We review this week’s cinema releases, including RUN ALL NIGHT and GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE 3D…
RUN ALL NIGHT (USA/15A/114mins)
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Starring Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, Joel Kinnaman, Boyd Holbrook, Bruce McGill, Vincent D’Onofrio, Genesis Rodriguez, Nick Nolte.
THE PLOT: Having risen through the crime ranks side-by-side, Brooklyn blood brothers Shawn (Harris) and Jimmy (Neeson) go way back. And deep down. Jimmy was hired gun no.1 for Shawn as he became a crime boss, and he used that gun so well, Jimmy earned the nickname The Gravedigger. It’s late in the evening though, and this gun is all set to retire. If only just to convince his son, Mike (Kinnaman), that his old man is okay to have around his wife and kids. Before that happens though, Jimmy finds himself having to save Mike’s life when Shawn’s headstrong son Danny (Holbrook) pulls a gun on him, the battle to the death is set in motion…
THE VERDICT: Okay, no sniggering down the back, but, I was way off the mark when I sounded the death knell for the recent TAKEN outing from the surly, burly Mr. Neeson, believing that the joke of Hollywood’s favourite jolly green giant becoming the new Rainier Wolfcastle was no longer funny. But then TAKEN 3 opened to huge numbers in the US shortly afterwards. It also opened to quite a few groans, not only from the critics but cinema-goers too. Just how long can Neeson run with this Chuck Norris routine though remains to be seen.
And given that RUN ALL NIGHT shares quite a lot of DNA with last year’s retro actioner WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES doesn’t bode well for Neeson. TOMBSTONES did bomb, suggesting it’s not so much the star as the vehicle he’s driving. Which is all just business talk, of course, but that does seem to be what Neeson is all about these days; taking care of business, by taking care of business. Again and again. And again.
Reuniting here with his NON-STOP director, sure, Neeson’s got every right to sink deep into this B-movie genre with his A-movie talent, but the payoff has become so familiar, so predictable, that it’s hard to get truly excited whenever Liam’s latest character goes on his expected roaring rampage of revenge. For pretty much the entire movie.
What you’re left with is a rattler of an actioner that, on a Tuesday night on TV, will certainly go down a treat with some cans and a half a packet of chocolate Hobnobs. Anyone brave enough to tell Neeson he should go back to acting…?
Review by Paul Byrne
GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE 3D (Switzerland | France/IFI/70mins)
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
THE PLOT: Legendary director Jean-Luc Godard bids farewell to the spoken word in this examination of how we use words, and a giddy exploration of 3D. Oh and there’s a dog too.
THE VERDICT: I have to admit, I was not particularly prepared to watch a Godard film when I went along to see GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE 3D, but if I was frazzled going in, that is nothing compared to how I felt walking back out, 70 minutes later
Mercifully, GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE 3D is relatively short at 70 minutes, the bad news is that the audience feels every second of the running time as Godard plays with images, dialogue and 3D to create a headache inducing mish-mash that is as inscrutable as it is disjointed.
Godard embraces the gimmick of 3D with apparent relish, and proceeds to play with it as much as he can; text is laid on both the 2D and 3D layers, and images are framed in such a way that they jump out at the audience. Godard also embraces the fact that two projectors are used to create 3D on screen, and creates a headache inducing experiment from this.
In brutal honesty; there is no story, just a series of existential questions asked and answered; characters talk about sex and death while one of them is using the bathroom, many discussions take place naked and there is a dog, for some reason. Nothing here is coherent, so if you go in searching for an eloquent story – either through images or dialogue, or both – then you are searching in the wrong place. Add to this that a lot of the footage was captured on GoPro and phone cameras, and the audio drops in and out whenever it wants, and GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE 3D becomes a frustrating affair.
In all, GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE 3D tries to play with the separate notions of image and dialogue, while making 3D even more gimmicky – if such a thing is possible. Godard either believes his own myth, or wants to audience to think he’s making a profound statement, when really he is playing a prank on all of us, and this is the material that should have been on the cutting room floor. Either way, GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE 3D is a messy, incoherent and inscrutable affair.
Review by Brogen Hayes
SUITE FRANCAISE (UK | France | Canada/15A/107mins)
Directed by Saul Dibb. Starring Michelle Williams, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Margot Robbie, Ruth Wilson, Matthias Schoenaerts, Sam Riley.
THE PLOT: In 1940, the small town of Boussy is, at first, unaffected by the conflict in Europe, but when Parisian exiles arrive in the town, along with German occupying forces, things rapidly change. Romance quickly blossoms between Lucile (Michelle Williams) and German soldier Bruno van Falk (Matthias Schoenaerts), who is installed in the home Lucile shares with her mother-in-law Madame Angelier (Kristin Scott Thomas). When a French man is accused of murdering a German solider, however, the relationships between the people of the town begin to change.
THE VERDICT: The story behind SUITE FRANCAISE is almost more interesting than the tale itself; written during the time it is set, Suite Francaise lay undiscovered among her things after author, Jewish French Irène Némirovsky, was interred in Auschwitz, where she died. Némirovsky’s daughter Denise believed the notebook to be a diary of her mother’s, and that it would be too upsetting to read, until she arranged to donate her mother’s papers to a French archive in 1998. It was then that Denise read the notebook, discovered two novels written in miniscule handwriting, and had it published in France. Quite the remarkable tale. The trouble is that SUITE FRANCAISE may have been a remarkable tale itself, at the time it was written, but in the years since it was lost, it seems the tale has been told many times over.
Michelle Williams takes on the lead role of Lucile in Suite Francaise, and she does fine in the role; she never quite sets the screen alight, but she is remarkably less insipid than she has been in the past. Matthias Schoenaerts carries on his streak of playing commanding roles, and makes Bruno both gentle and relatable, as well as intimidating and frightening. Kristen Scott Thomas continues her run of playing scary women incredibly well, Ruth Wilson plays a woman whose husband cannot go to war, but is unable to defend her or himself, Sam Riley takes on the role of a man on the run and Margot Robbie plays a feisty young woman who tries to see past the uniforms of the men who have invaded her home.
Story-wise, SUITE FRANCAISE is remarkably peaceful for a film set during World War II, but the love story between occupied and occupier is one we have seen on screen many times before. The connection between Lucile and Bruno feels a little like Stockholm Syndrome crossed with a notion that Bruno is not bad, he’s just misunderstood. Of course, friction has to come into the mix somewhere, and it arrives in the form of unfaithful spouses, slutty townsfolk and a truly unpleasant member of the German army. None of this feels in any way new, but it is still a well-told tale that is engaging on screen.
Director Saul Dibb – who also adapted the story for the screen, and whose last film was the Kiera Knightley vehicle THE DUCHESS – keeps the sets as pretty as possible, and the invading force as benign as possible. The real conflict comes from within the townsfolk as they come to terms with the reality of war, but a war that is still far over the hill and far away. The performances are fine, with a standout from Schoenaerts, but this is a story of romance set against a backdrop of conflict so, while the film is engaging enough to justify its running time, it is really nothing new or anything that we haven’t seen before.
In all, SUITE FRANCAISE is a well-told romantic drama full of conflict and tension. Schoenaerts shines, Kristin Scott Thomas does scary well, but this is a pretty tale about love in the time of war, and plays as such.
Review by Brogen Hayes
Directed by Morgan Matthews. Starring Asa Butterfield, Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Rafe Spall.
THE PLOT: Nathan (Asa Butterfield) is a math prodigy, who also registers on the spectrum of autism. Increasingly isolated after his father dies, Nathan finds a new friend in teacher Humphreys (Rafe Spall), who convinces him to take part in the International Mathematics Olympiad.
THE VERDICT: X+Y is inspired by a BBC documentary titled BEAUTIFUL YOUNG MINDS, and places a character who has always shunned human contact in an environment where he either makes friends or spends his time alone.
Asa Butterfield has made a career of playing bright yet isolated characters, and carries this on in X+Y. This is not to say that his performance is not strong, it is, but this is something we know he can do because we have seen it before in HUGO and ENDER’S GAME. Sally Hawkins plays Nathan’s mum, with delicacy and care, Rafe Spall plays a foul mouthed and complacent genius, with struggles of his own and Eddie Marsan plays Richard, the man who tutors the kids for the international competition.
James Graham’s screenplay does err on the side of the convenient, but this is not to say that the film is not carefully crafted and well told. There are many moving moments, and the relationships between the characters are charming. Graham also seems to understand the delicacy of portraying a socially awkward character on screen.
Morgan Matthews balances well the emotion and the struggle within Nathan, while allowing the audience to find out more about the character as the film goes on. Matthews has also created sweet and gentle chemistry between the characters that works, even when the film is at its most convenient.
In all, X+Y is a gentle and charming story, anchored with strong performances from Butterfield, Spall, Hawkins and Marsan. The emotion is strong and honest throughout the film, even if it does all wrap up a little too conveniently.
Review by Brogen Hayes