A Week In Film #438: Without incident

Phantom (2013) title screen
Phantom (2013)
A not wholly unsuccessful thriller about a 1980s Soviet submariner (Ed Harris) who must overcome the odds in order to avoid precipitating World War 3. Decent cast includes William Fichtner, Lance Henriksen and David Duchovny, and director Todd Robinson is perfectly competent, though it’s lacking in the pizazz department.

The Flight Of The Phoenix title screen
The Flight Of The Phoenix
Minor Robert Aldrich action melodrama, imbued with more than a hint of Ice Cold In Alex.

Here a burnt out commercial pilot (Jimmy Stewart) finds himself ditching in the middle of the Sahara with a hold full of passengers being ferried to Benghazi after a stint working at a remote oil installation. With the water supply fast running out and no working radio, they must figure out a way to get to civilisation – and arrogant German aero engineer Hardy Kruger thinks he knows how.

Some great character actors – including Dicky Attenborough as the navigator; Peter Finch as a stiff-upper-lip British officer, and Ronald Fraser as his had-it-up-to-here sergeant; Ian Bannen as a sarcastic Scot; doctor Christian Marquand; quiet older fellow Dan Duryea; and Ernest Borgnine as a sun-happy foreman.

A Week In Film #437: Slow

The Nice Guys title screen
The Nice Guys
Enjoyable retro romp, with a pair of witless private dicks (Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe) on the trail of a missing woman (Margaret Qualley) in 1970s LA.

Plenty to enjoy from writer-director Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Long Kiss Goodnight), from meta nods to the period such as the wise-beyond-her-years young daughter of Gosling – Angourie Rice – to zippy dialogue.

A Week In Film #434: Zombied out

Vigilante Force title screenVigilante Force

Batshit mid-seventies grind house type fare, with director George Armitage (later of Grosse Pointe Blank fame) liberally borrowing elements from Westerns, Seven Samurai, thirties gangster movies and blaxploitation cinema for this barely concealed Vietnam War allegory.

A Californian boom town’s elders, faced with boisterous oil workers smashing up their community, hire a local bad boy (Kris Kristofferson) and his buddies (all Nam vets, should the allegory be too subtle for you) as police auxiliaries to shake things up. It isn’t long before they are causing more mayhem than they are stopping; a Good Brother (Jan-Michael Vincent) must then step up and make things right again.

Bernadette Peters is great as a kooky bar room singer, Paul Gleason (from The Breakfast Club) has an early turn as a sleazy hood, and Brad Dexter is wheeled out as the town’s push-over mayor, and possibly to MAKE EVERYONE REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED IN THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. Sheer lunacy.

A Week In Film #433: State terror

Bloody Sunday title screen
Bloody Sunday
Paul Greengrass’ shaky-cam recreation of the 1972 Derry civil rights march and subsequent massacre of unarmed civilians at the hands of the Paras. James Nesbitt at his jittery best as march organiser Ivan Cooper, with the likes of Tim Piggott-Smith and Nicholas Farrell as serpentine upper crust British officers, and noted mercenary Simon Mann as the Paras’ battleground commander. Interesting contrast with Jimmy McGovern’s own, more ground-level oriented take on events, Sunday.

Bombshell title screen
Bombshell
Thoroughly pedestrian attempt to dramatise the sinking of the Greenpeace vessel the Rainbow Warrior in a New Zealand harbour by French intelligence agents. Narratively confusing as director Riccardo Pellizzeri can’t decide whether to stick with the activists, the state terrorists, their bureaucratic overseers, or the Kiwi cops investigating it all.

(T)ERROR title screen
(T)ERROR
Terrifying documentary by Lyric R Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe looking at Saeed ‘Shariff’ Torres, an ageing former Black Panther with more than a hint of the Walter Mitty about him, who claims to be something of a freelance undercover agent for the FBI. In time we come to realise that he is indeed a paid informer on a long leash, as the documentary’s second subject, Muslim convert Khalifah al Akili, is scooped up by the Fed’s shortly before he is scheduled to appear at a press conference decrying Torres’ bumbling attempts at getting him to confess to non-existent terrorist plots.

The scariest thing of all? Torres is not alone – he is one of an estimated fifteen thousand such provocateurs and snitches.