Sunday 22 July 2018

Movie review: The Promise - extremly watchable

Cert: 12A; Now showing

Charlotte Le Bon and Christian Bale in The Promise
Charlotte Le Bon and Christian Bale in The Promise
Heal the Living is a deeply moving and buoyant saga

The Promise is a passion project funded by US Armenians to describe the never officially acknowledged genocide committed against them by the Ottoman Empire. Terry George, who wrote In the Name of the Father and Hotel Rwanda, was an excellent choice for the project. Those two films, however, were based on real people during real events whereas The Promise is about fictional people in real events which is always a difficult balance.

Here, the fictional love triangle does overshadow the evil at times but, that said, I do know more about the genocide than I did and the film, which has some good performances, is extremely watchable.

The film opens in an Armenian village in 1914 where Mikael (Oscar Isaac) is leaving his fiancee, using her dowry to study medicine in Constantinople. He meets Ana (Charlotte Le Bon) and although fascinated by her he remains faithful to his fiancee. Ana at any rate is involved with American photojournalist Chris (Christian Bale) but when the Ottoman Empire gets dragged into war they have a brief moment of passion before they are separated when the Armenian genocide begins. Mikael is sent to a labour camp and Ana and Chris work documenting and helping victims of the atrocities. The love saga does take over at times, however the film does raise awareness of the 1.5m people whose murders have never been recognised by Turkey. ★★★ Aine O'Connor

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Cert: 12A; Now showing.

Guardians of the Galaxy made three-quarters of a billion dollars' worth of friends when it was released in 2014. The recipe to this latest - and admittedly surprising - Marvel Studios stroke was a primary-coloured sci-fi palette, a classic soundtrack and a devil-may-care edge to its humour that you feel opened the door for Deadpool a couple of years later.

The cast - Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, David Bautista, Bradley Cooper (voice only) - is here augmented by Kurt Russell and a fun cameo from Sylvester Stallone, both of whom add to the affectionate, if smug, nostalgia that is ingrained in the brand. However, director James Gunn is without his co-writer on the first outing, Nicole Perlman, and the strength of the comedy writing seems to have suffered.

After the obligatory Marvel intro set-piece, the team is introduced to Ego (Russell), an all-powerful being who claims to be the estranged father of Peter Quill (Pratt). While Peter goes all gooey at the new family tie, Gamora (Saldana) is uneasy.

Meanwhile, the whole crew is being hunted down by not only Peter's old mob of Ravagers but also the queen of another planet whom Rocket (Cooper) has stolen from.

GOTG Vol.2 is very good at two things: laughing at its own perceived comic brilliance, and slo-mo sequences of characters walking forth to Fleetwood Mac or Cheap Trick. It also dishes up a nifty action scene when tasked. But the curious, raggle-taggle sheen of the core team of heroes has worn off this time around, and where once the wit and pop-culture larking was fresh and agile, here it all just feels laboured. ★★ Hilary A White

Lady Macbeth

Cert: 16; Now showing

The clue is in the title but even still the essence and events of this film manage to surprise.

Don't be fooled by the Victorian setting, this is no pleasing costume drama but rather a bit of Yorkshire bodice ripper, Gothic Bronte with a clear, ruthless storyline. It's both OTT and understated and boasts some excellent work in front of and behind the camera from relative newcomers.

William Oldroyd directs Alice Birch's screenplay, which, based on a Russian short story, is set in northern England in 1865. Katherine (Florence Pugh) has been bought, with a plot of land, by dour old colliery owner Boris (Christopher Fairbank) who wants her as a wife for his reluctant middle-aged son Alexander (Paul Hilton). Nothing much happens in the marital bed, and life for Katherine is about rules and endless tedium in a cold-looking shabby manor. Katherine shows flickers of spirit but her maid Anna (Naomi Ackie) spies on her and these flickers are duly reported and crushed. When father and son are absent Katherine discovers stablehand Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis). The passion is important to Katherine, but mostly it signifies the freedom she has so long sought and been denied. And she is prepared to defend that. There are lots of moral issues raised: control vs freedom, freedom vs power, the crossing of moral boundaries and the notion that lust in women is akin to evil. I really liked it. ★★★★ Aine O'Connor


Club Cert; Now showing IFI

The tagline for Argyris Papadimitropoulos's debut feature is "a coming of middle age film".

Middle age is my specialist subject and I am going to suggest that although 42, our anti-hero's issues are nothing to do with his age. This is a dude with other problems. Overall it's a good idea, not terribly well delivered. Reactions to it are divided but it is disturbing and a good topic for post movie discussion in the IFI bar.

Just before Christmas Kostis (Makis Papadimitriou) moves to Antiparos, an island in the Aegean where the winter population is 800. He is the doctor, knows everyone but exists in self-imposed public isolation. In summer the island is bustling and a patient called Anna (Elli Tringou) captures his imagination. She is 21, at the height of her youthful beauty and very much enjoying it. Somewhat inexplicably Kostis starts hanging out on the nudist beach with Anna and her really obnoxious friends. But Kostis's problem isn't his age, it's that he has self-pity, self-righteousness but no self-awareness. It all goes wrong and bar basic human standards, it is hard to feel for anyone involved. ★★ Aine O'Connor

Heal the Living

Cert: 12A; Selected cinemas

Heal the Living is a deeply moving and buoyant saga

The third feature by 37-year-old French director Katell Quillevere brings together medical drama and existential navel-gazing, and in fine style too. Like all transplant tales, Heal The Living dictates that one life must expire so another can survive, but imparts this with much elegance.

Simon, a 17-year-old adrenaline junkie, is hospitalised after a crash. Severely brain-damaged and in a deep coma, his prognosis is bleak. The decision to discontinue life-support falls to his mum (Emmanuelle Seigner) and her ex-husband. Meanwhile, Claire (Anne Dorval) is being fussed over by her doting sons and an ex-lover (Alice Taglioni) as her heart condition steadily worsens. Tahar Rahim (A Prophet) and Bouli Lanners are the hospital staff conjoining the two colliding destinies. A deeply moving but buoyant saga. ★★★★ Hilary A White

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