All posts in the Film category

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Review

Published 20/11/2013 by crimsonghad

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (released nationwide 21 November) picks up where the original film left off **SPOILER** Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) having survived the ordeal of the brutal, murderous games through their love for one another **SPOILER END** Except it is not quite as simple as that… actually if you haven’t seen the first film stop reading, go and watch it then come back. Gone? Ok. I’ll continue. Katniss was always in love with Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), a local coal miner whom was kind to her as a child stricken by poverty. Her ‘love’ for Peeta was merely just for show to her, but poor Peeta does not feel the same way. This sexual tension is to the fore throughout the film with a theme of reality television celebrity smartly woven in to the plot for the first half of the movie.

hunger games catching fire

For those that missed the first instalment of The Hunger Games a very quick recap of crucial information of the world they live in:
• There are 12 ‘districts’ whose workers are responsible for the production of certain goods for the nation as a whole.
• Each year a ‘tribute’ is selected to represent one of these districts in ‘The Hunger Games’ – an annual celebration/reminder of the revolutionary past of the ‘Panem’ nation inhabited by the characters in which all children must fight to the death with only 1 survivor.
• 1 boy and 1 girl aged between 12 and 18 will be selected in this ceremony, called ‘the Reaping’.

hunger games katniss peeta 2

The victors of the 74th Annual Hunger Games are on tour in much the same way that reality TV contestants are forced to travel around the country to parade how happy they are and to show the public the love they so crave. The palpable sadness and tragedy endured by Katniss and Peeta is superbly juxtaposed by the overbearing and constantly happy TV presenter Caesar Flickerman (played with relish by Stanley Tucci). Indeed, much of The Hunger Games is orientated towards an indictment of game show and celebrity culture.

The contrasting themes of celebrity and revolution are daringly explored as Katniss’ fame has begun a revolutionary swelling that is overtly referred to on multiple occasions by the cast. The corrupt authority figure of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) realises this and threatens Katniss, her family and those of Gale if she does not carry on this charade of public love with Peeta. Rather than merely focussing on how this impacts on Katniss we do see how Peeta is fully aware of the situation and is complicit in enabling the public to carry on their belief of love through increasingly desperate measures and publicity stunts – once more mimicking many celebrities, especially film and pop stars, in their actions. Yet the underlying kindness of Katniss and Peeta merely compound their problems and create a deeper feeling of revolution within the growing discontent of the public. Indeed, the stark contrast of Katniss, Peeta and Gale’s decrepit home of District 12 with the extravagant overindulgence of the Capital is demonstrable and leads to Katniss and Peeta rebelling yet further to purposely enrage President Snow.

hunger games cast

The acting is uniformly good and while some characters are inevitably underused due to time limitations – Toby Jones as the announcer Claudius Templesmith, Jeffrey Wright as Beetee and even Liam Hemsworth as Gale – others are more able to utilise their limited time expertly – Donald Sutherland is expertly ruthless as President Snow, Woody Harrelson pitches it perfectly as laid back, yet informed Haymitch Abernathy and Philip Seymour Hoffman is perfectly cast as the new controller of The Hunger Games, the Machiavellian Plutarch Heavensbee. However, this is Jennifer Lawrence’s film and she is terrific.

hunger games jennifer lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence expertly brings layers to her character in a wonderful performance. We see how Katniss is suffering from some sort of post traumatic stress disorder while acutely aware of the troubles of her district, her family, Peeta, her true love and her new found fame and responsibility towards the nation as a whole to whom she is a symbol of hope. Indeed, the private and public persona of Katniss are so evidently different it is again a warning to the audience on how we are treating our celebrities and why we should not trust a public persona because the private lives of those in the public eye are so divergent. All of these adult themes are covered in a film rated as a PG. Impressive. This means that much of the violence and death is either implied or the camera diverts at the last minute to spare you from the blood. Yes this does detract from the experience slightly but I’m more than willing to forgive it for that.

hunger games president

All of this so far covers the first part of the film which is terrific. The second half is more standard fare blockbuster and it is very similar to the original in its concept. This time Heavensbee and Snow use a ‘wrinkle’ in the laws to allow previous survivors to take part in the ‘Third Quarter Quell’ or 75th Annual Hunger Games – once more an allusion to reality television shows changing the rules as they go along. All these characters perform the usual parade and showbiz nonsense aiming to receive backing from the public and their fellow competitors – Lenny Kravitz’s costume for Katniss is especially good by the way, to his cost. There are a few differences such as The Truman Show style setting and the more multi layered plot alluded to throughout which I won’t spoil but in general it gives those more predisposed towards action and sci-fi adventure their fill.

hunger games beach

More than anything though it does set things up nicely for a third instalment and I for one cannot wait as it was 2 and a half hours (!) that really went quickly and enjoyably. If you can get past the stupid character names (yes I did notice) then this is a wonderful movie which leaves you wanting more but pitches it perfectly between action, sci fi and intelligently well thought out acting. If, like me, you never intended to watch the original The Hunger Games (I saw it on a plane to Australia and was very impressed) give it a chance. And then watch The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It will be worth it. The second instalment is far better than the first which itself was pretty good.


Source Code: Review

Published 03/02/2013 by crimsonghad


Groundhog Day meets Speed meets Quantum Leap – this is how best to describe the fast moving, confusing and ambitious film that is Source Code. Luckily I’m a big fan of all three and so I also adore Source Code. Duncan Jones has just been announced as the director of World of Warcraft and Source Code has its UK network premiere tonight so the timing for this review is perfect.

The film is about Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) who awakes on a train in Chicago. He has no idea how he got there or what he is doing there – his last memory was flying a helicopter in Afghanistan – but the passenger opposite him Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) knows him and calls him ‘Sean’. We eventually realise that Stevens is in fact in the body of teacher Sean Fentress – Quantum Leap style – in a parallel dimension and that he has to find a bomb that is on board the train – Speed style – before it blows up. However, every time it does blow up Colter awakes in a capsule as himself with only a camera link to Captain Colleen Godwin (Vera Farmiga) and Dr Rutledge (Jeffery Wright) as company. We are told that he has a repeated eight minutes – Groundhog Day style – inside the ‘Source Code’ (a kind of time realignment device) to find the bomb and bomber to stop an impending attack in this world. Both worlds alter slightly on each occasion as time is running out to save the world from the catastrophe. Following? No? Tough. Watch the film. It’s a unique and intriguing movie dealing with time, space and string theory in about as simple way as possible.

© 2010 Vendome Pictures
At the heart of this complex film is a burgeoning love story between Colter and Christina as these two slowly evolve an eight minute relationship which takes place over an hour and a half of film time. This is where the film excels as Colter is forced to come to terms with the reality of his situation within his own world with Godwin and Rutledge as company.

Gyllenhaal is one of my favourite actors and gives a superb performance with a constantly evolving character who has to deal with so many things. Likewise, Monaghan and Farmiga give good performances in roles which are very constrained due to the nature of the film but are crucial to our perception of the worlds.

source-code-duncan jones

Director Duncan Jones, meanwhile, does a fantastic job of balancing the claustrophobic and paranoid elements with the requirements of an action film as there are only really three major locations throughout the movie. It runs at such a fast pace and yet manages to keep the audience involved because of the emotional investment and character driven essence of the performance. You can see elements of his previous film Moon in this as that has similar constaints of space and dealt with paranoia and claustrophobia as a main theme.

Other films you can compare Source Code to include Looper, Deja Vu and Inception as they are all thought provoking, intelligent films that you can invest in because of how the material has been handled with a loving care that blockbusters all too often fail to follow. Some people will interpret the ending in a different way to that of the writer and director (available on the DVD commentary) but that is the beauty of the film. It is not the greatest film you will ever see but I defy anyone to watch it and be bored or dissatisfied as it reaches out to you with action, love and an intelligence that encompass many different tastes.

Dead Man’s Shoes: Review

Published 28/12/2012 by crimsonghad

dead man's shoes

Put simply Dead Man’s Shoes is a revenge movie in the tradition of Straw Dogs, Mad Max, Death Wish and Once Upon A Time In The West but set in the rather less glamorous location of Matlock, Derbyshire. One man avenges the poor treatment his handicapped brother suffered at the hands of a drugs gang by exacting a concerted, bloody revenge. In these times of heightened feelings towards gun crime in America, following the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, films like this are all the more likely to be studied and castigated for their portrayal of a romanticised violence and yet those who condemn it are missing the point.

The director Shane Meadows is a particular favourite of mine. His localised Midlands stories have a charm to them that is very unique, very personal, very British. He tends to cast original actors for their raw energy and character rather than actual ability. Sometimes it works (Paddy Considine, Vicky McClure, Joe Gilgun) sometimes it doesn’t (most of the others) but in this particular case the lead character of Richard (Considine) is perfectly cast as a disturbed ex-soldier who shows no fear or remorse. He becomes consumed by this need for revenge and nothing or no one will stop him as he is accompanied by his brother on this journey.

Dead-Mans-Shoes-richard and anthony
Considine himself also wrote the script with Meadows and long-time Meadows co-contributor, Paul Fraser and this is shown in the performance as Considine’s own personal influence seems to shine through. The thoughtful musings and conversations between Richard and his brother Anthony (Toby Kebbell) were a chance to show the character as loving and relatable when the fact that he was murdering people should have disconnected the audience with Richard. The mob mentality often displayed by young groups of males is to the fore as these men tormented a young disabled boy and yet when confronted by their own mortality seem to be scared, remorseful and almost affable. It is up to the viewer how they wish to react.

This is a film about vengeance but it is also a love story because of two strands: Richard and Anthony as well as Mark and his family towards the end. These bookend the film as the viewer has travelled from violence at the beginning through copious bloodshed to the end. Dead Man’s Shoes does not preach or glamorise violence. It just shows all actions have consequences and that revenge is not always what you wished.


Tyrannosaur: Review

Published 27/12/2012 by crimsonghad


Bit behind the times with this review of Tyrannosaur but deaths, domestic violence, animal killing, sadism, child maiming and women on a hen do. On the surface this seems like an X-rated version of The Hangover – I’ve never seen that or the sequel(s) so I’m presuming – but watch it. It is sensational. As with all the best films it is a love story that is so much more than that simple premise.

And there are no dinosaurs. Sorry.

The acting is uniformly superb. Eddie Marsan is at his best as disturbingly tranquil psycho, James. Peter Mullan’s Joseph is the heart of the film with his detachment from life and his gravelly voice could send women to climax in seconds – I’ve never seen that so I’m presuming.

Last but not least, Olivia Colman. Wow. Just wow. I’ve heard how good she was in this film but Christ on a bike she is brilliant. And Christian. And not a generic lovely, insulting Christian but an in-depth character with so many levels it would make Tetris blush. Tragic, loveable and beautiful in equal measure I can’t think of a better female lead performance in movies in recent memory. Only perhaps Vicky McClure in This Is England 86 and 88 along with Emily Watson in Appropriate Adult on TV. She deserved all the awards she obtained and more on top.


To the writing. Paddy Considine was already a superb actor and writer. Add director to that now. The understated why in which he treated such delicate, horrific subject matter is masterful. I won’t give away the plot because doing that would be a disservice to a film that demands you watch and pay attention to it. Suffice to say it is hard to watch but it will reward you so well.

If you like serious, well-written, superlative acted drama then please watch Tyrannosaur.

Inspire A Generation: The Artist

Published 23/12/2012 by crimsonghad

the artist

A picture is worth a thousand words. So how many words is a silent film worth? The Artist is not a movie you would instantly recognise as a writing masterpiece given that there are probably less than 15 words spoken in the entire script. And yet it is superbly written and the screenplay was even nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars and won at the BAFTAs. The writer and director Michel Hazanavicius How? Why?

First and foremost is the story. It is a conflicted love story. A love between a man and woman, a man and his job, an audience and a dog. In being so simple to understand there is almost no need to have speech to accompany it. We can empathise with the characters and their experiences purely through the emotive expressions on their faces in the script. That allied to the musical accompaniment, perfectly complimenting and framing the scenes, is the screenplay.


The film itself is based around George Valentin, a superstar of Hollywood in 1927. This is the year that in reality, ‘The Jazz Singer’ became the first movie with synchronised dialogue sequences. Valentin, though, is the star of the silent movie era. He is revered by all and at the screening of his latest hit, ‘A Russian Affair’ he meets a glamorously attractive eager young fan. The headline, ‘Who’s that girl?’ is splashed all over the next morning’s papers much to the chagrin of Valentin’s wife. That girl turns out to be Peppy Miller, an aspiring actress, who turns up the following day at Kinograph Studios to audition for Valentin’s next film, ‘A German Affair’.

The first 30 minutes build the story of Valentin as the star and show a relationship building between a clearly enamoured Miller and a wistful Valentin, unable or unwilling to act upon any feelings due to loyalty to his wife. One particularly poignant moment is where Valentin draws a small mole on to Miller’s cheek to make her stand out as different from all other actresses. His faithful chauffeur/servant Clifton enters as a reminder of the past and his wife.

However, the promise of the future is where the film begins to unravel for Valentin. His boss, the Hollywood film producer, Al Zimmer, shows Valentin a ‘talkie’ and his unwillingness or fear to adapt proves to be the beginning of his downfall.  Valentin immediately responds by saying in words, ‘If that’s the future, you can have it’.

The first sound effects (other than music) are significant as his world begins to fall apart. We hear laughter from a group of young female extras seemingly mocking Valentin as he begins to become gripped by paranoia. This is a fantastic use of writing as no words were uttered but merely the addition of laughter is enough to start Valentin’s descent and it also foreshadows the effect of Peppy Miller on his life.

peppy miller

Miller had gradually increased her profile to the point where she was the new star of Kinograph Studios and their ‘talkies’. Coincidentally Valentin and Miller’s new films both open on the same night in theatres next to each other. Miller’s film, ‘Beauty Spot’ is queuing around the block as everyone is eager to see this fresh, new star and medium but Valentin’s film, ‘Tears of Love’ is scarcely attended and all of his own money is invested in to this flop.

‘Why do you refuse to talk?’ says Valentin’s wife, Doris. This is one of many double meaning allegories throughout the film. She wants to leave him. He wants to leave her but won’t. He is also refusing to talk during the films. He refuses to acknowledge his feelings towards Miller. He refuses to accept any help or take any advice. Even Miller herself says in an interview, overheard by an angry Valentin, ‘Out with the old, in with the new. Make way for the young’, which is an allegory for her succeeding Valentin as the star, also out with silent films being replaced with ‘talkies’ and also her being romantically involved with young men. At this time the 1929 Wall Street Crash occurs and Valentin loses all of his money. The crash is his life, personally, professionally, and creatively. His wife leaves recommending he goes to see Miller’s film. He refuses to speak to his wife. Meanwhile, Miller had seen his own film and loved it juxtaposing his unbending character to her flexible approach to life. The writing on screen as Valentin dies in quicksand, ‘Farewell Norma, I never loved you’, signifies this life change superbly.

george valentin

From this point on the film has a different, almost psychotropic appeal as Valentin is trapped. He is finally single but Miller is not. He begins to have drunken hallucinations about ‘Tears of Love’ as he is chased by some characters foreshadowing a sense of death. Here his companions save him. Ever faithful Clinton saves him from his stupor and he goes to see Miller’s film and realises he was wrong all along. However, this does more harm than good as he comes to the conclusion that his life is worthless. The hallucinations get worse and he destroys his house and his film reels and inadvertently tries to kill himself. This leads to his dog saving him in a comically scene with a police officer. Both Clinton and his dog serve the same purpose in different ways.

The sense of being trapped remains though. Miller, still in love with him, takes him in to her house and looks after him after Valentin is found clutching one remaining film reel, ‘A German Affair’, where they first interacted on set. However, her success traps him. She buys all of his belongings out of love as he is bankrupt but he sees this as a slight on the once powerful George Valentin plus the fact that this is still a hugely patriarchal society in 1930s America. He cannot deal with his past life being gone. His suit is gone and he is no longer himself. A policeman talks to him (we can’t hear it) and thus he realises that the world is audible and suddenly he can hear everything everyone says. His silent life is over and he cannot accept the future. He is trapped in the past and decides to commit suicide in his old house. It is this act that proves he can have a future.


Love is the key. Firstly, his dog prevents him from killing himself by trying to stop him. The delay allows Miller, who feels something is wrong, to risk her life by driving to save him as Clinton (who she has also employed) cannot be found to drive her car and she has never driven before. This act of love saves him as we see him about the pull the trigger as ‘BANG!’ appear on screen. Miller crashes the car outside his house. The trapped world collides with the world of love. Comically the dog pretends to die to lighten the mood but the gesture finally proves that love conquers all, ‘If only you would let me help you George Valentin’ appears on screen. And he does. Finally we hear real music and tap dance live as breathing can be heard. And then suddenly, ACTUAL DIALOGUE. ‘Cut. Perfect’, shouts Zimmer, ‘Can you give me just one more?’ Valentin speaks with a heavy French accent, ‘With pleasure’. Hollywood as we know it is born. Valentin’s reservations about ‘talkies’ are unfounded as the mixture of dance and music allows him to be part of this new genre of film-making.

The Artist has only a few words of actual dialogue and I have quoted them all. And yet it is so well-written. Love is the key throughout and it proves that with a story as strong as this you do not need words to describe it. Music, facial expression and mime are all capable of doing this and arguably much, much more.


3 great clips from The Artist

Inspire A Generation: American Beauty

Published 28/10/2012 by crimsonghad

“Remember those posters that said, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”? Well, that’s true of every day but one – the day you die”

1999 was a brilliant year for films: Fight Club, The Matrix, Eyes Wide Shut, Toy Story 2, The Blair Witch Project, Dogma, American Pie, Magnolia, Boys Don’t Cry and Being John Malkovich. Amazingly, none of these were even NOMINATED for Best Picture at the Oscars the following year. And yet, whisper it quietly, the Academy may have got it right for once when American Beauty won the Oscar. Sam Mendes rightly drew praise for his brilliant directing and with Skyfall in cinemas this week the timing of this review is quite purposeful. However, it is writer Alan Ball and his Oscar winning script that I will seek to concentrate on.

At its heart American Beauty is a darkly comic study of suburban America. Our preconceptions often get the better of us as one person may be a successful in their career but a horrible person in their home life while the other may seem a failure in their career but a wonderful person in their home life but as Ball says, ‘the truth is somewhere in between.’ The mundane nature of these characters’ lives is such that we wouldn’t normally think about caring about them because we all know people who are like them. The subtlety of the work is in making us care.

The piece is a character driven marvel as each of the five (sorry Colonel Frank, Buddy, Barbara and the Jims) principal players begin a journey – which always invokes memories of cheap talent show tricks in my mind but please bear with me – that takes them from one spectrum of our expectation and beliefs right through to the opposite side. The best way to examine this film is, perhaps, by studying how each major personality changes.

Lester Burnham – the main protagonist who embodies the film. He begins the film in narration by warning us of his impending death, ‘I’m 42 years old. In less than a year I’ll be dead…of course I don’t know that yet. And in a way, I’m dead already’. A perfect way to start a film. It’s not a whodunnit by any means and yet by the end of the film we can see why all of the characters may want to kill him.

Lester himself begins as a man without a cause, “I feel like I’ve been in a coma for the past twenty years. And I’m just now waking up”. His despair at his job leads to a midlife crisis of epic proportions encapsulated by his early remarks to Buddy, ‘Oh, it’s ok I wouldn’t remember me either.’ He becomes selfish and ego driven but ‘happy’ alienating his family to the point where Lester’s obsession with his daughter Jane’s friend Angela leads to her derision and hatred. His life implodes and everyone hates him. There is of course a call back to his conversation with Buddy when he says, ‘we’ve met before but something tells me this time you’ll remember me’, after catching Buddy and Carolyn having an affair at the drive-thru. This happiness was a mere facade and by the end Lester realises true happiness was Jane and Carolyn.

Carolyn Burnham – a woman who seems to have everything perfectly under control. Fantastic salesman, loving wife and mother with a perfect house. Underneath the surface, however, she is in turmoil, ‘I refuse to be a victim!’ She is not the best salesman and seeks solace with The Real Estate King, Buddy Kane, who becomes her illicit lover in comically aggressive sex scenes. The repetitive dinner scenes are representative of her life in microcosm as she likes everything to be what she wants until eventually her husband and daughter snap and her life disintegrates. Eventually Lester persuades her with passion but her unwillingness to allow Lester to potentially ruin her sofa brings it to an abrupt halt indicative of her nature, ‘This is a $4,000 sofa, upholstered in Italian silk. This is not just a couch.’ She cannot change her nature but all of her family change and her lack of control drives her to despair and potentially desperate actions against her husband. Her selfishness is another factor in her daughter’s voyage, ‘Honey, I’m so proud of you. I watched you very closely, and you didn’t screw up once!’ This drives Jane on towards leaving.

Jane Burnham – she begins by hating herself, her family and the ‘freak’ across the road but her journey is almost the entire basis of the film. She discovers beauty in the form of love and happiness. She claims to hate it when her parents attend her cheerleading, ‘My parents are coming tonight. They’re trying to, you know, take an active interest in me’ and yet this is the attention that she yearns for. They, though, are too interested in their own feelings (Carolyn) or Jane’s friend Angela (Lester).This is the void that Ricky fills. The scene where Ricky, her neighbour, films her undressing should be disturbing as she is underage and he is essentially a voyeur, and yet it seems beautiful. She learns not to care about what others may think of her because she is beautiful and there is someone who recognises it. Her relationship with Angela throughout is also indicative of this approach as Angela tells her once more that Ricky is a freak, ‘Then so am I! And we’ll always be freaks and we’ll never be like other people and you’ll never be a freak because you’re just too… perfect!’ However, Angela is envious of what Jane has.

Angela Hayes – ‘There’s nothing worse in life than being ordinary’ says Angela, perhaps conscious of the fact that that is exactly what she is. And yet, this is not a conclusion reached for a long time during this film. She is the object of Lester’s desire. ‘Spec-tac-ular’ says Burnham as he daydreams of Angela, covered in roses. The use of vivid red imagery is striking throughout this film where the colour is often used to enhance the scripts more surreal and critical moments, such as the roses, the blood and the plastic bag. Angela portrays herself as the experienced grown up, desired by all around her and yet her journey is one of introspection. However, she is plagued by self-doubt and the genuine interest of Lester in her merely gives her real confidence and allows her to confide in him. She reverts from fake grown up to real school girl in what may seem like a horribly tragic regression but is shown by Ball to be magical and inspirational. As well as Lester’s obvious influence on Angela this is largely caused by Jane’s complex beau, Ricky Fitts.

Ricky Fitts – possibly the most interesting role in the entire film is Ricky Fitts. A young man who has serious problems and seems to most outsiders to be beyond repair. He has been thrown out of school and his parents have given up on him to point where when he and Jane are considering running away Jane muses, ‘My parents will try to find me’, Ricky replies, ‘Mine won’t’. And yet he is, in some ways, the heart of this film as he sees beauty all around. He films Jane because she is beautiful and not in a sycophantic teenage caricatured style but a genuine belief underpinned by his other actions. He films a dead bird due to this and, of course, a plastic bag in one of cinemas most famous scenes saying, ‘it was one of those days where it was a minute away from snowing and…this bag was just, dancing with me…’ Ricky is the fulcrum for four main characters. He does not change his views or outlook but his actions and influence change Lester, Angela, Jane and Colonel Frank Fitts.

You are probably wondering why I have not highlighted the influence of Colonel Frank Fitts since he plays such an important role. Well, I find him the least interesting and complex person in the piece. Even his moniker of Colonel makes it fairly obvious he is an authoritarian presence in counterpoint to his browbeaten, depressed wife and they are more there to highlight why Ricky has become the man he is.

Alan Ball says, ‘It is about searching for meaning in your lives.’ This is achieved by all of the individual characters going on a voyage of self discovery which converge at the same time. The other nominations for Best Picture in 2000 were: The Insider, The Cider House Rules, The Sixth Sense and The Green Mile in addition to those well-known movies mentioned earlier. Other movies from 1999 may have had more unusual and grander ideas than this list the Academy chose. However, when you look back at American Beauty it does not seem dated because it resonates so markedly with anyone and everyone at almost any time in the last 30 years and will continue to do so. Ultimately, the film is about beauty. This film is there to prove that beauty is all around us. From a young girl who hates her body, to a boy who can film a plastic bag. Those who can’t see it may have it staring them in the face and realise it all too late.

If you liked this:

Recommendations by this writer:

  • Six Feet Under
  • True Blood


3 top scenes :

The Sapphires – Review

Published 16/10/2012 by crimsonghad

I’m going to make a prediction: The Sapphires will be the sleeper hit of 2012.

Last night saw the UK premiere of this enchanting film charting the trials and tribulations of the first female Australian Aboriginal vocal group. I was in Australia during September and watched a film that had been hyped as ‘The Australian Dreamgirls’ and ‘the film Dreamgirls wished it could be’. While Dreamgirls was probably a more rounded Hollywood style movie, The Sapphires ticks many of the same boxes but with a story far less well known and does it in a more pleasing manner for me.

It is based on a true story of four talented Aboriginal girls (in real life this included writer Tony Briggs’ grandmother) who suffer from the segregated society pervading Australia in 1968. The film juxtaposes powerful imagery and footage of the US Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War and Australian unrest at the time to great effect as it creates an emotional link inside of the audience.

Standout performances come from the continually impressive Chris O’Dowd as the gloriously ramshackle Dave Lovelace who provides wonderful comic relief throughout. He also maintains real gravitas in spite of this and to his credit never roams into hackneyed drunken Irishman territory. However, equally as good is the matriarch of the group Gail McCrae, played by Deborah Mailman, who brings a fabulously tender intensity to an at times dislikeable character.

At times the writing seems clichéd and takes a simplistic linear approach but this should not detract from what is a wonderful experience as a viewer. Indeed the audience I saw it with ranged from the very young to the very old, albeit with a heavily female dominated demographic. The dramatic scenes are not for the faint-hearted and some of the racism is hard to watch – indeed the reveal that the government stole Aboriginal babies that could be ‘turned white’ genuinely shocked me. That said the film generally kept a light-hearted attitude and the cinema abounded with laughter throughout. The woman sat next to me (in her late twenties to early thirties) had a fixed smile on her face almost entirely throughout.

As things stand The Sapphires is due for release in the UK on 7 November and has no release date in the US, although, with the backing of Harvey Weinstein and a gathering momentum of praise expect that to change. While not the most groundbreaking piece of film making in history – despite its unique subject matter – I highly recommend viewing what is a wonderfully uplifting cinema experience that I guarantee will leave you smiling all night long.