Just The Verdict is our way of giving quick takes on a number of films over the course of the past year that we may have missed out on doing a full review for.
Our first entry gave our opinions on The Assassin, Before the Flood, A Bigger Splash, Louis Theroux: My Scientology Story, Midnight Special, The Ones Below and Zootropolis / Zootopia.
Here’s our second batch of swift reviews.
This stop-motion comedy-drama was all the rage on the festival circuit, and it garnered a number of five star reviews upon release. This is at least a whole point too high, but quite understandable given the originality of the film – there are not many stop-motion films out there these days, let alone ones not aimed at youngsters.
David Thewlis is pretty good voicing the lead role in what is a very niche film that won’t be for everyone.
3.5 / 5
Denis Villeneuve once again show why he is one of the premier directors of this generation, following up the very good Sicario with a film that may be even better.
Arrival details a first contact event through the eyes of an expert linguist (played very well by Amy Adams). There is so much to like and enjoy; it is a visually and aurally impressive piece. Bonus points for the unique, enchanting form of communication that is used too.
4 / 5
Matthias Schoenaerts plays a soldier that is currently home from Afghanistan undergoing treatment for PTSD. Whilst awaiting the decision as to whether he gets cleared to return to duty (which is looking unlikely), he takes a job on a security detail for a wealthy businessman. Over the course of the few days that he shadows the family, he begins to suspect something is amiss. Is there something really wrong, or is it just him?
Disorder is a good, tense thriller worthy of anyone’s collection. Schoenaerts makes for a realistic lead, and there some nice nuance to his interactions with his employer’s wife (Diane Kruger). The action scenes are few, but stylishly done, and the film certainly doesn’t drag in the interim – tension is built across each scene as Schoenaerts’ Vincent becomes more agitated with the environment. There’s some nice use of audio / noise to get across to the viewer the issues that Vincent is contending with.
4 / 5
Embrace of the Serpent
Ciro Guerra’s tale of two expeditions to visit the same shaman thirty years apart is interesting, if laboured and slow-going.
The shaman in question is Karamakate (Nilbio Torres and Antonio Bolivar), sole survivor of his tribe. He alone knows where the rare, fabled yakruna plant grows. Both expeditions are looking for the plants, for differing reasons.
Though the film is a smidge over two hours, it does feel longer due to the exceptionally sedate pacing. That being said, if that isn’t off-putting, it is definitely worth a watch.
3.5 / 5
Love & Friendship
This period drama from Whit Stillman takes a short while to get going, but becomes an excellent, talkative, witty period comedy.
Based on the epistolary novel Lady Susan by Jane Austen, Love & Friendship details the machiavellian machinations of recently widowed aristocrat (Kate Beckinsale), desperate to secure futures for herself and her daughter.
Everyone is at least good, and Tom Bennett puts in scene stealing performances as the good natured buffoon Sir James Martin.
4 / 5
Son of Saul
The winner of the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards, Son of Saul is certainly an excellently made film, though its grimness and subject matter will likely lead to only a few viewings.
Geza Rohrig is convincing in the lead role as Saul, a Jewish-Hungarian Sonderkommando, in Auschwitz. The story itself is very small in scope – Saul is attempting to get the materials for a proper Jewish burial for a boy who has died in the internment camp. The bleak, harsh conditions of the camp play a moving, sobering backdrop to this story of defiance. A difficult watch, but mostly worthy of the praise it has garnered.
4 / 5
Jay Roach’s biographical drama about the talented film writer comes close to being very good, though it falters a little due in part to the tone.
The blackballing of Dalton Trumbo could easily have been played out as a gritty neo-noir. Yet, we get a relatively light film, peppered with a comedy and comic situations. Trumbo is certainly an entertaining film, and Bryan Cranston would have been an excellent choice regardless of tone, but the lightness of the piece take a little away from the serious situation many people faced during the height of McCarthyism.