Friday 20 April 2018

Movie reviews: Pacific Rim Uprising, Unsane, The Third Murder, Dark River

Pacific Rim Uprising - 2*

Unsane - 4*

The Third Murder - 4*

Dark River - 3*

Rising to the challenge: John Boyega in Pacific Rim Uprising
Rising to the challenge: John Boyega in Pacific Rim Uprising

Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington reviews this week's other big releases...

Pacific Rim Uprising - 2*

(12A, 111mins)

Riding high on his Oscar glory at the minute, Guillermo del Toro might not like to be reminded about Pacific Rim, his noisy car crash of a blockbuster that made a tidy sum in 2013 but really wasn't very good. Indeed it was shamelessly derivative, agglomerating bits of Transformers, Godzilla and Independence Day into a dumb, unwholesome lump.

At least Del Toro has managed to remove himself to the relatively minor role of co-producer on this blunderbuss of a sequel, which begins 10 years after the climax of Pacific Rim, when a brave band of pilots riding giant robots managed to crush an alien undersea invasion.

Among those heroes was General Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) and a decade on, his son Jake (John Boyega) has grown up into a bit of a tearaway. He buys and sells bits of robot on the black market in a busted-up world that's still recovering from the alien wars. But the Pan Pacific Defense Force and its fleet of giant Jaeger robots are still there to protect everyone and humanity is beginning to feel pretty smug about things until a new threat presents itself.

When a new line of automated Jaegers start to go rogue, it emerges they're being manipulated by a mad scientist. So Jake and Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood) and a new generation of heroes must ride into battle again. Pacific Rim Uprising is sort of tolerable for the first hour or so, before a rolling Cgi battle sinks this inane enterprise.

Unsane - 4*

(16, 98mins)

Retired, then not retired, Steven Soderbergh has been in the form of his life of late and Unsane is one of his very best films. He shot it on an iPhone 7, and when you first start watching, you'll think it all looks a bit grungy. But the fuzzy feel is deliberate, and greatly enhances the paranoia of a thriller that has the sleazy power of Alfred Hitchcock's later films. Claire Foy is Sawyer Valentini, an astute but unbalanced businesswoman who's recently moved city to escape the attentions of a stalker.

She keeps having flashbacks and when she visits a psychiatrist to ask for advice, things go horribly wrong. Committed against her wishes to a Kafkaesque asylum, Sawyer's force-fed medication and soon begins to doubt her own sanity, especially when she becomes convinced her stalker is working there as a nurse. Is she mad? Soderbergh never gives you a chance to decide, so breathlessly does his beautifully constructed thriller drag you through its protagonist's nightmare. It's great film-making.

The Third Murder - 4*

(15A, 125mins)

And so is The Third Murder, Hirokazu Kore-eda's knotty and cerebral crime thriller about a man on trial for murder. The death penalty still exists in Japan, and Misumi (Koji Yakusho) looks done for when he admits to having murdered the manager of a canning company.

Misumi has already done time for a murder in the 1980s and seems amiably sanguine about his fate. But why then, his exasperated lawyer wonders, does the man keep changing his story?

One of the most satisfying things about this nuanced and very grown-up film is that we never really find out. The man's story and motives are constantly in doubt and he seems to shimmer mysteriously in front of us like the doomed anti-hero of a Dostoyevsky novel.

Dark River - 3*

(No Cert, IFI, 89mins)

Dark River is more Bronte than Dostoyevsky, though in a thoroughly modern setting. When jobbing Yorkshire sheep handler Alice (Ruth Wilson) returns to her family farm after the death of her father, she finds her brother Joe (Mark Stanley) floundering, and the place gone to rack and ruin.

Her father promised it to her, but Joe reckons otherwise, and while they fight over the farm's future, snatched flashbacks hint at a history of abuse.

Clio Barnard's film is full of weather and brooding atmosphere, and Wilson is superb as the nervy but resourceful Alice. But Dark River loses its way somewhat in a jarringly melodramatic climax.

Also releasing this week: A Wrinkle in Time movie review: 'Disney's space romp is a windy, worthy bore'

Irish Independent

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