A Week In Film #539: Fresh eyes

Life
Interesting, absorbing, imperfect hard SF with a space station crew in peril from Martian soil samples. With Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Ariyon Baker, Olga Dihovichnaya and Hiroyuki Sanada, directed by Daniel Espinosa (the decent Swedish crime thriller Snabba Cash, the so-so Three Days Of The Condor retread Safe House, the disappointing Soviet detective story Child 44) from a script by the Deadpool writing team Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.

Capote title screenCapote
Somewhat plodding take on Truman Capote (here Philip Seymour Hoffman) discovering then exploring and writing about the brutal Kansas murders that became his bestselling ‘non-fiction novel’ In Cold Blood. Directed by Bennett Miller, who later gave us Moneyball and Foxcatcher, written by Dan Futterman (best known as Daniel Pearl in Angelina Jolie’s A Mighty Heart, or as the American conman in late-90s Brit caper Shooting Fish).

Widows title screenWidows
Steve McQueen remakes the high concept Lynda La Planted telly series about the wives of dead blaggers carrying out their hubbies’ last job in a glossy American context. Sets things up alright, then fucks things up. Very capable cast (Viola Davis! Michelle Rodriguez! Elizabeth Debicki! Cynthia Eric! Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall and Liam Neeson and Jon Bernthal and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Daniel Kaluuya and Brian Tyree Henry!) somewhat wasted. Completely fumbles its attempt at a twist.

The Predator title screenThe Predator
Really disappointing take on the franchise from Shane Black. No tension, overly jokey, no scares, just cheap callbacks.

Thirteen Days title screenThirteen Days
Solid drama about the Cuban Missile Crisis, with the focus on White House diary keeper Kenny O’Donnell (Kevin Costner). Captures the tension between Camelot and the generals. With Bruce Greenwood and Steven Culp as the Kennedys, Dylan Baker as McNamara, Michael Fairman as Stevenson, Frank Wood as Bundy, and the likes of Kevin Conway, Ed Lauter, Madison Mason wearing the gold braid. Directed by curate’s egg Roger Donaldson (The Bank Job, but also Dante’s Peak; No Way Out, but also Species).

A Private War title screenA Private War
Sort of good biopic about war correspondent Marie Colvin, but which also never really answers the question ‘do war correspondents provide a positive function for society?’ It’s skirted around a lot here – she’s a good reporter, she’s committed, determined, is brave – but the simple notion that war reportage might have a political aspect, a bias, that it might be weaponised and deployed as a tactical payload, is given not so much as a nod of acknowledgement. Instead we’re in the land of personal probity and individual sacrifice, against a moving backdrop of exoticised wailing women and maimed children.

Still, good performance from Rosamund Pike, some strong visual/mood touches (especially re the PTSD stuff) from director Mathew Heineman, previously a documentarian by trade. With Jamie Dornan, Greg Wise, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Tom Hollander, Corey Johnson.

Greyhawk
Previews and reviews all made this out to be a bit of a cut-price Harry Brown – ex-squaddie (here Alec Newman as a particularly bitter and cantankerous blind veteran) finds himself target of unwanted attention by feral youth on a rundown inner city housing estate, goes a bit Death Wish. But actually I was pleasantly surprised at the way it pulled back from the brink at the end, and gave us instead a satisfyingly simple story more grounded in reality. Kudos to writer Matt Pitt and director Guy Pitt, plus a supporting cast including Zoe Telford, Jack Shepherd, Phil Deguara, Mal Soor, Michael Fox and Matt Young.

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