Movie Reviews: The Huntsman: Winter's War, Dheepan, My Name is Emily, The Man Who Knew Infinity
Paul Whitington reviews this week's other big releases: It's just one star for The Huntsman: Winter's War, Dheepan earns 4 while My Name is Emily and The Man Who Knew Infinity earn 3 stars each.
In 2011, Universal Studios released a heavy-handed rehash of a classic Grimm Brothers' fairytale. No one particularly liked Snow White and the Huntsman, and in fact the only interesting thing about it was poor Kristen Stewart, who got herself into a spot of romantic bother and wound up in the tabloids. Due perhaps to the weight of unintended ironies, she and her character Snow White have been banished to the sidelines in this sequel, which dwells on the fate of her saviour, the Huntsman.
In a soupy voice-over, Liam Neeson informs us that the evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) had a sister, called Freya (Emily Blunt), who was quite nice really until the horrific death of her infant child turned her sour. She fled north to establish her own miserable and frostbitten kingdom, and stole children to raise a merciless army.
One of these is Eric, who will grow up to be the dull and handsome Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth). And although Freya has forbidden love in her kingdom, Eric falls for his spectacular comrade in arms Sara (Jessica Chastain). And who can blame him. But when they're separated forever and Eric's banished, he joins forces with two wisecracking dwarves to stop Freya finding her sister's magic mirror.
Badly told and badly made, The Huntsman: Winter's War (1*, 12A, 114mins) lacks the clarity and moral satisfactions of a proper fairy tale, and wastes the talents of its cast, especially Jessica Chastain, who looks like she stumbled on to the wrong set.
In films like A Prophet and Rust and Bone, Jacques Audiard has explored the stories of those on the margins of French society. And in Dheepan (4*, 15A, 115mins) he tackles the very topical subject of a marginalised immigrant. Sivadhasan (Antonythasan Jesuthasan) is a Tamil Tiger, and a weathered veteran of the Sri Lankan Civil War. After the conflict ends, he gets his hands on another man's passport, persuades a young woman and a nine-year-old girl to pose as his wife and child, and is allowed to enter France.
He ends up working as a caretaker on one of the intimidating housing estates that surround Paris, and soon winds up in the middle of a gang war between residents of opposing tower blocks. And as his fake marriage begins to seem real, he's forced to take sides. Dheepan is powerfully told, and takes one inside the mind of a man who's haunted by his recent past, and is about to cruelly expose the difference between housing estate thugs and warriors.
Made with crowd funding and fierce determination by its writer/director Simon Fitzmaurice, My Name is Emily (3*, 12A, 95mins) is a bright and charming indie drama that uses mood, light and a glum voice-over to illuminate a tricky coming of age. Emily (Evanna Lynch) lives with kind foster parents in suburban Dublin, but is troubled by memories of her late mother, and her brilliant but unstable father (Michael Smiley), who's now institutionalised.
Urged from all sides to move on with her life, she decides instead to go in search of her dad with the help of a gallant school-friend called Arden (George Webster). Gorgeously photographed by Seamus Deasy, Fitzmaurice's film catches the unhinged passion of the teenage state, and ends as uncertainly as perhaps it should.
The Man Who Knew Infinity (3*, 12A, 109mins) is so safe, solid and predictable it might have come out of a tin. It tells the true story of Srinivasa Ramanujan, a poor Indian with a divine talent for pure mathematics. Dev Patel plays Ramanujan, who's understandably intimidated when he travels to Cambridge in 1914 to meet his mentor and eventual collaborator, GH Hardy (Jeremy Irons). It's all very nice, and pleasant to look at, but Irons' vibrant and colourful performance is this only thing that gives this film life.
Also out this week: Midnight Special movie review: Close encounters of a worse kind
Eye in the Sky (Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman); The Jungle Book (Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray); The Brand New Testament (Catherine Deneuve); Our Little Sister.