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Movie round-up: Anthony Hopkins is superb in deeply moving tale while Toni Collette delivers feel-good fare

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Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins in The Father.

Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins in The Father.

Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins in The Father.

The Father

Five stars

Cinemas now: Cert 12A

The word “devastating” is used so much as to be almost devalued. But, in its truest, most powerful sense, The Father is devastating.

Florian Zeller does a wonderful job directing an adaptation of his play about dementia, Anthony Hopkins deserves every one of his awards for this extraordinary performance, and the rest of the cast deliver too. It is, all told, an excellent film, but it is also a difficult and upsetting watch.

It opens with Anne (Olivia Colman), quietly exasperated with her father, Anthony (Hopkins) because yet another carer has quit. Anthony says he doesn’t need a carer; Anne says he can’t live alone because she has met a man and will be moving to Paris.

Then reality shifts. In whose flat are they living? Is the strange, silently seething man reading the paper Anne’s husband, Paul (Rufus Sewell)? Is she going to Paris? Which woman is really Anne?

The audience shares in Anthony’s confusion, which doesn’t have all the answers either. That, and Hopkins’ performance, as he switches from bombastic to baffled, make for a unique insight into dementia – yet the carers too are treated with understanding. I found it deeply moving.

 

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Dream Horse

Four stars

Cinemas; available now; Cert 12A

Toni Collette shone in Muriel’s Wedding, the 1994 Australian classic that brought Abba back long before Mamma Mia! In the intervening years, Collette has more than delivered on that early promise and she shines again in Dream Horse.

Euros Lyn’s unashamedly schmaltzy film is based on a true story and it is heart-warming, feel-good and family friendly.

It’s a simple story set in a depressed Welsh village, where bartender Jan (Collette) meets horse racing enthusiast Howard (Damian Lewis). Inspired by their conversation, Jan hatches a plan to create a syndicate and buy a racehorse. However, a simple story does not necessarily have a straightforward journey.

The film, written by Neil McKay, recounts the ups and downs of that journey with lots of humour and emotion. All the elements are in place, many characters have problems, including poverty, depression and gambling addiction. There is even a snooty lord to up the “underdog” ante.

The great cast, which also includes Owen Teale and Siân Phillips, seals the deal. Collette has described the film as “a beautiful story about hope and backing yourself and believing in your dreams”. She is not wrong.

The Outpost

Four stars

Amazon Prime; available now

As it begins, Rod Lurie’s film sets the scene with title cards. It is based on a true story and set in a US Army base in Kamdesh, Afghanistan, in 2009. The location was widely regarded to be all but indefensible, and, in the event of attack, everyone at the outpost would be killed. This is the tense world we inhabit for the two hours of the film.

Lurie and writers Eric Johnson and Paul Tamasy divide the film into chapters, the first based around Captain Keating (Orlando Bloom). We meet the unpopular Carter (Caleb Landry Jones) and all-American hero Romesha (Scott Eastwood, who channels his father Clint in parts here).

We get a sense of the macho environment with its camaraderie, rivalry and hidden fear. There is pressure from home. They face sporadic attacks and the locals don’t want them. Over it all hangs the threat of the one big attack which they are unlikely to survive.

In the vein of Black Hawk Down, even Saving Private Ryan, this is a very human war film. It mostly avoids overt jingoism and is technically superb. No big surprise, it is gory and sweary. All in all, a really good war/action film.

 


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