We review this week’s new cinema releases, including CALVARY and THE RAID 2
MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH!
Directed by John Michael McDonagh. Starring Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran, David Wilmot, Isaach De Bankole, M. Emmet Walsh, Pat Shortt, Killian Scott, Orla O’Rourke, Marie-Josee Croze.
THE PLOT: When Father James Lavelle (Gleeson) is told in the confession box by a man exacting revenge for a childhood spent being abused by a now-dead priest that, come Sunday week, he’s going to kill him – arguing that killing a good priest rather than a bad one will have much more of an impact on the world – he’s left with, he’s told, enough time to get his house in order. Only there isn’t all that much order in this small Sligo town, Father James having to contend with open infidelities, cocaine use, abusive language and a barely concealed hatred towards the Church. And that’s on a good day.
The arrival home of his heartbroken and suicidal daughter, Fiona (Reilly), has Father James pondering his life even more, having joined the priesthood shortly after Fiona’s mother passed away. He might just be the only sincere man in town, but that doesn’t stop his growing sense of despair. Most of that despair directed at the often hateful fools around him, many of them, it would seem, capable of casual cruelty…
THE VERDICT: John Michael McDonagh’s follow-up to THE GUARD is a surprisingly moving film. Eventually. Before that, we have all the usual black noir, state-of-the-nation humour that we’ve come to expect from the McDonagh brothers. As Gillen’s sardonic surgeon quips, this is one-part humanism and nine parts gallows humour. Only, to be fair, the humanism is pretty strong here, with the swelling wave of tenderness a major blow to anyone who might want to dismiss the McDonaghs’ work as Tarantinoesque.
Which is just a lazy way of pointing out that a filmmaker is very aware of how cinema works, and where it’s been, and who isn’t afraid to make a few in-jokes about it. Gleeson’s stoic priest quips with his daughter after a tear-filled declaration of love, “How’s that for a third act revelation?”, the two having previously expressed a concern that their heartfelt conversation might turn into “one of those s***e plays at the Abbey”.
It may, at times, play like Glenroe On Acid, but there’s a surprising calm running through CALVARY. And most of it emanates from Gleeson, who gives a towering, moving performance in a role that could have so easily been tragically comical. As opposed to comically tragic. Just like the Church, in fact.
Great-looking movie too – not quite Roger Deakins, or Jack Cardiff, but much is made of the beautiful Sligo landscape and the wonderful light that comes with stormy weather.
Review by Paul Byrne
THE RAID 2 (Indonesia, USA/18/150mins)
Directed by Gareth Evans. Starring Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle, Very Tri Yulisman.
THE PLOT: Immediately after the events of THE RAID, Rama finds himself drawn into an elaborate police plan, which will involve him going undercover to find and destroy those in the underworld responsible for his brother’s murder.
THE VERDICT: This time out, the story is much more personal for Rama, as he fights to save himself and uncover police corruption and collusion with the Indonesian underworld. The more complex story, which spans years, is both a welcome change to THE RAID and THE RAID 2’s greatest weakness. In trying to make the story bigger and wider there are times when Evans’ story almost collapses under the weight of numerous characters and multiple betrayals.
Iko Uwais has certainly grown as an actor since THE RAID and easily conveys the mood and motivations of his character. Arafin Putra brings the menace and unpredictability as Uco, Alex Abbad makes the evil Bejo just as slimy and corrupt as we could hope, and Julie Estelle and Very Tri Yulisman bring some comic relief – and tons of blood – and hench people Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man.
The fight scenes, as we may expect, are nothing short of breathtaking. Uwais and his opponents show off their speed, strength and skill throughout the movie, and the choreographed set pieces not only develop the characters, but also serve to remind us that Rama is truly fighting for his life here. Unlike The Raid, which took place in one building, The Raid 2 spans an entire city, so there are tons of great locations for epic and bloody fights to take place in; all of which are brutal, violent and utterly exhilarating.
It seems that Evans relished the change of setting, as the cinematography not only highlights colour – especially red – but also the scope of the battle that Rama is fighting. The car chase in particular, goes to show off the skill of Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono behind the camera, and many seamless shots give the audience the feel that we are racing along with these characters.
THE RAID 2 is an incredibly worthy follow up to THE RAID, and does the characters’ struggles and battles complete justice. The cinematography is gorgeous, the music soaring, and Evans’s nods to the films that inspired him are both subtle and graceful. That said, however, the sweeping scale of the film means that The Raid 2 lacks the beautiful simplicity of The Raid, and there are times when it is difficult to keep up with who has double crossed who. That said, if you like your martial arts movies epic and brutal, there is tons to love here.
Review by Brogen Hayes
THE LUNCHBOX (India,France,Germany,USA/PG/104mins)
Directed by Ritesh Batra. Starring Irrfan Khan, Minrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Lillete Dubey, Nakul Vaid, Bharati Achrekar, Yashvi Puneet Nagar.
THE PLOT: Thanks to the long-running tradition of dabbawallahs – a network of white-capped, bicycle-wielding delivery men who bring husbands at work the lunch their wives have prepared – two strangers are brought together by a one in a million chance. Yep, one wife’s lunchbox ended up being delivered to the wrong man. By chance, the wife in question, the pretty Ila (Kaur), has been struggling to garner any real attention from her constantly distracted husband, Rajeev (Vaid), whilst the man who gets the surprise lunchbox is lonely widower accountant Saajan (Khan), on the verge of retirement. Both are ripe for someone to confide in, and they are soon passing notes back and forth through the dabbawallahs. Helping this budding romance along is Saajan’s trainee replacement, Shaikh (Siddiqui), who is determined that his teacher join him on the sunny side of life…
THE VERDICT: One of those films whose very slightness is its strength, The Lunchbox is more than just an exotic snack. There’s real sadness and sorrow just below the deceptively sunny surface, real pain beneath the pretty cinematography and peppy soundtrack. Much of it comes from first-time writer/director Batra, but the cast here are impeccable – expected with Khan (Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi), but relative newcomers Kaur (more known for her stage work) and Siddiqui (a festival favourite, thanks to Bombay Talkies and Monsoon Shootout).
There’s much to savour here…
Review by Paul Byrne
KHUMBA (South Africa/G/85mins)
Directed by Anthony Silverston. Starring Jake T. Austin, Liam Neeson, Catherine Tate, Richard E. Grant, Steve Buscemi.
THE PLOT: When zebra Khumba is born only half covered with stripes, his superstitious herd believe that he is curse on their way of life, and it is he who has caused the drought that befalls them. When he grows older, Khumba sets out to find a magical water hole, break the supposed curse and literally earn his stripes. This is easier said than done however, as Khumba has always lived in a secure enclosure and has little experience of life, and the creatures, that await him outside the fence.
THE VERDICT: The cast of KHUMBA is filled with great actors who bring their characters to life, Liam Neeson channels his inner evil as the tiger Phango, Richard E. Grant plays a vain ostrich, Steve Buscemi voices an opportunistic wild dog and Catherine Tate plays a slightly mad, lonely sheep. The cast does their best with the characters, and there are moments of comedy but this stellar cast is let down by over the top direction from Anthony Silverston and an uninspiring story.
Principally written by Raffaella Delle Donne and Anthony Silverston, Khumba is a morality tale in which the title character overcomes adversity and realises that the things that make him different are actually the things that make him special. So far, so familiar, and little is done throughout the film to make Khumba stand out from the pack. Although there is some clever observational humour and a couple of wise cracks, the characters feel so over the top as to be melodramatic, and it is difficult to relate to characters who are clownish with little depth.
The animation of the film is stylised, with many of the animals sporting unusual patterns and exaggerated colours. The desert setting of the film is beautifully realised, but there are moments where the animation slips, leaving the film feeling a little cheap and a little underdone.
In all, KHUMBA is just distracting enough to keep the little ones quiet for an hour or so, but with an uninspiring, familiar story, overdone characters and over the top voice performances, there is little here for anyone over the age of seven.
Review by Brogen Hayes
THE LAST DAYS ON MARS (UK/Ireland/15A/98mins)
Directed by Ruairi Robinson. Starring Liev Schreiber, Elias Koteas, Romola Garai, Olivia Williams, Johnny Harris, Goran Kostic, Tom Cullen, Yusra Warsama, Patrick Joseph Byrnes, Lewis Macleod.
THE PLOT: There’s only 19 hours and 59 seconds left on their six-month mission to try and find life on Mars when we meet this international eight-man crew, and all is routine. Too routine. Bordering on cabin fever. For one though, the mission has only just begun, Marko Petrovich (Kostic) reluctantly taking Richard Harrington (Cullen) along with him for a last minute repair job outside. Only, this is no repair job, Petrovich having found bacteria that suggests that there is indeed life. And he’s none too keen to share this exciting new discovery with his co-explorers. This bacteria doesn’t come in peace though, and soon a rescue mission is on the way, hampered somewhat by the fact that anyone who gets infected turns into a raving zombie. Pretty soon, when not busy fending for their lives, the survivors are having to figure out who the next Ian Holm might be.
THE VERDICT: THE LAST DAYS ON MARS is a taut, twisted and teasing little sci-fi thriller. If not quite as perfectly formed as Duncan Jones’ MOON, but THE LAST DAYS ON MARSs certainly shares that 2009 hit’s Carpenter-esque less-is-more potency, whilst the presence of such high-calibre actors as Schreiber, Koteas, Garai and Williams here nicely balances the undead thrills and spills with some grit and spit in the characters. Robinson should be happy. And proud.
Review by Paul Byrne
HALF OF A YELLOW SUN (Nigeria/UK/IFI/111mins)
Directed by Biyi Bandele. Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, John Boyega, Anika Noni Rose, Joseph Mawle, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Rob David, O.C. Ukeje.
THE PLOT: Nigeria, 1960s, and sisters Olanna (Newton) and Kainene (Rose) are living in the afterglow of their country’s freshly-minted independence, Kainene dating British journalist Richard (Mawle) and Kainene radical academic Odenigbo (Ejiofor). When the latter impregnates his mother’s servant, Olanna takes revenge by seducing Richard. Nonetheless, the two sisters decide to raise Odenigbo’s baby girl, but that’s when life in Nigeria starts getting a little complicated.
THE VERDICT: Based on the eponymous novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, HALF OF A YELLOW SUN is, like its source material, rich in detail, both on the surface and in the many undercurrents that come with one of Nigeria’s most troubled decades and the complicated lives of two headstrong sisters surviving the madness, mayhem and, for a while at least, matrimony. It’s all a little too much for director Biyi Bandele, as HALF OF A YELLOW SUN rattles along through so many exclamation marks that you’re soon not sure which story to follow. Perhaps it was the budget constraint, or the eternal struggle for filmmakers to reduce a bulging novel to a slimline movie, but Bandele never truly finds traction here, just tracks of what the novel left on the script pages. In the end, you can’t help feel that Nigeria’s chaotic decade would have been better served by archive footage than this soap opera.
Review by Paul Byrne