“We shall fight on the beaches… We will never surrender.” We’ve heard this famous speech many a time in our lifetimes, and a few times in cinemas already this year too; we heard it in Jonathan Teplitzky’s biopic Churchill, we heard them again in Dunkirk and we’ve heard them once more in another Best Picture candidate, The Darkest Hour. There seems to have been an abundance of films featuring Winston Churchill released in the past 12 months, and all focusing in on the same fascinating period of history where Britain teetered on the brink of losing the Second World War. In the enigmatic hands of Gary Oldman, in something of a magnum opus role, Churchill has rarely proved quite as engaging, and with Joe Wright – the director of wartime saga, Atonement – at the helm, it would seem a strong candidate has been formed for multiple awards. Can it fulfil the ambition of the project though, and does it add any fresh mythos to the legend of the man. Continue reading
There’s good films, there’s bad films, there’s plenty of indifferent films and then there’s The Room. Tommy Wiseau’s iconically bad film has become a legendary cult classic for film fans worldwide, it has regularly sold out late night screenings as well as developing its own sub-culture since its release in 2003. The enigmatic mind of Tommy Wiseau has long fascinated fans and critics alike, a man with unknown heritage who came out of nowhere to bankroll an entire filming project to the tune of $6 million before disappearing back into his cult status. Now the fascinating story of this infamous film and the unique friendship of its two lead men is brought to the screen itself in The Disaster Artist. Continue reading
In the aftermath of the tragic Boston bombings of 2013, something wonderful rose up via social media and through into mainstream culture, a city unified against terror began to wear the mantle of ‘Boston Strong’ with a ferocious pride. That hashtag became a rallying cry for the city and embodied by survivors of the attack. People like Jeff Bauman, who on the off chance had headed down to cheer on his future wife Erin as she ran the marathon. In one horrific moment, his world changed when a bomb hidden in a rucksack exploded and in the process blew the bottom half of both of Jeff’s legs off. The subsequent image snapped in the chaotic aftermath of the bombing of an ashen-faced Jeff being helped by bystander Carlos Arredondo wheeling him away for medical assistance, became a symbol of Boston’s collective strength, and the strength and goodness of people in the face of evil. Continue reading
After the end of the Second World War, America entered into a new Cold war, a war of fear and distrust; this time with their former wartime ally, the Soviet Union. It quickly became an internal war, descending into an attack on American citizens accused of being Soviet sympathisers, and members of the now enemy Communist party. At the end of 2015, we were given the Academy award ‘Best Picture’ nominee, Bridge of Spies, telling a story of political accusations and alleged spy activities that took place amidst the Cold War and following on from that is Trumbo, a film charting the perceived war at home and the witch hunt it became. Focusing on the remarkable life of acclaimed writer, screen writer and accused Communist, Dalton Trumbo, and how the accusations of political fearmongers, amidst a nation’s fears, were to define and almost ruin the life of him and some of cinema’s greatest talents. Continue reading
“I call it Z, and it is there”. So speaks Percy Fawcett, the bold protagonist of James Gray’s beautiful take on the life of the turn of the century soldier, turned cartographer and explorer. This film charts the remarkable journey – over a substantial portion of Fawcett’s life – into the uncharted Bolivian Amazon, and the hints of a lost civilization that, once discovered, consumed him in his quest to discover the evidence to definitively prove his hypothesis of its existence. It is a story about drive, obsession, family and the unquenchable thirst for discovery, moving across contrasting backdrops, from the British countryside, to London’s halls of power, and from First World War trenches into the captivating beauty and dense claustrophobia of the Amazonian rainforest.
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”. So spoke John F. Kennedy on America’s intention to get a man into space, and eventually onto the Moon, and he was right, that remarkable achievement was very hard to achieve, but it was achieved. It was achieved because the teams from NASA, behind the planning and execution of getting a man into orbit, were geniuses in their field, and worked long days over many, many years to achieve it. In achieving this, they broke significant ground for humanity and science, but they also broke down social and cultural boundaries that had become entrenched in 1950s segregated America. It is in these achievements, and in particular, the latter aspects that are at the heart of Hidden Figures, a film that tells the stories of some of the radical minds behind NASA’s burgeoning space program. Focusing primarily on three African-American women who broke down both gender and race barriers through their incredible intelligence and the subsequent work that emanated from their visionary minds.
The Second World War, as awful as it was to experience, has proven to be a rich resource for filmmakers from which to draw incredible stories of bravery, heroism, horror and patriotism. Wartime in general, has always been a topic ripe with possibilities of telling fascinating human stories in extreme circumstances, and so it proves with Mel Gibson’s directorial return, Hacksaw Ridge. The incredible tale of Private Desmond Doss, who felt compelled to join his fellow countrymen in going to war after the Pearl Harbour attacks, but was conflicted by his religious beliefs towards violence and killing, a belief which left him conscientiously unable to bear arms. The story of his principles versus the dereliction of direct orders that they constituted, and subsequently how hard he had to fight just to be taken seriously and be allowed to serve his country in spite of the gigantic handicap of possessing no weapon would prove to be, is nothing short of astonishing. In the hands of Mel Gibson, that story is given the due credence and character-led drama set to grand-scale historical recreation that he has become a master in.