Tuesday 15 October 2019

Film of the week: Bohemian Rhapsody

Cert: 12A; Now showing

Bohemian Rhapsody
Bohemian Rhapsody

Director Bryan Singer's much-anticipated Freddie Mercury/Queen biopic is finally here and it is worth all that anticipation. Mercury and Queen fans should be happy, but the story and its energy and soundtrack will have broad appeal. Rami Malek shines as the frontman, giving a portrayal of an, ahem, mercurial lead singer, giving light to a fairly straightforward story.

The film opens with Mercury (Malek) walking on stage for Live Aid in 1985, a moment that was to prove a zenith in an extraordinary career. It goes back immediately to 1970 and the then Farrokh Bulsara heading out to a gig by a band, then called Smile. It's to prove a major night, for he first meets Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), the woman who would remain a mainstay in his life, before landing the job as lead singer for Smile. He joins Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) and Brian May (Gwilym Lee) on the same night as John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) does and an important chapter in music history begins.

The film covers the band's trajectory under manager John Reid (Aidan Gillen) and lawyer Jim 'Miami' Beach (Tom Hollander), there's a nice piece of casting with Mike Myers as Ray Foster, the record company boss who rejects Bohemian Rhapsody (remember the BoRhap scene in Wayne's World?). It looks at Mercury's relationship with Belfast man Paul Prenter (Allen Leech), his sexuality, his solo career and relationship with Dubliner Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker) and comes back full circle to Live Aid. In a nice touch it plays the full set. It covers a lot of ground in its 134 minute run time, but never feels too long. A good story, well told, and you know more Queen songs than you thought you did! ★★★★ Aine O'Connor


Cert: 12A; Now showing

Boxer Katie Taylor might be one of the most famous women in Ireland, but she is also one of the most private. She is aware, however, that she can be a positive role model, and had often thought of doing a documentary. But letting someone in to record your life requires a lot of trust, and it was when she met director Ross Whitaker, whose previous boxing documentaries Katie had admired, that she knew she had found her personal fly on the wall. The result is a remarkably intimate portrait of a woman going through tough times, fighting through them and coming out the other side.

Filming began after the Rio Olympics in 2016 when Katie had, much to her own and everyone else's surprise, crashed out in the first round. She had been instrumental in getting women's boxing recognised as an Olympic sport and had won gold in 2012. This loss devastated her and from that point the film goes back to explain how, from her early childhood, she was an exceptional athlete with both the skill and drive to excel. What was Katie going to do next? The film goes some way to explaining what happened between Katie and her father and trainer Pete, he is the only member of the Taylor family not in the documentary. From there it covers her decision to rebuild after Rio, move to America and turn professional. She is shy, but honest, and Whitaker's skill and respect for his subject make this a great watch. ★★★★ Aine O'Connor

The Hate U Give

Cert 12A; Now Showing

The late rapper Tupac Shakur had a tattoo, THUG LIFE which he explained was an acronym, The Hate U Give Little Infants F**ks Everybody. And this is behind the title of a film about racism in America. A film based on a young adult novel by Angie Thomas that is so well-delivered and acted that it reaches beyond borders or markets, it's just a great film for all kinds of audiences.

Sixteen-year-old Starr (Amandla Stenberg) lives in the largely black and poor neighbourhood of Garden Heights. There is a local drug lord, King (Anthony Mackie) for whom her now reformed father (Russell Hornsby) used to work. Her mother (Regina Hall) wants something very different for her children, so she sends them to a predominantly white, middle class school in a different area. Starr learns to present two versions of herself, the one she is supposed to be in her neighbourhood, and the one she is needs to be in school. No one is overtly racist, indeed her white classmates pride themselves on not seeing colour, on even being down with black culture and therein lies most of the problem. That's until Starr is the only witness when her unarmed friend Khalil (Algee Smith) is shot by a panicky white cop and has to decide which Starr she is. There are no simple morals, every aspect and nuance is explained, but it manages to remain engaging throughout its long run time. The cast is great, but Stenberg really shines. And Tupac's tattoo feels more relevant than ever. ★★★★ Aine O'Connor

Utoya: July 22 

Cert: Club; Selected cinemas

A fly-on-the-wall approach is taken with this real-time cinematic depiction of the harrowing events of July 2011. That was the day Anders Breivik detonated a bomb in Oslo before embarking on a killing spree on the island of Utoya that left 69 people, mostly teenagers of the Workers' Youth League, dead.

Over a single 72-minute take, director Erik Poppe sits on the shoulder of Kaja (Andrea Berntzen), who is making friends and bickering with her sister at the campsite when we meet her. The moment inevitably comes when the first shots ring out through the trees and a quickening tension forks through the screenplay. A real sense of chaos and confusion follows as theories are bandied about - there are many shooters, it's only a drill, etc - and no one is sure which direction to flee. Poppe keeps Breivik off screen for the most part, instead concentrating on Kaja and those she encounters during her scramble for survival. While visceral in its depiction of the horror that day, it is let down by trite dialogue and one frankly cringeworthy scene. ★★★ Hilary A White

Don't Worry...

Cert 15A; Now Showing

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot, to give Gus Van Sant's latest film its full title, is a line from a cartoon by its protagonist. John Callahan (Joaquin Phoenix) was an Oregon-based cartoonist who found his true calling only after he was left paralysed in a car accident at the age of 21. It's a story about chronic alcoholism and recovery, much lighter than the subject matter would suggest, but emotionally engaging all the same. In his best film for a while, Van Sant writes Callahan as cheeky and rather irreverent and Phoenix is really good in the role. Once Jonah Hill settles into his role as sponsor Donnie, he is really good too and there are great turns from Jack Black and Beth Ditto. It will especially ring bells for addicts and their families, but it is an all-round enjoyable watch. HHHH  Aine O'Connor

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