Film Review: A United Kingdom

A United Kingdom

Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom is a very British period drama. The film is well acted, and glossy in its production.

Heir to the Kingdom of Bechuanaland, Seretse Khama is studying in London when he meets Ruth Williams. The pair engage in a relationship, much to the chagrin of Ruth’s parents, Seretse’s uncle, and the British Government…

Director Amma Asante delivers an accomplished film with A United Kingdom. The film stands out because its subject matter is not widely known. It is based on the true story of the first President of Botswana and the ripples caused by his marriage to a white English wife. The film feels refreshing in its telling a new story in an era often seen in film.

Race relations are at the forefront of A United Kingdom. The relationship between Seretse and Ruth was unusual for the time, as well as being a diplomatic matter. As such, Assante’s film works on two levels. There is a personal love story to be told, which is conveyed in a suitably effective manner. The political complications give the film a sharper edge, and puts the relationship in a wider historical context.

The film is a period drama, with irregular accents of comedy. A United Kingdom follows the well-trodden path of British historical dramas. Those who have seen the trailer will not be surprised by anything in Guy Hibbert’s screenplay. Nevertheless, the film has enough substance to make it an enjoyable watch.

Asante’s direction is good, despite some standard period-drama set ups. The art direction is effective in showing a contrast in the London sequences palate to that of Africa. David Oyelowo delivers a convincing performance as Seretse. He is particularly captivating in his speech-giving, as exemplified in his Selma performance. Rosamund Pike has good chemistry with Oyelowo, and is strong in the film. Tom Felton and Jack Davenport are well cast in their respective roles.

A United Kingdom is presents an engaging story in a familiar format. Despite this, there is a lot to like about the film.

A United Kingdom opens the the BFI London Film Festival on 5th October 2016.

Film Review: Gone Girl

Gone Girl

David Fincher’s adaptation of the best-selling novel Gone Girl is a finely executed mystery.

When his wife Amy is missing from the family home, Nick Dunne faces a media frenzy over her disappearance. Things intensify when speculation that Nick was involved in Amy’s disappearance begins to grow…

Adapted from Gillian Flynn’s novel (with the author acting as screenwriter), Gone Girl is an engaging mystery thriller. The film is superbly structured, and executed with flair.

Director David Fincher guides the story with aplomb, Given the nature of the narrative, Gone Girl could have easily been a trashy thriller more suited to television movie status with some hokey twists. In Fincher’s capable hands, however, the film is elevated beyond this. The result is an engrossing mystery with satisfying progression.

Pacing of Gone Girl is great. Viewers are engaged from the outset, with the story providing a rich hook. The reveals in the narrative are measured, and arrive at suitable intervals. It is this that keeps the audience gripped; the story is meaty enough for viewers to demand to know where it will lead.

At the heart of Gone Girl are two themes. The first is marriage, as the film plays out a complex relationship between the two protagonists, particularly through the use of flashbacks. Secondly, and more interestingly, Gone Girl satirises media coverage of missing person cases, such as the one featured in the film. The satire is on point, with parallels in sensationalist coverage abundantly clear. There are also laughs to be found within this.

Ben Affleck offers a good performance as Nick Dunne. However, it is Rosamund Pike as Amy who really steals the show with a convincing performance. Cinematography in the film is polished, and the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is a good accompaniment.

Gone Girl may actually work much better for viewers who have not read the book; it is the potent mystery which is so engrossing. Notwithstanding, David Fincher offers plenty besides to please his audience.

Stuff To Look At

Plenty of cinematic treats for Good Friday, including Gone Girl, Jersey Boys, and X-Men: Days of Future Past

Jersey Boys

The most surprising thing about the upcoming screen adaptation of Jersey Boys is that Clint Eastwood directs it. Not an entirely new genre for Eastwood, nevertheless it is an interesting choice. Jersey Boys is set for release on 20th June 2014.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

The third X-Men: Days of Future Past reveals a bit more about the plot of the film. What it does not explain is young Charles Xavier’s hair. Maybe Wolverine reveals what is in his future, follicle-wise, so Xavier decides to grow luscious locks while he can. X-Men: Days of Future Past hits UK screens on 22nd May 2014.

The Fault in Our Stars

Here is the trailer for the upcoming adaptation of John Green’s best-selling novel The Fault in Our Stars. Starring Shailene Woodley as a teenage cancer patient who is forced to attend a support group by her parents, The Fault in Our Stars is out in UK cinemas on 20th June 2014.

Gone Girl

In case you missed it: the trailer for the hotly anticipated Gone Girl was released this week. David Fincher’s team sure do know how to cut a trailer. Starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, the cinematic adaptation of the best-selling novel Gone Girl is set for release on 3rd October 2014.

The Equaliser

The Equalizer

Denzel Washington stars as a former black ops commander who fakes his own death in The Equaliser. I am guessing that this film will be more action thriller than The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin. The Equaliser is due to hit UK screens on 10th October 2014.

Annie

The first trailer for musical remake Annie was released earlier this week. I only saw the original for the first time recently, and my lasting impression was that Miss Hannigan was everything. So Cameron Diaz has big shoes to fill. Annie will be released on 6th February 2015.

Sabotage

Arnold Schwarzenegger leads strong cast in action thriller Sabotage. With Arnie getting back into the swing of things, it is funny to think that the action star was Governor of California not too long ago. Sabotage bursts on to UK screens on 7th May 2014.

Stuff To Look At

Posters galore this week! Disney’s animated short Get a Horse gets a screening, a trailer for Meet The Millers, a clip from The Heat and more…

Get a Horse

©Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Mickey Mouse is back! Well, kind of. On Tuesday 11th June 2013 Disney unveil the never-before seen animated short Get a Horse. The hand-drawn short features Mickey Mouse and the voice of Walt Disney. It is being screened at Annecy Animation Festival in France, no word yet on if Get a Horse will become available widely.

The Heat

Sandra Bullock’s character has some uncomfortable questions to answer in this clip from upcoming buddy cop movie The Heat. Also starring Melissa McCarthy, the film is director Paul Feig’s follow up to Bridesmaids. The Heat is released in UK cinemas on 31st July 2013.

Planes

Planes

Here is the latest poster for Planes, the upcoming animated feature from Disney. The trailer for the film can be viewed here. Planes is being advertised as from ‘above the world of Cars‘, and the parallels between the films are clear. Planes hits UK cinemas on 16th August 2013.

We’re The Millers

We’re The Millers reunites Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston in a new comedy. Jennifer Aniston is certainly ageing well. We’re The Millers, which also stars Emma Roberts and Will Poulter, is released in the UK on 23rd August 2013.

The World’s End

The World's End Poster

Here is one of the newly-released character poster for The World’s End. The film reunites director Edgar Wright with stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The film also stars Martin Freeman and Rosamund Pike. The World’s End hits UK screens on 19th July 2013.

Film Review: Barney’s Version

Barney Panofsky is sometimes an abhorrent protagonist, but this does not make his story any less interesting. Barney’s Version is an intriguing drama brimmed with great performances.

Barney Panofsky is a hard-drinking television producer, who has led a rather interesting life. Despite only being in love once, Barney has been married three times. His tumultuous life has provided moments of happiness and regret…

Told through a series of flashbacks, Barney’s Version focuses on the significant events of the protagonist’s adult life. These are dominated by Barney’s three marriages, but also feature his relationship with family and friends. Richard J. Lewis directs Barney’s Version with equanimity. The film spends sufficient time exploring Barney’s character, yet never feels stagnant.

Barney’s Version effectively combines drama with comedy and romance, as well as a rather intriguing mystery. This amalgamation of genres allows the audience to experience an array of emotions, much like Barney himself. The film seems to slide effortlessly from comedy to drama, thanks to Michael Konyves screenplay, based on Mordecai Richler’s novel.

Barney Panofsky is not the average movie protagonist. For starters, he is not conventionally attractive, yet manages to attract beautiful women. He has his vices, yet has also carved out a successful career for himself. He acts rashly and incomprehensibly, yet is still loved by his wife. For the numerous mistakes Barney makes, he also elicits sympathy and laughter.

Barney’s Version‘s supporting characters are as well developed as the protagonist. Miriam may love Barney regardless of his flaws, but she is initially wary of his intentions, understandably so. Miriam is perhaps character most identified with in the film, sharing with the audience a dubiousness about the central character. Barney’s father Izzy is depicted as having similar flaws as his son. Nevertheless, Izzy seems to have a greater appreciation of family not fully realised by his son. It is through these characters that both the best and worst of Barney’s persona is revealed.

Paul Giamatti gives one of his finest performances as Barney. He is thoroughly convincing as the title character, and excellent in exuding both humour and sadness. Rosamund Pike is perfect as the soft-spoken Miriam, while Minnie Driver is feisty as the second Mrs Panofsky. Dustin Hoffman brings empathy and fragility as Izzy, and Scott Speedman is bright as Boogie.

The makeup department have done excellent work in Barney’s Version. Despite the film covering a period longer than thiry years, Barney and Miriam are always believable in their appearance.  Pasquale Catalano’s beautiful score is utilised effectively in the film.

Barney’s Version is a well-executed film, with Lewis getting the best out of his cast. A highly recommended film.