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The one that got away

SALMON Fishing in the Yemen: Drama. Starring Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristen Scott Thomas.. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom. Cert 12A

Paul Torday's 2007 novel which provides the source material for this adaptation was a crisp political satire on the spin culture beloved of the Blair government, leavened with a healthy dollop of black humour. The structure of the book -- e-mails, inter-departmental memos, diary entries and letters -- has, for obvious reasons, been ditched, but the makers have also lost much of the novel's bite along the way.

Director Lasse Halstrom is a safe if predictable pair of hands when it comes to literary adaptations (Chocolat, What's Eating Gilbert Grape?, The Cider House Rules and The Shipping News all featuring on his CV ) but with Salmon Fishing in the Yemen there's a sense of a missed opportunity.

The basic premise is quirky enough: a Yemeni sheik with a passion for fly-fishing wants to build a sustainable salmon-fishing facility in his home country and employs a reluctant expert from the UK's Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to help him, the latter being recruited by a female executive at one of the sheik's UK companies.

Where Salmon Fishing works is in the casting, with Ewan McGregor in fine form as the bumbling, nerdish Dr Alfred Jones and Emily Blunt equally watchable as the sheik's fixer Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, with Amr Waked suitably enigmatic as Sheik Mohammed.

With the lighter touch of, say, a Bill Forsyth this could have really succeeded as all the potential for a Local Hero-type farce with a point is there. Instead, Hallstrom and Beaufoy have lumbered the central characters with back stories to set up an obvious ending, Jones suffering a mid-life crisis as the spark has gone from his marriage and Harriet pining for her new love, an army officer who has gone MIA in Afghanistan.

The film practically slows to a stop during a stodgy middle section, with only the charm of the leads and a perfectly judged comic turn from Kristen Scott Thomas as the Prime Minister's ferocious press secretary keeping things afloat until the predictable climax. HHHII

MARLEY Documentary. Directed by Kevin Macdonald. Cert 15A

The danger in taking on a documentary about such a revered figure as the late Bob Marley is that you risk being left with a hagiography, particularly so when the project comes with the full cooperation of the Marley estate.

Therefore, it's to the credit of Kevin Macdonald that he has largely avoided the pitfalls inherent in such a task, one which had previously been assigned to Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme, and produced a fascinating film.

Macdonald has form in the documentary sphere, making a serious name for himself with One Day in September and Touching the Void, and he immediately sets out to place Marley and his music in the context of the history of Jamaica, with its crushing poverty and the legacy of slavery adding to a volatile mix.

Even at 144 minutes there are several grey areas in Marley, with the issue of his philandering ways (11 children by seven different women) not really addressed, even though his wife Rita, a singer with the band, was aware of what was going on, and one of his daughters barely concealing her contempt for his abilities as a father.

Above all else though there's the magnificent music he created, becoming the Third World's first global superstar and a man whose image and songs are recognisable today in almost every part of the world. A fine film. HHHHI

LOCKOUT Sci-fi/Action. Starring Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Vincent Regan. Directed by Stephen Saint-Ledger and James Mather. Cert 15A

Irish directors Stephen Saint-Ledger and James Mather team up with the Dark Lord of loud trash, Luc Besson, for a relentless, supremely silly sci-fi actioner in which a former CIA agent (Guy Pearce) is despatched to an orbiting maximum security prison which has been overrun by psychotic inmates to rescue the daughter of the US president.

There isn't a single original idea on display here, with the story pilfering liberally from Escape from LA, Fortress, Con Air, The Rock and Die Hard to name but five but at least Pearce looks like he knows he's in a pile of nonsense and consequently doesn't take himself or the material seriously. HHIII

ELFIE HOPKINS Horror/Comedy. Starring Jaime Winstone, Aneurin Barnard, Rupert Evans, Ray Winstone. Directed by Ryan Andrews. Cert 16

When British film-makers try to mesh the genres of comedy and horror the results are rarely pretty and Elfie Hopkins is a salutary lesson in how to completely misjudge the tone of a movie.

Embarrassing on practically every level, Elfie Hopkins stars Jaime Winstone in the title role of a girl-child stoner living in a small Welsh village who fancies herself as a hard-boiled private detective and becomes convinced that her new neighbours are cannibals. God, even writing that brief synopsis made me shudder. Avoid at all costs. HIIII

ELLES Drama. Starring Juliette Binoche, Anais Demoustier. Directed by Malgoska Szumowska. Cert 18

Juliette Binoche is easily the best thing about this muddled drama in which a magazine writer researching an article about student prostitution becomes fascinated with the lives of two young women. The subtext of the story seems to be that society turns all women into prostitutes in one way or another but, despite its lofty ideals, it's a morally murky and utterly unconvincing piece of work. HHIII