The latest movies reviewed by Paul Byrne including Rango, Unknown, Ironclad and The Adjustment Bureau

UNKNOWN (UK/Various/15A/113mins)

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Starring Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Bruno Ganz, Frank Linghella.

THE PLOT: We first meet Neeson’s Dr. Martin Harris as he arrives in Berlin to give a talk at a bio-tech conference, his beautiful young wife (Mad Men’s Jones) by his side. A frantic return to the airport in a cab (driven by Kruger’s illegal immigrant Gina) in order to retrieve a forgotten suitcase ends in a spectacular crash off a bridge, and some deep trauma memory loss for Harris. Or so it would seem. Another Dr. Martin Harris (Quinn) has taken his place.

THE VERDICT: A distinctly Hitchcockian thriller, following a dazed and confused Liam Neeson undergoing a little Vertigo in Berlin, this surprisingly satisfying little twister has sat on a shelf for the last two years. Hitting no.1 in the US recently solidifies Neeson’s new role as the thinking man’s action hero, but there’s plenty more to enjoy beside the quiet man’s impressive gravitas. RATING: 3/5

RANGO (USA/PG/107mins)

Directed by Gore Verbinski. Starring the voices of Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Bill Nighy, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, Ray Winstone.

THE PLOT: Depp is the eponymous Pupkin-esque chameleon who, after a few fanciful lies about his outlaw-shooting skills, finds himself becoming the sheriff of a one-horse, no-hope town full of creatures who look like roadkill. The water supply is just about zilch, and it’s clear to Fisher’s frontiers woman – a desert iguana called Beans – that skullduggery is afoot.

THE VERDICT: That’s when things get a little Chinatown-shaped. With a dash of Mad Max 2 thrown in. Not that this film is anywhere nearly as good as either. Verbinski’s cheeky and twisted animated outing that plays like a misfiring Ice Age crossed with Deadwood. – oh, and Fear & Loathing. Admirable in scope, but ultimately something of a 4am stoners’ delight. RATING: 3/5
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THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (USA/12A/105mins)

Directed by George Nolfi. Starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Michael Kelly, Terence Stamp.

THE PLOT: We’re firmly in Philip K. Dick territory here, as rising politician David Norris (Damon – and no, not that rising politician) is rehearsing his Senate bid defeat speech in the bathroom when a smooth-talking vision (Blunt) steps out of a cubicle, plants a passionate kiss on his lips, and then promptly disappears. It’s enough to make a man forget about all those strange men in black forever lurking in the background, but it’s another three years before he meets this beauty again…

THE VERDICT: The feature film debut from Ocean’s 13 and The Bourne Ultimatum co-writer Nolfi, this Philip K. Dick adaptation is one of the most tightly-wound and satisfying. Damon’s on familiar ground, and Blunt more than holds hers as the going’s get weird. Manchurian weird. Largely in the latter half a cat-and-mouse movie through the streets and wormholes of New York, Nolfi delivers the thrill of the chase without ever losing sight of the bigger, Big Brother picture (led by a scary Terence Stamp).RATING: 4/5

AS IF I’M NOT THERE (Ireland/16/109mins)

Directed by Juanita Wilson. Starring Natasa Petrovic, Stellan Skarsgard, Miraj Grbic, Fedja Stukan.

THE PLOT: Set during the Bosnian war of the 1990s, and based on a true story, Samira (Petrovic) is a schoolteacher who leaves Sarajevo in order to take up a summer post in a small, remote mountainside village. Within days though, Samira and the rest of the village’s women are taken away by Serbian soldiers; the men are shot. Samira soon finds herself in the joy division of the soldiers’ camp…

THE VERDICT: It’s a hard-hitting story, and one that should be told. Only trouble is, Juanita Wilson doesn’t seem quite capable of doing Slavenka Drakulic’s book justice, As If I’m Not There playing like a dull TV movie. The fact that it won two major awards at the recent IFTA reflects more on that organization (short for, of course, “Ifta person is in the country…”) than it does on this so-so drama.RATING: 2/5

IRONCLAD (UK/USA/16/120mins)

Directed by Jonathan English. Starring James Purefoy, Paul Giamatti, Brian Cox, Kate Mara, Jason Flemyng, Derek Jacobi.

THE PLOT: It’s 1215, and as King John (Giamatti) signs the Magna Carta treaty, a Templar Knight (Purefoy) and a motley group of warriors battle for months against the siege of Rochester Castle.

THE VERDICT: Completed in 2009, this medieval romp is led by James Purefoy. Which may explain why it’s been sitting on a shelf for two years. Giamatti seems to be having fun, but director Johnny English (he must just love that 2003 Rowan Atkinson movie) and co-writer Erick Kastel never quite manage to bring their big reenactment dreams to the big screen convincingly. RATING: 2/5

ARCHIPELAGO (UK/15A/114mins)

Directed by Joanna Hogg. Starring Tom Hiddleston, Katie Fahy, Amy Lloyd, Lyida Leonard, Christopher Baker.

THE PLOT: Taking a family holiday on a British island, siblings Edward (Hiddleston) and Cynthia (Leonard) and their mother Patricia (Fahy) gather in a rented house, along with a hired cook, Rose (Lloyd). Edward is about to head to Africa for volunteer work, but the rest of the family aren’t so sure it’s a wise move. And Cynthia is none too impressed by Edward’s attempts to include Rose in their conversations…

THE VERDICT: Seeming to update Isabel Colegate’s novel The Shooting Party with a Richard Curtis cast, writer/director Joanna Hogg uses the spaces between here – the glances, the silences – beautifully. On the surface, it’s a jolly pleasant holiday for a moderately wealthy family, but there are unspoken tensions, longings and frustrations at every gathering. It makes for a slow film, but one where high drama is always just beneath the surface. RATING: 3/5

MAN, OH MAN

Robert Flaherty’s seminal Man Of Aran gets a big-screen airing from March 11th to the 17th before being re-released on DVD in a restored version – thanks to those busy little bees in the Irish Film Archive.

Inspired by Synge’s The Aran Islands (1907), US filmmaker Flaherty set out to document the lives of the noble islanders on this weather-beaten outpost. Think Fraggle Rock meets Beckett for the results. His overnight stay lasted two years.

Full details on ifi.ie.

TRUFFAUT RETURNS!

The IFI celebrate one of France’s most revered filmmakers, Francois Truffaut, with the re-release of Silken Skin/La Peau douce (1964), running from March 4th to the 10th, and Day For Night/La Nuit americaine (1973), running from March 11th to the 17th.

Meanwhile, the IFI French Film Club will be having their monthly meeting at Day For Night on March 14th. Full details on ifi.ie