We review this week’s new releases, including THE FIFTH ESTATE and BAGGAGE CLAIM…
THE FIFTH ESTATE (UK/15A/127mins)
Directed by Bill Condon. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Carice van Houten, Laura Linney, Anthony Mackie, Stanley Tucci, Peter Capaldi, David Thwelis.
THE PLOT: Berlin, and happy hacker Daniel Berg is slightly in awe of Julian Assange (Cumberbatch) when he runs into him at an hacker convention in Berlin. Daniel has been following Julian’s work online, exposing corporate corruption, and the two are soon rallying the troops in bringing down a dodgy bank. By the time they’re teaming up with The Guardian newspaper in London and The New York Times, Daniel has realised they need to invest in more servers if they are going to continue spreading secrets. And they’re going to need some helpers too. It’s Nick Davies (Thwelis) at The Guardian who realises they’ve got highly flammable material on their hands wit a treasure trove of military and diplomatic documents, insisting that they redact names and other identifying information from the highly-sensitive cables, but Assange has other plans…
THE VERDICT: There’s so much not to like about this movie. The presence of David Thwelis. The limp directing of Bill Condon. The irritating, flabby script. The lame attempts to make people sweating over a hot laptop look exciting. The overriding fact that Julian Assange is a wet fish of a character.
The Fifth Estate plays far more like Soderbergh’s grater The Informant! than it does Fincher’s The Social Network, failing to capture the seismic whistleblowing rupture WikiLeaks caused and instead presenting us with an anti-hero who appears somewhat headless, possibly hedonistic and certainly slippery and self-loving.
Whatever about the significance of WikiLeaks, and its deep ramifications, Condon (who’s never really lived up to 1998’s Gods And Monsters) and writer Josh Singer (working on both Daniel Domscheit-Berg’s book and that of David Leigh and Luke Harding) fail to capture any real sense of the media explosion that Assange caused when he began leaking top secret government documents. Perhaps that’s because it all quickly turned into a ball of confusion, as this murky matrix was muddied further by ego, misinformation, betrayals and blame. Assange’s apparent superiority complex doesn’t help either, of course, and it’s hard here to separate the sweaty-palmed man from the mission. Especially when America’s US State Department is represented by the pleasantly pained Laura Linney.
Review by Paul Byrne
BAGGAGE CLAIM (USA/12A/97mins)
Directed by David E. Talbert. Starring Paula Patton, Taye Diggs, Jill Scott, Derek Luke, Adam Brody, Jenifer Lewis, Lauren London, Djimon Hounsou.
THE PLOT: Flight attendant Montana (Patton) has never had much luck when it comes to men, her relationships thus far having “never been cleared for takeoff”. And so, naturally – this being a movie – she comes up with a wacky plan to find the hubby of her dreams. Mainly to keep her five-times-married mother (Lewis) off her case about being 30 and still single. The wacky plans involves going full High Fidelity on her exes, only this time, with a little electronic surveillance. The hope being that one of these dirtbags has somehow become a sweetheart in the intervening years. You go, girl. You mad stalker bitch.
THE VERDICT: One of those films that seems to exist purely for tax reasons – or merely to fulfill contractual obligations – Baggage Claim isn’t so much by-the-numbers as just numb. Even as you’re watching a movie like this, you’re forgetting it. When the end credits began rolling, I genuinely had trouble remembering how the film started. It’s that disposable. It’s like a commercial where the actors have forgotten what they’re trying to sell and so they just keep winging it – for an hour and a half – hoping that one of them might actually remember the product they’re hocking. I think it might be Prozac.
Review by Paul Byrne
NOBODY’S DAUGHTER (South Korea/IFI/90mins)
Directed by Hong Sang Soo. Starring Jeong Eun-Chae, Lee Sunkyun, Seon-gyun Lee, Joon-sang Yoo, Ji-won Ye, Ja-ok Kim, Kim Eui-sung.
THE PLOT: Haewon (Eun-Chae) is a popular, pretty student about to say goodbye to her mum, who’s moving abroad. It’s a strange time for Haewon, not helped by the fact that she’s been having a secret affair last year with one of her professors (Sunkyun). Naturally, he hasn’t quite left his wife just yet, and is more than a little sensitive when in the presence of Haewon’s suspicious student buddies. Then again, Haewon’s student buddies don’t seem to be truly her buddies, bitching about her relationship skills behind her back. Maybe Jungwon (Eui-sung) will save her, home from the US – where he’s buddies with the likes of Martin Scorsese – and looking for a wife…?
THE VERDICT: Plainly, I’m missing something here, given that filmmaker Hong Sang Soo is something of an underground legend (this is his 14th offering, the second of two released in 2013), but in Nobody’s Daughter I saw a film that felt like a Woody Allen film without Woody. It’s as though the wry New Yorker just didn’t show up on the first day of shooting, and so his Korean cast decided to wing the whole thing.
The only notable trick here is director Hong shifting without warning between reality and daydream, to the point that you can never quite believe the mellow drama that’s unfolding. Trouble is, it’s hard to care very much about the mellow drama either. There’s so much not quite right with this movie, not least the fact that the naturalistic acting never seems all that natural. Lead Jeong Eun-Chae can’t even saunter without looking like she’s been practicing her walk all night. Not that anyone looks good here; the whole thing plays like a non-actor’s workshop.
Review by Paul Byrne
LE WEEK-END (UK/15A/93mins)
Directed by Roger Michell. Starring Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan, Jeff Goldblum.
THE PLOT: Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsay Duncan) escape their life in Birmingham for a weekend in Paris. While there, they almost inadvertently examine their marriage and their lifetime together.
THE VERDICT: Broadbent and Duncan compliment one another incredibly well. As Meg and Nick negotiate the frustrations of their marriage – from their relationship with their son, to the more obvious and pressing fiscal fears – the audience is immediately introduced to characters who think they know one another inside out, and the film never feels the need to overtly explain these people through expositional dialogue or voice over. When we meet them, they just are. It is up to the audience to get to know Nick and Meg better, as they discover more about one another. As their dissatisfactions with one another are revealed, Duncan and Broadbent effortlessly swing from genial and comfortable with one another, to bitter and frustrated. So fast does the pendulum swing, that at times it is hard to keep up. This only serves to underline the fact that these are people who have spent a lifetime together.
Jeff Goldblum turns up in the final act of the film as an old friend whose life in Paris throws Nick and Meg’s marriage into stark relief. Here is a man who has chopped and changed so many times as to be vapid and thin, but still be the ideal that both Nick and Meg strive for. Goldblum gives a magnificent performance, and it seems he has become aware of the image of himself as an actor, and has decided to play up this perception to brilliant effect.
Screenwriter Hanif Kureishi is arguably best known for his Oscar nominated work on My Beautiful Laundrette and, as a writer with a fondness for dialogue, his work is certainly on display here. Kureishi has his characters talking so much throughout the film, that their strongest moment is when they simply say nothing. Sadly, the film is slightly let down by its ending; the implication of the scene is clear, but the framing of this realisation weakens the message.
Director Roger Michell has had a varied career, with films including Notting Hill and Hyde Park on Hudson to his name. Le Week-End certainly takes it’s cues from Linklater’s aforementioned trilogy, but the director plays up the nostalgia angle of the film as the couple return to the city of their honeymoon, which throws the life they have had together into stark relief.
Le Week-End is an examination of the choices made in life, most importantly, the choice to spend your life with one person and the implications of this. Broadbent and Duncan spark well together on screen, and Goldblum gives a fantastic performance as the mirror that Nick and Meg see themselves reflected in. Michell recovers his strength after the underwhelming Hyde Park on Hudson, and screenwriter Kureishi shows off his talent for dialogue. The ending, however, leaves a little to be desired.
Review by Brogen Hayes