Sunday 25 September 2016

Movie reviews: The Finest Hours, Freeheld, How to be Single, Bone Tomahawk

Published 19/02/2016 | 00:00

Date movie: Casey Affleck stars in 'The Finest Hours'.
Date movie: Casey Affleck stars in 'The Finest Hours'.

Paul Whitington reviews this week's other big releases - The Finest Hours, Freeheld, How to be Single, and Bone Tomahawk.

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Efficient, well-crafted and solid to a fault, The Finest Hours (3*, 12A, 117mins) might have been made 30 or 70 years ago, and starred Gary Cooper or James Stewart - it's profoundly old-fashioned but pretty enjoyable for all that. Craig Gillespie's action saga is set in 1952, based on a true story and stars Chris Pine as Bernie Webber, a diffident young coast guard skipper who becomes an unlikely hero when a fierce winter storm hits.

Bernie is endeavouring to propose to his sweetheart when news reaches the coast guard base in Chatham, Massachusetts that an oil tanker has broken in half off Cape Cod, and that 33 crewmen are trapped and drifting helplessly in the severed stern section. With all other boats engaged with other emergencies, Bernie and a crew of three inexperienced colleagues head out in atrocious conditions to find them.

And that's pretty much it, really. A tacked-on romance does little to advance things, but the rescue scenes and sea sequences are marvellous, and Casey Affleck yet again proves that he can be a film star if anyone's interested playing the tanker's resourceful engineer. Good date film, I think, and fans of weather will love it.

In recent years Julianne Moore has given some grandstanding performances in films like Maps to the Stars and Still Alice, and she's at it again in Freeheld. Another movie based on a true story, it focuses on a domestic tragedy that became a test case for gay civil rights.

Decorated New Jersey police detective Laurel Hester (Ms Moore) has kept her sexuality a secret for the sake of her career, but is challenged to live more openly when she becomes involved with a younger, less-complexed lesbian called Stacie (Ellen Page).

The two women fall in love and set up home, but their domestic idyll is shattered when Lauren is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. With only months left to live, she wants to make sure her police pension goes to Stacie, but is told she can't because they're not married. And so a battle begins between the local authorities and a band of LGBT campaigners led by Steve Carell's strident New York lawyer.

Freeheld (3*, 12A, 103mins) should be moving but somehow feels a little contrived and tinny, and strong acting is let down regularly by a rather glib script. Michael Shannon, as ever, gives value for money playing Laurel's stalwart colleague, but it's all a bit TV movie of the week.

Christian Ditter's How to be Single (2*, 15A, 110mins) is the kind of thing that passes for a romantic comedy these days, and feels like a cross between Sex and the City and something by Judd Apatow. Dakota Johnson, an unlikely star since 50 Shades of Grey, plays Alice, a student who decides it's time to take a break from her sweet and staid boyfriend and sample the single life in New York. She moves in with her older sister Meg (Leslie Mann), and begins trawling the bars and clubs of Manhattan with a party animal work colleague called Robin (Rebel Wilson).

The film is not entirely without heart, but has some pretty reductive things to say about women and relationships, and is not nearly funny enough to justify its existence.

First a western, then a horror film, Bone Tomahawk (4*, 18, 132mins) stars Kurt Russell as a small-town sheriff with a problem on his hands. When a stranger is apprehended at the saloon and incarcerated, a local woman comes to the jail to treat the man's gunshot wound. Overnight, the woman and prisoner are abducted by a mysterious tribe of troglodytes, and the sheriff, his deputy (Richard Jenkins) and her husband (Patrick Wilson) set out to find them.

It's like a B-movie Searchers and has plenty to recommend it, but should be given a wide berth by anyone who's even remotely squeamish as it includes a climactic killing as unpleasant as anything I've ever seen on a screen.

Coming soon...

Secret in their Eyes (Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman); Grimsby (Sacha Baron Cohen); The Forest (Natalie Dormer); The Truth Commissioner

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