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Craig returns as a full-strength theOneliner crew get back into the swing of this whole film reviewing business. We have a mix of recent and catch-up reviews for your edification, so please join us as we talk about The Equalizer, Gone Girl, Captain Phillips, The Judge, A Most Wanted Man, Nightcrawler and Interstellar.
Based loosely on the 1980s TV series starring Edward Woodward, The Equalizer stars Denzel Washington as a retail employee with a mysterious past. After witnessing crimes in his neighbourhood, he brings the violent skills this past afforded him to deliver his own brand of vigilante justice to aid those around him, actions which cause him to be targetted by the Russian mafia. In most respects ordinary at best, it is the presence of Washington that elevates this to something worthy of your consideration.
David Fincher's latest outing, Gone Girl, sees suspicion turned on Ben Affleck's Nick Dunne after he makes an appeal to help find his missing wife. After discovering that his wife is alive and well, and trying to frame him for her murder in revenge for his infidelities, Dunne puts his PR machine into action to salvage his reputation. Full of twists and turns, designed to thrill rather than surprise, this is an engaging and well-acted drama. While we have reservations about an unsatisfying ending and its tonal shifts, it's very much worth your time.
The true story of the hijacking by Somali pirates of a container ship, Paul Greengrass's Captain Phillips stars Tom Hanks as the titular captain, an ordinary man faced with extraordinary circumstances when his ship is boarded by armed men. Shot in a documentary style, and never sensationalistic, the calm and deliberate approach to the events serves the film well, with the tension being sustained throughout, without the need for heroic set-pieces or drama bombs. While the untrained debutants playing the pirates may have divided our opinions, we agree that it's a well-made thriller and worth checking out.
In The Judge, Robert Downey Jr.'s big city lawyer Hank Palmer returns to his hometown to attend his mother's funeral. While there, his father, with whom he has a fractious relationship, is arrested on a murder charge. The ensuing court case provides the impetus for the exploration of their relationship, and a re-evaluation of Hank's values. While normally this would be pretty forgettable fare, the presence of Downey Jr., Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Duvall lift it above the mundane, and make it worth considering, even if we wish such talent were better served by the material.
An adaptation of John le Carré's A Most Wanted Man provides one of the final vehicles for the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman plays Günther Bachmann, the head of a small German counter-terrorism agency. The arrival in Hamburg of a Chechen immigrant with a claim to a substantial inheritance gives Bachmann the opportunity he has been seeking to expose a major financier of terrorism, but he must contend with politics and bureaucracy to do so. With a low-key nature reminiscent of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and excellent performances throughout, this is something we can recommend highly.
A rather gaunt-looking Jake Gyllenhaal portrays Lou Bloom, a petty thief looking to break into the business world, in Dan Gilroy's Nightcrawler. After witnessing video being recorded of a car crash, Bloom finds his calling and begins building a business by crawling LA at night, looking for tragedy he can film and turn into profit. Though the film's message about news culture may be obvious and unoriginal, it is not without merit, while Gyllenhaal's amoral central figure is captivating. There's also strong support from Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed and night-time Los Angeles, which all adds up to a very compelling package.
One of the biggest films of the year, Interstellar is Christopher Nolan's grand space adventure, in which mankind must leave a dying Earth that can no longer support them to find a new home amongst the stars. Matthew McConaughey's Cooper, a farmer and former test pilot, is unexpectedly chosen - NASA's circumstances being so straitened that they must wait for someone to decipher a mysterious message from space and stumble upon their hidden compound before they can find a pilot for their mission - to lead an exploratory mission through a wormhole to ascertain the suitability for life of the planets just beyond. Made on a grand scale, with beautiful photography, and based on scientific ideas (or at least more so than most movies manage), it takes a turn into 2001 whack-a-doodle territory towards the end. Overly-emotional characters and some clunky dialogue are further disappointments. Pleased as we are that films of this ambition are being made, we're just disappointed that it wasn't better.
Well, uh, hope you folks enjoyed yourselves. Catch ya further on down the trail.