Silly but diverting Tony Scott number set aboard a nuclear submarine under the oceans during an East-West stand-off, with Denzel Washington the new XO not rubbing along with salty old sea dog captain Gene Hackman. With HILARIOUS CONSEQUENCES.
Interesting drama-doc about the setting up of Australia’s Cold War domestic spying organisation ASIO under British and American direction with Colonel Charles Spry in the driving seat. As ever most of the effort went into disrupting socialists, trade union organising or anti-government protesters, with scant real effectiveness displayed against your actual Soviet spies.
Beasts Of No Nation
A Netflix original, set in an undetermined West African state at some undetermined time in the recent past during a civil war of unpleasant intensity. A young boy (Abraham Attah) is separated from his family, most of whom are slaughtered, when fighting between government and rebel forces puts his village in the crossfire. He survives alone for a short time, but is soon found – and taken – by a roving band of insurgents, led by a charismatic bandit played by Idris Elba. This does not lead to happy things. Transcends the usual Hollywood arc, but still manages to leave behind crumbs of hope. Excellent stuff from director Cary Joji Fukunaga, who helmed the first season of True Detective.
Problematic, clearly not uncontested, but dramatically very engaging, with strong, memorable performances (Eric Bana, Ciarán Hind, Hanns Zischler, and Mathieu Amalric and Michael Lonsdale as the Corsican fixers) and well executed set pieces. Even if it does fizzle out a bit towards the end, even if it does avoid the whole Lillehammer fiasco, Spielberg still has the chops.
The Big Short
Possibly pitched as Wolf Of Wall Street-meets-Margin Call, it’s nice to see previously-fratpack-to-the-core director Adam McKay branching out into something a bit different – here a black comedy about the 2008 global financial crisis. Decent ensemble – Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, John Magaro, Finn Wittock, Brad Pitt, Rafe Spall, Hamish Linklater, Adepero Oduye, Jeremy Strong and so on – gives good value, though the meta-moments designed to clarify the technical detail behind the drama suffer from being too knowing. Very, you know, male, too.
The Rack Pack
Less clever than it seemed to be, a sort of Star Stories, Stella Street or Rock Profiles version of the world of snooker in the 70s and 80s, only it’s also trying to be a straight biopic of Alex Higgins (and to a lesser extent of Steve Davis, and lesser still Jimmy White). But great performances – particularly Luke Treadaway, who was one to watch in The Rise. Tone a bit all over the place, but still good work from Brian Welsh.