Compliance review : London Film Festival 2012

Stars: Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, Pat Healy, Bill Camp, Ashlie Atkinson, Philip Ettinger, James McCaffrey
Written by: Craig Zobel
Directed by: Craig Zobel | Runtime: 90 minutes

Engrossing, uncomfortable and infuriating, director Craig Zobel’s psychological thriller Compliance encompasses an idiosyncratic mix of characteristics. It is a push-pull movie and one unlikely to leave anyone who’s seen without a strong emotional response to the events depicted.

Those events happen to be based on true stories from the US, but the facts only serve to heighten the incredulity that audiences will come to experience. In essence this is about a sinister prank call made to a fast-food joint from a man posing as police officer Daniels (Healy). He tells the manageress Sandra (Dowd) that a young female employee, Becky (Walker), has stolen money from a customer’s purse. He adds that because he’s involved in a bigger case regarding Becky he can’t get to the restaurant himself and that Sandra and her team will have to stay on the line and help him with the investigation. Continue reading

Dead Europe review : London Film Festival 2012

Stars: Ewen Leslie, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Danae Skiadi, Marton Csokas, Yigal Naor, Jean-François Balmer, Thanos Samaras, William Zappa
Screenplay: Louise Fox
Directed by: Tony Krawitz | Running time: 84 minutes

Based on the book by Christos Tsiolkas (better known for his 2008 novel, The Slap), Dead Europe can be seen as a twisted tale of secrets, lies and the dark stories families would rather not pass on to the next generation. But, despite all the potential this suggests, its characters head out on a trip that is as uninviting as it is unlikely.

Isaac (Leslie) is a photographer – his trademark shots appear to be stark, direct-to-camera portraits that are meant to be windows to the soul – who travels from Australia to Athens following the death of his father. He has an exhibition there, but he also plans to scatter his father’s ashes back in the ‘old’ country. The mere mention of his pilgrimage prompts wails and cries from his family, particularly his mother, whose racism comes to the fore as she mutters about a curse placed on her late husband over an event during the second world war. Continue reading

The Hunt (Jagten) review: London Film Festival 2012

Stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp, Lasse Fogelstrøm, Susse Wold, Alexandra Rapaport
Written by: Thomas Vinterberg, Tobias Lindholm
Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg | Running time: 111 minutes

Sometimes you don’t need guns or big explosions to grab an audience’s attention. Sometimes you just need a huge dose of injustice. And maybe a side order of lies. The Hunt, from Danish director Thomas Vinterberg, shapes up like it wants to take everything away from its central figure, Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen). It targets his job, his family and his friends, and aims to drive him away from them and leave him in the wilderness to rot.

That may not sound like fun: it isn’t. But what Vinterberg successfully delivers is a film that wants to engage head and heart, and which seeks to shine a light on themes such as trust, reputation, gossip and hysteria. The Hunt is thought provoking, confrontational and never less than immensely watchable. And that goes for performances, cinematography and soundtrack. Continue reading

The Central Park Five review: London Film Festival 2012

The Central Park Five
Written by: Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon
Directed by: Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon | Running time: 119 minutes

The Central Park jogger case that began on 19 April 1989 marked a pivotal moment in New York’s modern history. It forced the city’s authorities, suffering civil unrest and a rising drug problem, to address the fears of its population, for whom the mean streets had become too dirty.

While the attack and sexual assault of a young female investment banker in the park ultimately meant the city changed, for the five black and Latino teenagers arrested and wrongfully convicted of the attack, it is a story of injustice and police corruption. Even now, over 20 years later, that story has yet to be successfully resolved. Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon’s affecting film may take the form of a conventional documentary, with its mixture of archive material, stock footage, talking-head interviews and atmospheric shots of the city, but the sheer strength of its story makes it a truly remarkable piece of work. Continue reading

London Film Festival – Black Swan: Aronofsky turns it up to 11!

When filmmaker Marty DiBergi asks Spinal Tap’s guitar “god” Nigel Tufnell about his amps that go up to 11, he says: “Is it any louder?” The answer is stark and obvious … obviously. “Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it?” And it’s this exchange I imagine Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky had with his screenwriters, and then that the movie studio had with Aronofsky. Continue reading

London Film Festival : West is West film review

Sequels aren’t meant to be this way are they? It’s not that West is West – the follow-up to East is East – has reinvented the cinematic wheel, it’s just that it’s been over 10 years since the original. Ten years … and let’s be honest, no real euphoria for a return. Still that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy what’s on offer. And enjoy is the order of the day in what is a shamelessly populist coming-of-age drama shot through with humour and bittersweet emotion. Continue reading