Category: Festivals, News, Reviews

The 55th BFI London Film Festival – Capsule Reviews

Phil recently attended this year’s 55th BFI London Film Festival and of course we’ll be bringing you detailed reviews of some of the films that he saw nearer their release dates in future podcasts, but in the meantime here’s his own capsule reviews of a dozen highlights from this year’s festival.

360
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Ben Foster, Moritz Bleibtreu

360 is a globetrotting drama full of interconnected characters – a Slovakian prostitute and her sister, an English businessman with a rocky marriage, a former sex offender just released from prison, a wealthy gent whose daughter is missing… etc etc. This type of story has been done many times before (see also Traffic, Crash), here Fernando Meirelles takes it to a global level; there’s enough interesting characters present (the airport scenes worked best for me) and style to the film, but little message other than to say seize the opportunity when it presents itself.

Rating: 3.5 stars
ETA: tbc

Asshole
Director: Q
Cast: Anubrata, Joyraj, Kamalika, Shilajit, Rii

Aspiring rapper Gandu (Indian slang for ‘asshole’) takes his inspiration from his surroundings, stealing from the john who regularly sleeps with his prostitute mother. He literally bumps into and befriends Ricksha, a rickshaw driver, and the two bond over a mutual love of porn and hallucinogenic drugs. From Indian director ‘Q’, Asshole is worlds apart from Bollywood and has much more in common with the work of the French collective Kourtrajmé; it’s in your face, challenging, some might say transgressive filmmaking with its explicit use of drugs and full frontal nudity. Arresting for sure, but lacks any real substance.

Rating: 3 stars
ETA: tbc

Coriolanus
Director: Ralph Fiennes
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, Jessica Chastain, Brian Cox

Proud war hero Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes) is set to become Consul of Rome having defeated the Volscian army led by his sworn enemy (Gerard Butler). However he lacks the support of the public and finds himself exiled from his family and state. Fiennes – who also directs – gives a commanding performance here, dragging one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays into a contemporary warzone. Chaotic and immediate, accompanied by a pounding percussive score, this political thriller may infuriate purists, but remains a tour de force portrayal of a tyrannical and tragic character.

Rating: 3.5 stars
ETA 20th January 2012

A Dangerous Method
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassel

Psychiatrist Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) takes on a troubled new patient, Sabrina (Keira Knightley), using the teachings of his mentor Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). However as their relationship develops over time, so Jung begins to question Freud’s approach and their discussions ultimately threaten their friendship. Adapted from Christopher Hampton’s play, Cronenberg’s film features great performances it from its two male leads, Mortensen in particular, but Knightley’s theatrics grate somewhat. But whilst the direction is assured there’s no real spark about the story, and ultimately it is that which is its biggest failure.

Rating: 2.5 stars
ETA: 10th February 2012

The Future
Director: Miranda July
Cast: Hamish Linklater, Miranda July, David Warshofsky

Offbeat relationship drama about IT support worker Jason (Hamish Linklater) and aspiring dance teacher Sophie (Miranda July) as they begin to question their life together, narrated by the stray cat they’re about to adopt. July’s second feature is awkward and funny, taking the story in some unexpected directions and never confirming to ‘romcom’ staples. Two warm, engaging performances lead the film and there’s a cool score from Jon Brion too.

Rating: 3.5 stars
ETA 4th November 2011

Headhunters
Director: Morten Tyldum
Cast: Aksel Hennie, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Synnove Macody Lund

Roger (Aksel Hennie) is a ruthless headhunter for a recruitment company, who supports his beautiful wife and house by stealing valuable paintings. Clas Greve seems to be the perfect candidate for Roger’s biggest scam, but who is the real player and who is being played? Morten Tyldum’s Norwegian thriller, based on the book by Jo Nesbo, confounds expectations with some neat twists and complex characters that cements Scandinavia’s reputation as the go-to place for orginal crime dramas right now.

Rating: 4 stars
ETA: 6th April 2012

The Ides Of March
Director: George Clooney
Cast: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood

Governor Morris (George Clooney) is neck and neck in the presidential primary race, supported by his campaign manager (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and press spokesman, Stephen (Ryan Gosling) – but as the trail intensifies Stephen uncovers something which makes him question his loyalty to Morris. Clooney displays maturity behind the camera as well as in front of it here with a no-nonsense, grown up film full of intelligence; the power plays, the naked ambition, the shady deals are all here but never too sensational to derail the authenticity of the story and its characters. Added to which the strong cast all give impeccable performances.

Rating: 4 stars
ETA: 28th October 2011

Let The Bullets Fly 
Director: Jiang Wen
Cast: Jiang Wen, Chow Yun-Fat, Ge You, Carina Lau, Hu Jun

Governor Bangde Ma is headed to Goose Town to exploit the town and make some easy money when he’s ambushed by bandit Zhang who steals his identity. The pair then form an alliance against local gang boss Wang (Chow Yun Fat) and so the crossings and double-crossings begin – and the bullets fly. The film has a solid set up but soon gets bogged down in its endless battle of wits between its three central characters. There’s a couple of exciting shootouts but the blend of action and comedy doesn’t quite gel as it ought.

Rating: 2.5 stars
ETA: tbc

Like Crazy
Director: Drake Doremus
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Alex Kingston

Anna (Felicity Jones) falls for Jacob (Anton Yelchin) when she’s studying out in LA and they start dating. However, overstaying her visa is not a clever thing to do and when she plans to go back to see him after the Summer vacation, she’s forced to stay in the UK. This tale of a long distance relationship feels fresh and real, with relatable characters and situations that threaten to break the couple apart. Believable performances from the two leads also.

Rating: 3.5 stars
ETA: 3rd February 2012

Sket
Director: Nirpal Bhogal
Cast: Ashley Walters, Aimee Kelly, Emma Hartley-Miller, Lily Loveless, Riann Steele

Geordie girl Kayla joins a local girl gang after moving to London, and vows revenge on the crime boss who murdered her sister. A cut above the usual ‘gang culture’ movies of recent times, Sket offers an engaging drama with believable characters, backed up from convincing performances – kudos especially going to newcomer Aimee Kelly in her debut role. Whatsmore, the lighting, cinematography and production design is fresh and vibrant and really adds to the atmosphere of the piece.

Rating: 4 stars
ETA: 28th October 2011

We Need To Talk About Kevin
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Cast: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller

Eva (Tilda Swinton) looks back at her life with her now estranged husband, and their troublesome son who is now in prison. Was he born evil or did her parenting methods cause Kevin to turn out that way? Adapted from the book by Lionel Shriver, director Lynne Ramsey wisely ditches the letters narrative and instead gives a non-linear portrayal of pivotal moments in the family dynamic, with emphasis on Eva’s post-natal depression, young Kevin’s deliberate battles with his Mum as she attempts to communicate and educate him, and later, the build up to Kevin’s killing spree. It’s a terrifying tale with Tilda Swinton giving one of the best performances of her career – a tough watch though.

Rating: 4 stars
ETA: 21st October 2011

For further information on the 55th BFI London Film Festival visit the festival website here.

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