Movie reviews: Truth, Hitchcock/Truffaut, The Other Side of the Door, Goodnight Mommy
Paul Whitington reviews this week's other big releases - Truth, Hitchcock/Truffaut, The Other Side of the Door, Goodnight Mommy.
On September 8, 2004, Dan Rather and his producer Mary Mapes ran an incendiary story on CBS's iconic current affairs show 60 Minutes about George W Bush's military service in the Texas Air National Guard. They alleged that Mr Bush had used family connections to avoid being drafted and sent to Vietnam, and that while in the National Guard had been lax in his duties and frequently went missing.
This was an election year, and Bush was in a tight race for the White House with John Kerry. Ms Mapes and Mr Rather must have known what they were letting themselves in for, and pretty soon the world was coming down on their heads.
That's the story told in Truth (3*, 15A, 125mins), James Vanderbilt's glossy media thriller starring Robert Redford as Dan Rather, and Cate Blanchett as Mary Mapes. Mr Vanderbilt adapted his screenplay from Mapes' memoir, and that's part of this film's problem: because while very entertaining, Truth is hopelessly partisan from the start.
Mapes and her team's Bush story hinges on the patchy evidence of a retired lieutenant colonel called Bill Burkett (Stacy Keach), and a series of damning 1970s National Guard memos that have mysteriously come into his possession. Against the clock, Mapes decides to run with the story, but soon the veracity of those documents is being called into question, and she and Rather find themselves at the centre of a gathering media storm.
Truth is well made, but a little too pleased with itself. Ms Blanchett is as good as ever as the jittery journalist, and Robert Redford catches perfectly the Dan Rather tone without ever resorting to an impersonation. But the film's presentation of them as conspiracy victims rings a little hollow. They were perhaps ganged up on by sinister forces, but only had themselves to blame, because they didn't have the story nailed down and ran with it anyway.
A real treat for cinephiles, Kent Jones' documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut (4*, No cert, IFI, 80mins) tells the story of the 1962 interviews conducted by Francois Truffaut with Alfred Hitchcock, and the hugely influential book that resulted from them. Truffaut and his nouvelle vague buddies had always championed Hitch as a master innovator, but in Britain and America he was generally dismissed as a genre hack. Truffaut's book would change all that, and this rich and enjoyable documentary uses contributions from Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader, Wes Anderson and David Fincher to explore the two men's relationship as well as Hitchcock's wider legacy.
And finally, to two horror films of sharply contrasting quality. Johannes Roberts' The Other Side of the Door (2*, 15A, 96mins) runs with the relatively novel idea of setting a horror film in India. American antiques dealer Michael (Jeremy Sisto) and his wife Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies) are living in Mumbai when she becomes pregnant. They decide to stay on, have a second child and settle down in a rambling colonial pile.
But tragedy strikes, and we learn that their son Oliver died in an accident. Maria is devastated, and cannot move on, and when her Hindu maid tells her of a mysterious ruined temple that's a conduit between the living and the dead, Maria decides it would be a good idea to go check it out. It isn't, and neither is this film, which relies on repetitive and predictable horror tropes and runs out of steam long before it ends.
Goodnight Mommy(4*, No cert, IFI, 100mins), on the other hand, finds horror in the commonplace, and is all the more effective for that. Two 10-year-old boys are playing wildly in the idyllic Austrian countryside when their mother returns from hospital having undergone some sort of drastic facial surgery. Her face is wrapped in bandages, she's acting strangely and they become convinced she may not be their mother at all.
It's an eerie, stylish, oddly beautiful and commendably macabre little film.
Kung Fu Panda 3 (Jack Black); Allegient (Shailene Woodley, Jeff Daniels); Anomalisa (David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh); The Witch (Anya Taylor-Joy).