The Killing of a Sacred Deer

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA 15+The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos

Written By: Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou

Produced by: Ed Guiney, Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone, Bill Cam.

Director and co-writer of, The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos, has returned with another psyco-drama, medical mystery, that revolves around Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell), a cardiac surgeon and his family including his ophthalmologist wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman) and son Bob (Sunny Suljic) and daughter (Raffey Cassidy): a seemingly happy family.

They lead a controlled, perfected and always logical expression of everyday life.

Until Steven’s friendship with young Martin (Barry Keoghan), a fatherless 16-year-old who’s expressed interest in becoming doctor, becomes increasingly sinister leading to Steven having to make an impossible choice.

It’s only in crisis any individual of the family shows any emotion.

And this constant calm while faced with the truly bizarre sets the tone of the film.

The nature of Martin matches the sociopathic behaviour of the family, husband Steven taking Martin under his wing, to befriend and become one with his family.The Killing of a Sacred Deer

The scene of Martin getting to know the children highlights the strange nature of the characters in this story, making the impossibility of unexplained sickness believable.

Showing surgeons talking about the mundane after facing the confronting task of heart surgery is a picture of a surgeon’s normal day.  But as the film progresses, so does this response – like the bizarre is the mundane: the camera work focussing in, slowly down that narrow hospital corridor, to MRI scans and lumber puncture’s, so real and awful but what happens to many, many times in a hospital setting.

To pan away from Martin, standing in a car park, to daughter, Kim, waving from the hospital window.  Like the normal is on the outside looking in through a window to the inexplicable.  Like the world has been disturbed, inverting Martin’s absurd world onto the focus of his revenge.The Killing of a Sacred Deer

It’s a strange story but shown well with the hint of the disconcerting given with the opening clang of rising clash of the soundtrack.

And there’s some heavy weights in the cast with Colin Farrell (after featuring in, The Lobster) returning in his role as Steven, and Nicole Kidman as his wife.  Nicole’s performance was exceptional as Anna, being able to express a probing puzzlement and shock, looking for explanation for why her children are becoming sick, all in a look from an obviously intelligent mind.

And yes, the story works.

But it’s just such a heavy, absurd story.

This film took me to dark places, so much so, I was reminded of an article I recently read entitled, ‘The Dark Side of Doctoring’ – posted by an ENT, Head and Neck Surgeon, discussing the depression and suicide of doctors when they experience loss of control, support and meaning because of their career.

I like dark humour, but most of the time I found, The Killing of a Sacred Deer troubling.

Unlike, The Lobster, that allowed moments of lightness – dancing and love (of sorts), there was an unrelenting here that waved more into the dark.

I’m still frowning in wonderment.

Murder on the Orient Express

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Directed by: Kenneth BranaghMurder On The Orient Express

Written by:  Agatha Christie (novel), Michael Green (screenplay)

Produced by: Kenneth Branagh, Winston Azzopardi

Starring:  Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Kenneth Branagh, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp.

‘My name is Hercule Poirot and I am probably the greatest detective in the world’.

So simple and yet so effective, the line introducing the mastermind detective, takes the audience on a journey back in time. When travelling was still rough and dangerous, and the Orient Express became a showcase of luxury and comfort.

Regarded as one of Agatha Christie’s greatest achievements, the famous tale has been told many times before so you could say spoiler time has elapsed.Murder On The Orient Express

The most renowned adaptation may have been Sidney Lumet’s Oscar-winning film in 1974, but there was also a TV series in the early 2000’s starring Alfred Molina.

The novel, readily available since first published  in 1934, is one of my all-time favourites. So, not only did I know what I was getting myself into but how it ended. Literally. And there is a high chance you are in the same position I was. But you know what? Don’t let that stop you.

The film’s cast includes two Oscar winners: Judi Dench and Penélope Cruz; and four Oscar nominees: Kenneth Branagh, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer and Johnny Depp. I could not turn down the opportunity to see such an incredible cast coming together and I was not disappointed as they delivered such intricate characters effortlessly.Murder On The Orient Express

When you have a great story and a great team of actors, there is only one thing that may make or break a project: the director. But not many people can handle directing, producing and acting like Kenneth Branagh.

The audience can feel how, just like at the Orient Express, every detail has been accounted for. There is no room for error and the result is a visually-appealing adaption that is a joy to the senses.

This is Kenneth Branagh’s second movie to be shot on 65mm film. The first was Hamlet (1996). After 21 years, Branagh decided to use this film format once again because, according to his own words, he felt inspired by some independent movies he had been watching. Mostly, films by Michael Haneke.

I love train journeys and I did some research about the Orient Express as I was writing this review. Apparently, there was one actual murder on The Orient Express. Maria Farcasanu was robbed and murdered by Karl Strasser, who pushed her out of the moving train, one year after Agatha Christie’s book was published.

The original Orient Express route (from October 4, 1883) was from Paris to Giurgiu (Romania) but shortened as the years went by. The real Orient Express disappeared from European timetables in 2009, a ‘victim of high-speed trains and cut-rate airlines’.

Loving Vincent

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: PG-13Loving Vincent

Directors: Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman

Producers: Claudia Bluemhuber, Sean Bobbitt

Written By: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman and Jacek Dehnel

Starring: Douglas Booth, Josh Burdett, Holly Earl, Chris O’Dowd.

Loving Vincent is the world’s first oil painted feature film. It fascinated me from the moment I watched the trailer months ago.

Armand, the postman’s son, a man with little to no aspirations, arrives at the last hometown of the painter to deliver his last letter. The audience dives into the story through his eyes, the eyes of a stranger, providing a fresh perspective as the character’s curiosity, and our own, unravels an unexpected mystery.

Visually stunning, the creators of this piece of art in animated form set out to achieve the impossible, to tell the story of the last days of Vincent Van Gogh’s life through sixty-five thousand paintings.Loving Vincent

The art form of film is different from painting. Painting is one particular moment in time, frozen. Film is fluid, seeming to move through space and time. So, prior to and during the live action shoot the painting design team spent a year re-imagining Vincent’s painting into the medium of film.

Loving Vincent was first shot as a live action film with actors then hand-painted over frame-by-frame in oils. The final effect is an interaction of the performance of the actors playing Vincent’s famous portraits, as well as the painting animators, bringing these characters into the medium of paint.

In an experience like no other, Loving Vincent takes the audience on a journey through his life and death, allowing us to step right into his artwork where we wonder about the meaning behind the scenes unveiling before our eyes.Loving Vincent

Armand sets off in search of the truth and finds that sometimes, a man’s fame is not made of what he set out to achieve during his lifetime but of the legacy that he leaves behind.

Dorota Kobiela had planned to combine her passion for painting and film, for her sixth animated short, and to paint the entire film herself. However, once she expanded Loving Vincent into a feature film the task of writing and directing was such that she had to content herself with directing the [124] painters. Although, Dorota managed to set some time aside to paint a few shots herself.

After falling in love with Polish painter and director, Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman also fell in love with her film project, Loving Vincent.  He has been working with her ever since.

Blade Runner 2049

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA 15+Blade Runner 2049

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Screenplay Written by: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green

Story By: Hampton Fancher

Based on Characters from the Novel: ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ Written by: Philip K. Dick

Cinematography: Roger Deakins

Music Composed by: Jóhann Jóhannsson, Hans Zimmer, Benjamin Wallfisch

Produced by: Andrew a. Kosove, Broderick Johnson, Bud Yorkin, Cynthia Yorkin

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, with Dave Bautista and Jared Leto.

Atmospheric and quietly menacing.

Based on characters from the novel, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ (written by Philip K. Dick), screenplay writer, Hampton Fancher (with Michael Green) has returned with Blade Runner 2049:  the highly anticipated sequel directed by Denis Villeneuve.

The future is bleak with the population moving off-world on the back of replicant labour – a new version of replicant that/who obeys without question.

The conflict of using ‘that’ or ‘who’ sums up the film’s question: Are replicants just soulless machines? Or the evolution of a new species?Blade Runner 2049

After the EMP detonation that caused a global blackout in 2022, the replicants who pre-date the chaos and have no end-dates are hunted and retired by blade runners.

From the opening scene the quiet absorbs you into a world intensely over-populated and dark.

Set in LA, the feeling of over-population extends to the entire Earth; the realisation that nature has lost.  Humans dominate the world and the replicants are slaves.

But the line is blurring.

As the human, blade runner enforcer, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright) states, we’re all looking for something that’s real.

***

With all the chaos of people and city and technology, you’d expect noise, but there’s a deep silence to this film.

The soundtrack is a vibrating menace that drives the dark mood of the film allowing a simplicity to each scene while creating depth in the subtleties. Blade Runner 2049

Controversy surrounds the composition of the score with Jóhann Jóhannsson (who previously collaborated with Villeneuve on “Prisoners,” “Sicario,” and “Arrival”) being replaced by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch.  See article here.

Villeneuve relies heavily on the soundtrack to create the underlying foreboding feeling of a dark future.  So, I can understand the importance of getting the soundtrack right for this film (and in his previous films) as it plays such an important part in telling the story.

Yet, it’s the imagery here as well.  Each scene is a perfectly made moment carefully crafted through shifting light reflecting off water, holograms sharing the same space as a piano, the falling rain and snow and the eyes of, K, as he’s stares while being brought back to baseline.  And Harrison Ford still has presence on screen returning as Rick Deckard.

Villeneuve’s craftsmanship has brought the story to the screen as only he can – his handling outclassing the script itself.  Fans of the first, Blade Runner will not be disappointed.

At one point I noticed how quiet it was in the cinema, realising no-one in the audience wanted to break the spell.

Ryan Gosling brings a needed impressive performance as the film rests heavily on the blade runner character, K.  He brings that silent strength – not so much in his words but the way he holds them, making you believe he’s there.

Under the direction of Villeneuve, Jared Leto as the replicant creator, Niander Wallace, gets the tone just right, the subtleties showing Wallace’s immoral character.

And that’s the quality of the film, subtle: complicated emotions yet, made to feel simple.  A kind of gentle unfolding with an underlying darkness driving life into the shadows, but the shadows fighting back, like life…

Ah, don’t you love it when a movie makes you feel all moody when you leave the cinema!

Blade Runner 2049 will appeal to more than sci-fi fans.

The quality of the cinematography, sound and setting alone make it a worth-while watch on the big screen.

Mother!

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MA 15+Mother!

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

Produced by: Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin, Ari Handel

Written by: Darren Aronofsky

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer.

Like an introvert’s worst nightmare, Mother! invades the personal space of wife/mother (Jennifer Lawrence) sharing an isolated house with her writer husband/Him (Javier Bardem), who disregards her safety and security, allowing strangers (man/woman (Ed Harris/Michelle
Pfeiffer)) into their home.

From the beginning of the film, there’s mystery surrounding the couple.  Living in the family home of Him that was once destroyed by fire – his wife rebuilds as he struggles to write

The house itself is shown as a living entity that absorbs the emotions of mother, as her world is slowly destroyed.

But the film goes deeper than mere loss of control – there’s religious overtones and narcissism, heart-break, sickness and the sense that the entire world has gone crazy, adding to her loss and further annihilation as her husband steps away to come back only to step away again.

Writing and directing, Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan (2010), Noah (2014), Requiem for a Dream (2000)) has given us something surreal where certain elements will illuminate to some whereas other threads will resonate with others.Mother!

It’s a complicated storyline and I think the success lies with Aronofsky writing and directing.  In comparison, the script of the hugely successful, Black Swan was far more straightforward, his direction adding that otherworldly thread, yet, here he’s been given control over his own writing, allowing a further exploration into the surreal.

Strong performances from the cast allow Aronofsky to delve deep into the strange as the characters are believable: a husband seeming to love and understand, yet, still allowing the nightmare to happen translated through the performances of Lawrence and Bardem.

The subtleties of the male and female need to give and take shift between the husband and wife as priority is given to the strangers invading the house to satisfy the dark and twisted desire of Him.Mother!

Mother! is unique and disturbing and thought-provoking and surprisingly insightful into the female psyche.  The want to be alone with a partner and not having to share the sacred space is just one of the themes that struck a chord.

Psychological horrors/mysteries don’t always satisfy the audience with a conclusion. Yet, I felt Mother! gave some sort of ending, tying off most of the loose pieces.

Through all that strangeness and confrontation where the audience is taken through the increasing nightmare of mother’s existence, the story manages to come full circle.

So, although not an enjoyable experience I found the film successfully scratched at the surface of our existence.

I’m glad I watched the film as it was certainly worth seeing, once.  You have to see Mother! to believe the bizarre nature of the film.  But not an experience I’ll repeat.

Products from Amazon.com

Wind River

GoMovieReviews Rating:

MA 15+Wind River

Directed and Written by: Taylor Sheridan

Produced by: Elizabeth A. Bell, Peter Berg, Matthew George, Basil Iwanyk, Wayne L. Rogers

Music by: Nick Cave, Warren Ellis

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Kelsey Asbille, Julia Jones, Teo Briones, Apesanahkwat and Graham Greene.

“While missing person statistics are compiled for every other demographic, none exist for Native American women. No one knows how many are missing.”

After writing the screenplay for the two highly regarded crime/thrillers, Sicario (2015) – which I gave a 5/5, and, Hell or High Water (2016), Taylor Sheridan has returned as writer and as director (debut) of the crime/mystery, Wind River.

Set in the cold and snowy wasteland of Wyoming, hunter for US Fish and Wildlife, Cory Lambert (Jeremey Renner) is called out to the Wind River Reservation to track a lion after his ex-father-in-law discovers a cow killed on his land.

While tracking the lion, Cory finds a teenage girl dead in the snow.

The Sheriff (Graham Greene) calls in the FBI where Jan Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) turns up ill-prepared for the below freezing conditions and violence that lurks under Wind River’s icy surface.  She soon discovers in this environment, you either survive or die.

Based on actual events, Wind River is a tragedy beautifully told.Wind River

There’s a poetry in the words spoken and insight into the isolation of living amongst the wolves and sheep, mountains, lions; the predators stalking the prey – the contrast of the outsider, the FBI agent, showing just how different life is out on the snow.

I was surprised at the casting of Elizabeth Olsen (the younger sister of the Olsen twins, previously starring in films such as the witch in, Captain America: Civil War (2016) and receiving critical acclaim for her role in, Martha Mercy May Marlene (2011).  Her role as Jane Banner (the FBI agent) is such a mature, complicated character.  The expression and restraint shows a real depth here, the character believable as law enforcement while also human, understanding she’s out of her depth and smart enough to enlist the help of local hunter, Cory Lambert.Wind River

Jeremy Renner wears the quiet wisdom of Cory well – his ability to show humility captures the essence of this hunter, an acceptance of the inevitable as the cold slowly freezes the land leaving hearts full of sadness.

Since starring in, The Bourne Legacy (2012), Renner has been used in roles with a far calmer demeanor, in my view, stepping up in his role as Ian Donnelly in, Arrival (2016) and again here as Cory.

First time director Taylor Sheridan is to be commended in his success in making the most of the cast and talent.

From the beginning, I felt Taylor had put together a strong film, where each moment, word and gesture show more than just the surface.

Wind River is a film about crime but it’s also about people and place.

There’s a rawness to surviving the land that lends to a contemplation of spirit and wisdom creating a poetry of emotion because the characters are forced to rise above the tragedy, to embrace the sadness to survive.

Taylor has a true talent in showing the tragedy in the fight for survival while also showing the beauty of the reality.  And I continue to admire and congratulate his work.

It Comes At Night

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Trey Edward ShultsIt Comes At Night

Screenplay: Trey Edward Shults

Cinematography: Drew Daniels

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr and Riley Keogh.

A post-apocalyptic, psychological survival film that digs at those paranoid fears of sickness and who’s going to die next.

It Comes At Night is a quiet film.

It’s all about the suspense, the weight given to silence, misunderstanding and fear.  In the end of days, you can only trust family.

When a stranger (feature film debut for Christopher Abbott) breaks into the isolated home of Paul (Joel Edgerton), Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their teenage son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr), the story of sickness that’s infested the population slowly unfolds.

Don’t expect a flashy, blood-soaked horror, this film’s about the suspense and fear of who to trust and if that trust is the best way to survive.It Comes At Night

Clever devises are used by cinematographer, Drew Daniels who also worked with director Trey Edward Shults previously in the film, Krisha (2014).

The careful pacing and detail shown to the audience is testament to Shults not only writing the story but directing, taking complete control over the unfolding of a mystery so the film’s not about the plague but about the fear of contracting the sickness.

That’s what I liked about the film.  The desperation was held at bay by people you can relate to.  Not losing it.  Just trying to keep it together only to fall apart at a misunderstanding or a bad dream, and the undeniable knowledge of what desperation can breed.

Instead of sickness and madness, it’s the fear that becomes contagious shown by the wearing of gas masks and the feeling of isolation by depicting a stencilled jagged branch against an overcast sky.It Comes At Night

And the story felt authentic.  The audience shown just enough to believe the reality of being isolated during an event unknown, but known enough to be feared.  Like we’re trapped in the forest with the family.  Wondering at the barking of a dog at persons unseen and a locked red door mysteriously opened.

Each character had their part to play and solid performances were given by the entire cast.  The tension between Travis and Kim, the young mother and wife of the invading stranger and only viable female for the teenager, shown brilliantly through a twitch of an eyebrow and the nervous clenching of a jaw all used to show what cannot be said.  Each subtle gesture used to tell the story.

It Comes at Night isn’t a thriller, Shults uses the psychology of fear instead of blood and guts for this unique horror, and I couldn’t help being absorbed by the suspense.