The Disappearance of Alice Creed
THERE is a moment roughly halfway through this UK hostage thriller that is less a twist than a wallop, one of those moments when your jaw drops as suddenly everything is turned on its head.
This is not to say that J Blakeson's debut is without other intrigues. Its tale of two ex-cons kidnapping the daughter of a millionaire is engrossing throughout, a fact not lost on the selection panel of last year's London and Toronto film festivals.
Gemma Arterton plays the kohl-eyed Alice Creed, while her captors are bullish alpha-crook Vic (Eddie Marsan) and younger goon Danny (Martin Compston). What begins as a silent, fluid execution of a meticulous plan descends into power-play, table-turning and deception.
Edgy and hard-to-read, our "victim" is both heroine and villain, a complex role that shows there is more to Arterton than just a pretty face. Her character begins her tenure on screen as the bed-bound and humiliated test subject locked in the other room. By the second half, she has become a Linda Blair-style monster ruining things for the kidnappers. But it's never clear who has the upper hand.
Meanwhile, Vic and Danny's relationship immediately sparks the viewer's speculation because, refreshingly, Blakeson deprives us of cluttersome character development or background stories, using instead economic, taut scene-building to put ideas in our heads. Being captive and being in control soon become indistinguishable.
Genre films often take the audience's enthusiasm for granted, or presume it exists in the first place. Blakeson leads you down a path, whispering suggestions every step of the way. Your trust is rewarded.
The Disappearance of Alice Creed is now showing
"JIHAD" and "comedy" are not two words traditionally put together, but then you add the two words "Chris Morris" and you start to see a possibility. Famous for what is regarded in many circles as subversive comedy (most notably the Brass Eye TV Series), Morris started writing this take on the concept of subversive comedy after a news story about Muslim terrorist cells in Britain. The one here is first seen while making a bungling attempt at filming the video explaining an act they have yet to agree on, let alone carry out. They know how they want to look, but are divided on how, what or why.
Leader Omar (Riz Ahmed) and enthusiastic but dim Waj (Kayvan Novak, of Fonejacker) get the call to a training camp in Pakistan but an unfortunate mishap sees them flee back to Britain where converted zealot Alex (Will Adamsdale) has formed an offshoot with a plan and enrolled someone new.
As they bicker over plans, methods and targets, they build bombs, the efficacy of which is tested comically but proven none the less ("Is he a martyr or a jalfrezi?").
The pace is uneven at times, but the performances are great. It also makes for uncomfortable viewing. Omar is bent on jihad, discusses martyrdom easily with his wife and small son but does not hold with what he considers the extremism of his brother's untrimmed beard and repression of women. Yet his brother is against violence.
Assuming the same mix applies to most zealots, Four Lions is lampooning extremism all of all kinds. Morris's producer claims it's "fatwa-proof". However, given the very nature of the beast the film explores, you have to wonder. Original and clever, Four Lions should please fans of darker comedy.
Four Lions opens on Friday
EVER since she hit the nail on the head with her timely send-up of Sarah Palin, Tina Fey has gone from Saturday Night Live darling to multi-award-winning comedic aristocrat. You may well have caught her whip-smart situational comedy 30 Rock, which she both writes and stars in, and her star should maintain its trajectory with Date Night, a good-natured, desperately silly comedy.
Fey and Steve Carell play a married suburbanite couple who set aside one night a week for a "date" to keep some sort of romance in their lives. When they spoof their way onto someone else's reservation to secure a table at an upmarket restaurant, they begin a night of mafia-dodging, car-chases and Manhattan's seedy under-belly. In between the antics, they exchange witty jibes about their dull domestic routine ("you always leave the seat up" etc) and re-examine their marriage. After a variety of risky encounters, they agree on what's important and love is reignited.
A bit corny? You betcha, but holding the whole thing together is Fey's effortless likeability and comic timing, as well as Carell's honed buffoonery. Together, they make that most rare of things -- a rom-com double act with actual chemistry.
Date Night is now showing
IT'S one of the great unacknowledged laws of levity that touchy-preachy politics and comedy don't mix. It's the reason John Gormley doesn't have a future as a stand-up. And it's the reason eco- friendly, kid-friendly comedy Furry Vengeance doesn't really work.
Brendan Fraser stars as Dan Sanders a high-flying developer who uproots his family and moves to the Oregon wilderness so that he can oversee the construction of a massive shopping mall on behalf of his greedy boss Neal Lyman (Ken Jeong).
Unfortunately for domestic harmony, his city-slicker wife Terry (Brooke Shields) and teenage son Tyler (Matt Prokup), aren't enthused by the move. Their disdain is ramped up a gear when they realise that Dan, despite working for an ostensibly "green" construction company, is involved in practices that involve blowing up beaver dams and destroying the environment. Mother Nature eventually fights back. An army of CGI raccoons, skunks and a bad-ass bear succeed in making Dan's life a living hell.
Dan eventually sees the error of his ways and sets about sabotaging the construction project. OK, so he's out of a job but nobody sweats the small stuff in the eco-friendly Utopia portrayed here.
Fraser plays it for laughs and while he doesn't get too many, the physical suffering visited on him by the furry critters is guaranteed to give the little 'uns a giggle. Those with a mental age in the double digits however, or an aversion towards being patronised, will struggle.
Furry Vengeance opens on Friday