Wednesday 18 September 2019

Film of the week: Anon

Cert: 16; Now showing

Amanda Seyfried in a scene from the sci-fi thriller Anon
Amanda Seyfried in a scene from the sci-fi thriller Anon

Films such as Blade Runner and Minority Report struck gold by placing the mood and conventions of the hard-boiled detective noir in a futuristic sci-fi setting. The contrast tends to work very well, as genre tropes get injected with vitality by a new colour palette.

Anon, a dystopian digital conspiracy written and directed by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, In Time), has gone for something similar, pitting Clive Owen's sulky investigator against a femme fatale linked to a series of distressing murders. The only problem is it forgot the colour.

In Niccol's future, first-person-perspective experience is now catalogued and available to be viewed by authorities as society seeks to keep a close eye on unwanted behaviours. Everything and everyone is scannable and open to having actions and movements recorded. Owen plays Sal Frieland, a gritty police detective investigating a string of murders that seem to make no sense when the clips are played back. It might have something to do with Amanda Seyfried's mysterious and sultry hacker whom he is not able to get a digital or moral read on.

So much of Anon is cluttered with bitty and busy imagery, clogging up the frame in the form of analytics and readings in the viewer's peripheral vision. The effect is akin to a first-person video game platform and sucks cinematic life out of the action before us. The atmosphere - clean, dull, oppressively slick - suffers too because just as you're starting to feel immersed in the world you are pulled out into the realm of a computer interface.

Owen and Seyfried never get airborne, neither seeming invested or energised by the material. You don't blame them.

★★ Hilary A White


Also showing

Le Redoutable

Now showing IFI

Broadly speaking there are two kinds of filmmakers, those who want to tell a story, and those who want to convey a message.

Le Redoutable, also known as Godard Mon Amour, is a film made by one kind of director about another and, as befitting the near-cult status of the subject, it has proven divisive.

Upon hearing of the project, Jean-Luc Godard himself is said to have said it was "a stupid idea" and while some agree, I rather enjoyed it.

Director Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) works from the memoir of Anne Wiazemsky, who at 19 became the second wife of Godard.

The story opens in 1967, Godard (Louis Garrel) is already an acclaimed director in France. He is 37 and he and Anne (Stacy Martin) have just fallen in love, and she has starred in his latest film La Chinoise, which is not well received.

France is in a time of social upheaval and Godard joins in the protests of May 1968 which tie in with his own changing opinions and a switch in his view of the purpose of art.

Hazanavicius uses lots of Godardian techniques in the film, an homage which is undercut by the vaguely ridiculous manner in which Godard is portrayed.

He is self-righteous and insensitive, his frequently lost glasses a metaphor for his broader myopia.

It's irreverent about a filmmaker many admire, and interesting, but not very emotionally involving and unlikely to leave you Breathless.

★★★ Aine O'Connor


Breaking In

Cert: 15A; Now showing

"Payback is a mother" goes the tagline for this thriller about a mum taking on a band of nasty house burglars in order to protect her children. Geddit?

Gabrielle Union - one of a few unconvincing turns at the heart of this dire film - plays Shaun Russell whose rich but crooked father has been killed in a hit-and-run incident. She, her teenage daughter and young son venture out to inspect his rural pile ahead of placing it on the market. Awaiting them there, unfortunately, are the very bad guys who bumped off Shaun's dad and have now come for his well-stocked safe. Led by Billy Burke's alpha male, they take the youngsters captive, forcing Shaun to negotiate the house's sophisticated security system and awaken her inner ninja.

Breaking In may do decent business in the US, where the sight of Union in the lead will satisfy those for whom cinema has to serve as a political cipher. But James McTeigue's film is unlikely to get as warm a reception amongst us cynical Europeans who, while being more or less unconcerned with the skin colour of our protagonists, will be more focused on the idiotic plot and the dearth of inspiration, talent or gumption at work.

This is no Get Out - there is no wry commentary here about the racial inequalities in US society or the subversive ways in which classes are kept in their place. This is a middle-of-the-road slog that should have been directly consigned to late-night TV a few hundred channels down the satellite listings.

★★ Hilary A White



Cert: 12A; Now showing

A beautiful dance sequence by the Batsheva Dance Company opens Jose Padilha's film Entebbe. Based on the true story of the 1976 hijacking and ensuing siege of an Air France plane, the film is a good overview of events but there are too many strands to it and the dance ends up packing more of an emotional punch than the film does.

The hijacking was a combined operation between the German Red Army Faction and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, to demand the release of prisoners. The film weaves between the taking of the plane by Brigitte Kuhlmann (Rosamund Pike) and Wilfried Bose (Daniel Bruhl), their backstory and the dilemma faced by the Israeli government. Their policy is to never negotiate with terrorists but there is tension between PM Yitzak Rabin (an excellent Lior Ashkenazi) who favours compromise and Defence Minister Shimon Peres (Eddie Marsan) who does not.

The story is interesting and still relevant so as a historical narrative it works fine, but as an engaging tale, less so.

★★★ Aine O'Connor


How To Talk To Girls At Parties 

Cert: 15A; Selected cinemas

Based on an award-winning Neil Gaiman short story, this hysterical fantasy romance set amid the late-1970s London punk heyday sees an awkward pubescent boy (Alex Sharp) fall for a galactic alien babe (Elle Fanning).

While straight out of the "manic pixie dreamgirl" playbook, this coming-of-age premise set against such cultural vim and vigour - with added Nicole Kidman as a punk priestess - could have been a giddy, nostalgic charm, but things have not worked out that way.

Shortbus director John Cameron Mitchell revives the cartoonish mania of that outing and applies it to what resembles a film-school project held together with papier-mache and zany indulgence. Garish visuals and abrupt editing undo good work by the cast and soundtrack.

★★ Hilary A White

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