Film Review: Kursk: The Last Mission

Director Thomas Vinterberg’s Kursk: The Last Mission is a foreboding drama, which offers necessary tension. The film is an engaging watch.

In 2000, the Russian Navy conducts an exercise. When something goes wrong, the Kursk submarine erupts in flames. The sailors fight for survival, hoping a rescue is coming…

Directed by Vinterberg, Kursk: The Last Mission is Robert Rodat and Robert Moore, based on Moore’s book. A sense of foreboding is present from very early on in the film. Those unaware of the facts of the disaster are unlikely to mistake Kursk: The Last Mission for a “against all odds” survival tale. Given that most viewers will be aware of the outcome, Vinterberg’s film then focuses on the situation itself; the men in peril, the family at home, and the decisions that led to such an outcome. 

The narrative moves at a good pace, fitting all of these pieces together in an engaging manner. Vinterberg really emphasises the frustration of the situation. The submarine scenes are tense, the sense of hopelessness increases as the clock ticks by. Mikhail is a good focal point; in charge in an unpredictable situation, trying to keep his men active in the most unenviable of situations. Likewise, the stress and anguish of the families is palpable, particularly in the face of the response from officials. Those trying to do something (Petrenko and Russell) facing the futility of what they are up against is conveyed very effectively. 

Kursk: The Last Mission could work as an accompany piece to the television series Chernobyl. The same themes are present; outdated infrastructure, the oppressive nature of rule, the passing of blame, inability to challenge hierarchy even by those most knowledgeable and equipped. The film is an indictment of regime which disavows criticism. That is not to say that the disaster could not have happened elsewhere, yet there is something particular about the cause and effect in this case. 

Matthias Schoenarts delivers a capable performance. Colin Firth is as reliable as ever, and Max von Sydow is also good. Although it seems like a minor role at first, Léa Seydoux is convincing as Tanya. The ratio change is an interesting touch, but effectively conveys a shift. There are some fantastic shots, Vinterberg and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle offer some beautifully framed imagery. 

Although it does not pack the same punch as The Hunt, Thomas Vinterberg delivers an engaging picture with Kursk: The Last Mission. The film exhibits structural failings without neglecting the human cost. 

Kursk: The Last Mission is out in UK cinemas and on Digital HD from 12th July 2019.

Film Review: Racer and the Jailbird

Director and co-writer Michaël R. Roskam’s Racer and the Jailbird genre flips, but not in the best possible way. The film is engaging at times, but does not sustain this throughout. 

Gigi and Bibi come from very different backgrounds. Gigi pulls off heists with his childhood gang, whilst Bibi is a racing driver from a wealthy family. They fall in love, but Gigi’s profession gets in the way…

Following The Drop, director Roskam mixes a crime thriller with a melodrama with his latest film. Racer and the Jailbird is a love story; one that is turbulent only with regards to other factors. The romance itself is effortless, as Bibi and Gigi fall in love almost from their first encounter. 

The narrative is rather predictable, at least for the first half of the film. To begin with, it feels like Roskam and co-writers Thomas Bidegain and Noé Debré are following the familiar trope of the bad guy quitting his life of crime after falling in love. Racer and the Jailbird distinguishes itself from other films of this ilk by spending sufficient time exploring what happens next. Unfortunately this means the tension of earlier sequences is not replicated. 

The second half of the film is more of a melodrama than crime thriller. At times, Bibi’s character is frustrating. It is clear the couple are in love, yet her unwavering support of Gigi stretches the audiences sympathy. At least what occurs in the final third is not as predictable as the film’s previous developments.  

Performances from Matthias Schoenaerts and Adèle Exarchopoulos are good; the pair have decent chemistry. Bibi’s character does get a raw deal – Gigi has a negative impact on her life. The film shows that crime doesn’t pay, but the detriment of one party from an uneven relationship is the bigger story here. Some tired tropes appear, such as the nationality of gangsters later in the film. 

Overall, Racer and the Jailbird takes the heat out of the thriller. In subverting a key trope it does something that is different, but not necessarily satisfying. 

Racer and the Jailbird is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017.

Previews: Nine Lives Trailer, Deadpool and more!

Plenty in this week’s preview of upcoming films, including the Nine Lives trailer, a Deadpool clip, Zoolander 2 and more…

Nine Lives Trailer

Talking animal film alert! A cat is at the centre of the film in the Nine Lives trailer. The film tells the story of a billionaire businessman who finds himself trapped in the body of the family cat. Starring Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner and Christopher Walken, Nine Lives is set for release later this year.

Deadpool Clip

What is clear from the fantastic marketing for the film is that Deadpool is not for children. This clip falls in line with what has been revealed. Deadpool looks as if it will be a heady mix of comedy and action. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, and Gina Careno, Deadpool hits UK screens on 10th February 2016.

Zoolander 2 Commercial

Here is a spoof commercial for Zoolander 2. The clip offers us a insight into Kristen Wiig’s character Alexanya Atoz. The film certainly continues the theme of parodying the fashion industry. Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell reprise their roles in Zoolander 2, which opens in UK cinemas on 12th February 2016.

The Secret Life of Pets Poster and Trailer

The Secret Lives of Pets poster

Here is a poster for one of the most anticipated films of the summer (in my eyes at least). The Secret Life of Pets answers one of lives quintessential questions; what do pets do whilst their humans are at work? With the voices of Louis C.K., Kevin Hart and Eric Stonestreet, The Secret Life of Pets will be released on 24th June 2016.

Disorder Trailer

Disorder focuses on a secret service soldier who takes a private job protecting a wealthy family. Matthias Schoenaerts stars as the soldier, and Diane Kruger as the wife of the wealthy businessman. Disorder will receive its UK premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival on 21st February, and will be released in cinemas on 25th March 2016.

Eddie The Eagle Trailer

Eddie The Eagle tells the story of Michael Edwards and his determination to become Britain’s first Olympic ski jumper. The film stars Taron Egerton in the title role, and Hugh Jackman as Eddie’s coach. Directed by Dexter Fletcher, Eddie The Eagle is out in UK cinemas on 1st April 2016.

Stuff To Look At

A myriad of trailers this week, including Far From The Madding CrowdCinderellaAloha, and more…

Far From The Madding Crowd

Far From The Madding Crowd was one of the few books I remember reading at high school. How the names Bathsheba Everdene and Gabriel Oak take me back. This adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel comes with good pedigree; it is directed by Thomas Vinterberg and stars Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Michael Sheen. Far From The Madding Crowd is released in UK cinemas on 1st May 2015.


Cameron Crowe’s latest Aloha features a stellar cast, including Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Bill Murray, and Rachel McAdams. Bradley Cooper stars as a military contractor who is given the opportunity to return to the site of his greatest triumphs in Hawaii. Aloha is scheduled for release in September 2015.


From the above trailer, it looks as if Cate Blanchett will really shine in Cinderella. As well as, of course, that magnificent-looking slipper. Kenneth Branagh’s update of the classic fairy tale, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, hits UK screens on 27th March 2015.

The Age of Adeline

The premise of The Age of Adeline hinges on an interesting aspect; its protagonist stops ageing at 29 years old. If only that could happen in real life, although granted, it would be a bit odd. Starring Blake Lively and Harrison Ford, The Age of Adeline is released on 8th May 2015.


Xavier Dolan’s latest offering is receiving a lot of critical praise. Mommy stars Anne Dorval as a widowed mother tasked with the full-time custody of her son, who has ADHD. Mommy is released in UK cinemas on 20th March 2015.


Here is the first trailer for Trainwreck. Directed by Judd Apatow and written by and starring Amy Schumer, Trainwreck is about a young woman who doesn’t think monogamy is possible. The comedy will be released on UK screens on 28th August 2015.

Hot Pursuit

Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara are the unlikely double act in Anne Fletcher’s action comedy Hot Pursuit. Straight-laced cop Witherspoon is tasked with protecting Mafia witness Vergara. Hot Pursuit speeds into UK cinemas on 8th May 2015.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Here is the trailer for Guy Ritchie’s update on 1960s television show The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. Set against a Cold War backdrop, the film focuses on a CIA agent forced to team up with a KGB operative. Starring Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer and Alicia Vikander, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is set for release on 14th August 2015.


Upcoming thriller Focus stars Will Smith, Margot Robbie and Rodrigo Santoro. Veteran con man Nicky takes on novice Jess and teaches her the tricks of the trade. Focus hits UK screens on 27th February 2015.

Film Review: Rust and Bone

Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone is compelling thanks to great performances from its leads and a narrative that engages the viewer.

Ali goes to live with his sister, taking his young son along with him. Working as a bouncer, Ali meets Stephanie at the night club after he breaks up a fight. Trying to cope with a life-changing event, Stephanie turns to Ali for friendship…

Rust and Bone succeeds in maintaining the audience’s interest by taking its time to establish the characters and the turn of events. Viewers should attempt to go into the film with as little knowledge of the plot as possible for maximum enjoyment. This way, what occurs is unexpected and even surprising.

From the outset, it is hard to predict the direction the film will take. Director Audiard takes his time in establishing scenarios. Even in the very beginning it is unclear why Ali and his son are making the journey. Rust and Bone‘s narrative unfolds at a natural pace, allowing the relationship between Ali and Stephanie to develop in an authentic manner.

What is great about the protagonists is that they both appear three dimensional. Ali’s consideration for Stephanie is contrasted with apparent carelessness for his son. Similarly, the viewer’s first impression of Stephanie belies her more complex and endearing character. Matthias Schoenaerts is entirely convincing as Ali. Marion Cotillard meanwhile offers a very impressive performance as Stephanie. It is a challenging role, but Cotillard’s strong performance is compelling.

There are some shots in Rust and Bone which feel like style for style’s sake. A few of these could have been omitted or trimmed. Shots in the water however do add something to the film. The score also works well.

Rust and Bone deserves the acclaim that it has received. Not a perfect film, but a very well executed one nonetheless.