then Jack Clayton’s THE INNOCENTS would surely be on the shortlist, probably at the very top. No other film can touch it in terms of subtle emotional complexity and haunting resonance. On the surface a deceptively straightforward tale of spooky visitations, it’s only with repeated viewings that its true mastery reveals itself. Coming back to the film after a prolonged gap, the thing that really takes you aback is how creepy the story is – and not just in a supernatural way. Dark forces are very much at work in the real world too, blurring the lines between reality and imagination.
Full review: The Innocents | TAKE ONE
If you want see, touch and feel the highs and lows of young love in a way that only cinema can conjure, then BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR is the film for you. It’s an extraordinarily vivid portrayal of a romantic relationship, from the giddy upswing of its early halcyon days to its later violent and traumatic collapse. It even manages to transcend the highly misleading, and slightly distasteful, lesbian love drama label that it has been stuck with ever since it wowed audiences at Cannes earlier this year, where it collected the Palme d’Or.
Full review: Blue Is the Warmest Colour | TAKE ONE
Steve Coogan and Judi Dench have to be among the more unlikely of odd couples seen on the big screen in recent years – uniting Alan Partridge and M sounds like one of the Norfolk DJ’s more outlandish fantasies – but the combination works beautifully in PHILOMENA. This perfectly pitched dramatisation of Martin Sixsmith’s book walks the tightrope of comedy and pathos with such precision that there is no doubting the sure hand and light touch of an experienced director. Take a bow then Stephen Frears, whose earlier MADE IN DAGENHAM similarly tackled serious issues camouflaged as comedy; he allows the story to unfurl gently yet effortlessly, letting each new twist surprise and quietly enthrall.
Full review: Philomena | TAKE ONE