The 15:17 to Paris

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The 15:17 to Paris is a disappointingly bland film with very little to offer any section of its audience.

As a snapshot of a significant event in our recent history it could’ve been a worthwhile and memorable piece of cinema, but rather than doubling down on the train journey and the immediate moments before it – for both the film’s heroes and its villain – this movie meanders at a snail’s pace through a mire of melodrama and uneventfulness. Fortunately, this approach does lead to moments in which the characters seem admirably grounded, but inane scenes in which characters talk about ‘a greater purpose’ destroy any lingering semblance of credibility.

I will concede that this criticism will be less pressing for audience members of a particular disposition – after all, people often subscribe to concepts like ‘fate’ in order to inject meaning into the otherwise trivial – but to me it felt as though Clint Eastwood was trying to fetishize religion and the military by portraying characters as deeper than they needed to be. I would also suggest that senselessly shoehorning religious dialogue into one of the movie’s most important scenes was ridiculous, acting as an articulation of Eastwood’s belief system rather than a necessary device for the story.

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However, the real issue I have with The 15:17 to Paris is that it fails to entertain. The fact that Alex Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler and Spencer Stone play themselves gives the movie some authenticity, and their real-life heroics make up for their wooden acting, but seeing them do random things from childhood to the attack is incredibly banal. This is a film which depicts ordinary people living ordinary lives; this isn’t always a problem – Noah Baumbach has made a comfortable living off making those kinds of movies – but on this occasion it simply doesn’t work.

Personally, I think a more worthwhile approach would’ve been to develop the terrorist as well as the protagonists – although I admit that this would have been difficult if information on his activities leading up to the attack was limited – or alternatively to focus intensely on the good guys in order to make it feel as though we were experiencing the attack with them. In fairness to Eastwood he tried to go with the latter approach, but intention isn’t always reflected in the outcome and that’s very true when it comes to this film.

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It seems to me that in order to make 15:17 a character-driven movie the dynamic between the three lead characters had to be front and centre. Again, Eastwood clearly knew this and an effort was made to make the audience care from the start; the problem is that this effort was put in the wrong places. During the first act we got to know three children playing underdeveloped characters, rather plainly, and they were shown to be friends; then, after a rather abrupt transition, we saw their real-life counterparts as they lived separate lives. They talked over Skype, watched football together and went backpacking, but during these sequences they weren’t particularly friendly and if anything it felt as though they were growing apart.

This is sad in a way because these are real people who are friends and are playing themselves, but it perhaps speaks to the fact that if you’re trying to make an emotionally affective movie you should probably cast professional actors. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for experimentation, but in order for this film’s casting to work Eastwood had to pull performances out of the three lead actors. Eastwood was unable to do this, thus robbing the film of resonance and making it feel gimmicky when it should’ve been a vehicle for a story worth sharing.

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To summarise, The 15:17 to Paris is a movie which I was looking forward to prior to release and hoped would be well-measured. I believe that what Alex Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler and Spencer Stone did on the 21st August 2015 was incredibly courageous and ultimately saved hundreds of lives, so I’m glad that their story was seen as extraordinary enough to be told. Unfortunately, I also believe that said story should’ve been handled with greater care and competency. 15:17 is dull, weirdly paced and lacking in proper direction, which is perhaps partly down to the fact that real life doesn’t adhere to conventional narrative structure.

3/10

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Hostiles

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Hostiles is a violent western which stars Christian Bale as an army captain and Rosemund Pike as the woman he saves from Comanche Indians.

To start on a positive note, it’s worth saying that Hostiles has one of the best opening sequences I’ve seen in the last few years. Gritty, aggressive, and superbly acted, it will stick with you long after the credits roll.

However, everything else which occurs is utterly forgettable and regrettably haphazard. Hostiles lacks any kind of narrative cohesion and is void of a traditional three act structure, creating an experience which drags on relentlessly. There’s nothing to get invested in and the characters are seemingly incapable of having meaningful conversations unless said conversations are one-on-one, making interactions feel contrived and destroying any kind of emotional investment which the audience might feel for the characters.

The performances aren’t particularly bad, Christian Bale is fine and the majority of the cast do their jobs serviceably, but Rosemund Pike is guilty of some serious overacting and Rory Cochrane mumbles his way through his lines to such an extent that I didn’t understand a word he said.

I don’t want to be too harsh on this film because it does a lot of things well – the cinematography is good and the score works until the tension dissipates – but I defy anyone to enjoy it from start to finish. There’s nothing tying it together, the story doesn’t flow, and in truth I was praying for it to finish well before it finally limped to its conclusion.

4/10

My Favourite Films of 2017

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Previously I have written articles disclosing my favourite films of the year. I started this blog in 2014, so naturally there are lists on the site for 2014, 2015 and 2016. I enjoyed writing these pieces because they let me express my taste in film but they were also very time consuming – after all, I essentially re-review every film I mention – so I’ve decided to go for a change of tactics this time around.

Rather than comprehensively explaining why I loved 10-15 films from 2017 I have decided to post a list of the 86 films that I saw last year (by which I mean films which had a UK release in 2017 either in cinemas or via streaming services). In my view this inspires debate and ensures that I’m not repeating information that I’ve covered in reviews on this blog or on the two other sites that I write for.

If you want to read my thoughts on some of the best/worst films of last year then you can find them here – http://www.thenerdx.com/top-15-films-of-2017-part-1/, https://vampiresquid.co.uk/11-best-horror-films-of-2017/, https://vampiresquid.co.uk/7-biggest-horror-movie-let-downs-of-2017/ – but please be aware that the semantics of those lists account for why I ordered some films differently to how I’ve ordered them here.

This list is ordered by how much I enjoyed a film rather than which film is the best, although for the benefit of clarity I have added headers to say which films I think are bad, average, good and great. This is to ensure that my placing certain films towards the middle of the list doesn’t lead people to think that I didn’t enjoy them.

 

BAD

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86. DEATH NOTE

85. BRIGHT

84. HOME AGAIN

83. SLEEPLESS

82. DOWNSIZING

81. RINGS

80. THE DARK TOWER

79. AMERICAN ASSASSIN

78. JIGSAW

77. BAYWATCH

76. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

75. FLATLINERS

74. THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD

73. THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES

72. LITTLE EVIL

71. LIVE BY NIGHT

70. THE PARTY

69. THE HOUSE

68. THE BELKO EXPERIMENT

67. INGRID GOES WEST

66. A CURE FOR WELLNESS

65. LOGAN LUCKY

64. KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

63. ALIEN: COVENANT

62. HAPPY END

 

AVERAGE

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61. GOLDEN EXITS

60. ROUGH NIGHT

59. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

58. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2

57. AMERICAN MADE

56. GEMINI

55. THE GREATEST SHOWMAN

54. IT COMES AT NIGHT

53. THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER

52. BORG VS MCENROE

51. THE BEGUILED

50. STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

49. 6 DAYS

48. BATTLE OF THE SEXES

47. TO THE BONE

46. PITCH PERFECT 3

 

GOOD

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45. A MONSTER CALLS

44. 1922

43. ATOMIC BLONDE

42. SPLIT

41. ICARUS

40. PATTI CAKE$

39. THOROUGHBREDS

38. JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE

37. GHOST IN THE SHELL

36. MOONLIGHT

35. BLADE RUNNER 2049

34. MUDBOUND

33. YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE

32. PRINCESS CYD

31. JOHN WICK 2

30. FENCES

29. GERALD’S GAME

28. DUNKIRK

27. THOR: RAGNAROK

26. THE DISASTER ARTIST

25. WIND RIVER

 

GREAT

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24. THE SHAPE OF WATER

23. PERSONAL SHOPPER

22. THE BOY DOWNSTAIRS

21. MOTHER!

20. STRONGER

19. HOUNDS OF LOVE

18. DETROIT

17. T2 TRAINSPOTTING

16. FREE FIRE

15. GOOD TIME

14. APOSTASY

13. THE CURED

12. THE FLORIDA PROJECT

11. THE BIG SICK

10. IT

9. WONDER WOMAN

8. GET OUT

7. A GHOST STORY

6. RAW

5. BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99

4. BABY DRIVER

3. LA LA LAND

2. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

1. LOGAN

Horror Today: Are Our Expectations Too Low?

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The Horror genre is an established and beloved facet of film with a wide variety of sub-genres, each of which have garnered healthy fandoms. The Body Horror, Psychological Horror, Slasher and Torture Porn genres all boast classic films as part of their libraries – from mainstream hits like Halloween to less conventional movies like Audition and Funny Games – and each year a plethora of new additions hit our screens.

Shows like The Walking Dead and American Horror Story keep the genre relevant in the mainstream and provide a valuable (if somewhat diluted) gateway to more artistic and intellectually stimulating experiences in the world of cinema, but on the big screen the Horror genre is often misrepresented and abused by filmmakers, production companies and studios alike.

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Narratively cohesive and visually exciting films like The Babadook and Mother! are widely disregarded by audiences because they challenge viewers and don’t rely on cheap tricks to generate entertainment, and in an effort to cater towards the masses studios produce fast-paced, surprise-heavy films with little substance by the bucket load. In doing so they inform their audience’s choices and create a lower level of expectation, facilitating a system which favours profitability over quality and doesn’t require one to ensure the other.

Audiences are consistently short-changed by companies which would rather make an empty but financially-safe movie like The Gallows for $100,000 than something ambitious, and the idea that effective jump scares are essential to the genre is constantly reinforced to mainstream audiences by these kinds of films. Movies like Lights Out are heralded as ground-breaking by casual cinemagoers because they have appealing premises and are marginally more stimulating than the standard throwaway horror that you might find at your local Cineworld, regardless of the fact that the filmmaking is middling at best.

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As previously mentioned, the genre has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to variety; many of the classics come from one or two sub-genres – with movies like Scream, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street all most readily branded as Slashers – but others are great films regardless of how they are categorised such as Alien, The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby.

Horror is a study of themes – an exploration of human psychology and our penchant for fearing that which we do not understand – so by virtue of the fact that we know as little as we do it’s a diverse and rich field to study. Yet, within this field filmmakers and audiences alike play it safe, preparing and digesting the same mishmash of clichés on a daily basis whilst ignoring the fact that the taste has faded.

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This Halloween the only cinematic release to capitalise on one of the calendar’s most celebrated holidays was a tepid reboot/sequel of a franchise which should’ve died many movies ago. Jigsaw was a tired and inept attempt at breathing life into a series which at this point has about as much energy as the rotting corpse of its fictional anti-hero John Kramer, and the fact that audiences went to see it is both disappointing and encouraging in equal measure.

The good news is that Jigsaw’s commercial success demonstrates the fact that fans will still pay to see a horror film if a trailer peaks their interest. When there isn’t a recognisable name behind the film the situation is admittedly more complicated – the stars have to align and the need for careful marketing is more pronounced – but if you can find the balance between a pandering set of jump scares and a pretentious art film then there’s a lot of money to be made.

The bad news is that the majority of people can’t tell the former from the latter, and ultimately they’ll pay to see anything as long as a marketing team makes the choice for them.

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The truth is that fans aren’t given an immense amount of choice. Brilliant horror films are being made around the world on a regular basis but they aren’t easily accessible to everyone and they certainly aren’t shown in every cinema across the United Kingdom. You can find them, of course, but in an age when people aren’t willing to interact socially unless their conversations are filtered through a barrage of apps, and can’t articulate their emotions without a meticulously chosen emoji, how can we expect them to make informed decisions on which films to watch? People do as they’re told – like it or not – and they’re told to watch whatever Blumhouse Productions wants them to watch.

Goodnight Mommy is a prime example of the type of movie from within the horror genre which should be made available to fans without the need for excessive research, but unless you happened to stumble across it at your local arthouse cinema it’s unlikely that it made a blip on your radar. Luckily Austria’s nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards is now available on Amazon Prime and is accessible to anyone with a subscription, but the fact remains that for every well-produced horror drama there’s a franchise-killer like Rings to tell audiences that they needn’t get their hopes up.

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Streaming services like the above-mentioned Amazon Prime make lesser-known movies available to the masses, and Netflix has recently added quality to the genre with two stellar Stephen King adaptations (Gerald’s Game and 1922 respectively), but these services can only suggest which films their viewers should watch. They have extensive libraries and an abundance of quantity over quality, so for every film like The Descent there’s an eyesore like Before I Wake to balance the scales, and the latter will likely gain just as much traction as the former.

This isn’t a criticism of people’s viewing habits or a recommendation for what they should choose to enjoy – I can appreciate a bad film just as much as the next person – it’s merely a reflection on the fact that as a society we’ve been conditioned to accept movies of a certain standard simply because they’re convenient to find and consume. We shouldn’t give our money to Twisted Pictures so that they can churn out another lacklustre film in the Saw franchise – that horse is dead and it’s about time that we stopped beating it – we should collectively put more of an emphasis on quality and demand that filmmakers earn the money that we give them.

All of these points boil down to one thing, which is that Horror is an underappreciated and misunderstood genre which is unfairly categorised as niche and tasteless because people don’t have easy access to the types of movies which validate being a fan. As fans we’re as much responsible for that as the filmmakers because we fund their projects and thank them by buying a ticket when they make something which is fundamentally deficient.

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Refer back to my earlier comment about The Walking Dead; it’s one of the most watched and talked about shows on television today, yet in my view it’s also one of the least compelling. The first six episodes were character driven, well-shot, and they had direction, so although the characters weren’t fully-realised there was a sense that it could become something special.

Frank Darabont started as showrunner and he cared about Robert Kirkman’s material; he got some of his talented friends on board from projects like The Mist and they helped to steer the ship in the right direction. However, by the time the second season rolled around creative differences between AMC and Darabont (director of films like The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile) meant that he was let go. Ever since then the show has been less of a drama and more of a soap opera, yet the popularity of the series remains intact because now people are invested and want to be part of the conversation.

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Horror is an exceptional genre of film and popular culture. It plays with human emotions more than any other genre, forcing people to participate and to use their imagination in order to  answer the question – ‘what would I do in this situation?’. It’s an engaging form of entertainment and a valuable tool for growth which encourages people to face their fears and conceptualise scenarios which they’d rather avoid. It provides an avenue to explore abstract concepts and themes which are relevant to our everyday lives, and it does so through a format which allows casual viewers to enjoy what’s happening on screen even if they don’t want to consider the implications. Of the films that I’ve already mentioned The Babadook considers mental illness, Rosemary’s Baby examines ambition and The Descent explores the impact of grief, and each one does so in a considered and symbolic manner.

It’s a genre which iconic filmmakers like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and George Romero have each dedicated large portions of their lives to, and it’s one which needs to be disassociated from those films which sully its reputation in cinemas today. Horror is not a group of teens throwing popcorn from the back of the cinema or speakers turned up so high that you can’t help but jump out of your seat at the end of every sequence; it’s a study in aspects of human psychology which are too complex to consider through everyday experiences – an exploration of our vulnerabilities – and when it’s done right it can be the most emotionally effective variety of film.

Ingrid Goes West

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Ingrid Goes West” is a comedy-drama starring Elizabeth Olsen and Aubrey Plaza.

It revolves around obsession and the dangers of social media, and at the festival it was billed as a comedy. However, to my surprise it was a rather difficult film to watch as the main character is damaged – verging on deranged – and her behaviour is rarely amusing. Her fixation with internet mogul Taylor Sloane (Olsen) is more unsettling than it is comical, and I didn’t laugh once.

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Ingrid is a mentally-ill woman who invades the life of a more successful person in order to live vicariously through her. This could be played for comedic effect with the right script, but it never feels as though that’s what director Matt Spicer wanted from the movie.

Instead, the bulk of “Ingrid Goes West conveys the message that behind the façade Taylor is just as empty and self-conscious as Ingrid. Again there’s a way to make this work, and the fact that the focus is on drama rather than comedy isn’t a criticism in itself, but the relationship between Ingrid and Taylor isn’t developed enough to engage the audience in their dynamic.

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If Spicer had worked harder to make Ingrid likeable then “Ingrid Goes West would’ve been monumentally better, particularly because the moral dilemma of the film required Ingrid to be at least minimally relatable. Unfortunately, the reality is that none of the characters in this movie are multidimensional, the story is predictable, and the concept of tone is essentially non-existent.

I respect the fact that Spicer wanted to tell a story about a woman who was so infatuated by the idea of celebrity that she lost her sense of self, and I understand that the narrative was designed to beat the audience over the head with the idea that social media can be perilous, but the execution was poor and the end product was monotonous.

5/10

The Shape of Water

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Guillermo Del Toro’s latest monster masterpiece, “The Shape of Water”, tells the story of a mute woman working on a secret military base who makes an emotional connection with an amphibious creature.

This is a suitably bizarre synopsis for a movie which tackles human problems such as love and individuality, and there’s nobody better equipped than Del Toro to tell such a curious tale.

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From the moment this film starts to the second that it ends Del Toro creates a visual feast, with creature design and make-up which is second to none. The world, whilst confined to just a few locations, feels lived-in and the characters are relatable despite their exaggerated natures.

At a Screen Talk after the film Del Toro explained that he wanted to create a love story in which a woman falling in love with a creature was ‘just a fact’, rather than the point of the narrative. He recalled that as a child he couldn’t understand why the creature from the Black Lagoon didn’t end up with the damsel, and he stated that films such as “Beauty and the Beast” are flawed because change shouldn’t be required to facilitate love.

‘Love, like water, has no shape’, he explained, and this is the essence of his latest monster movie.

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Overall, “The Shape of Water” is a life-affirming film which tackles familiar themes such as the ability of love to conquer all things, but it does so in a refreshingly abstract way. Del Toro uses fantasy to tackle human stories and by doing so he’s able to make unique movies – “The Shape of Water” is no exception and whilst it isn’t perfect it’s held together by a number of powerful performances, a wonderful message, and accomplished cinematography.

7.5/10

Apostasy

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Apostasy stars British actors Siobhan Finneran, Sacha Parkinson and Jessica Baglow as a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses struggling to cope with adversity whilst maintaining their religious lifestyle. It’s directed by ex-Witness Daniel Kokotajlo and competed in the First Features Competition at the 2017 BFI London Film Festival.

The first thing to say about this film is that whilst it challenges our common sense understanding of human behaviour it doesn’t pick a side. If a committed Jehovah’s Witness watched this film they would likely find its exploration of their organisation to be unfair and inaccurate, but to mainstream secular viewers the portrayal of the group may seem rather kind.

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This is intended in a sense as Kokotajlo didn’t try to make a film which denounced the Witnesses or their way of life. Rather, he wanted to articulate some of the problems that he has with their practices and explore scenarios which he’d considered whilst being part of the system.

In a Q&A after the screening, Kokotajlo explained that “Apostasy” considers the cognitive dissonance between the way that the Witnesses see the world and how an everyday person understands reality, forcing the audience to enter the protagonist’s perspective and attempt to comprehend why a family might ostracise their loved one in this life in order to save them in the next.

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Kokotajlo has had 15 years to think about this film since leaving the Witnesses and that time has provided him with a balanced perspective on the group and their practices. The movie which has been born from this period of reflection is nothing short of fantastic and every decision works, whether it be the close-up camerawork which is intended to detach the characters from their backgrounds, (just as they are detached from the physical world and only think about ‘the new system’), or the way in which many characters demonstrate the duplicity of a religion which is simultaneously well-meaning whilst also being antagonistic to outsiders.

Overall, “Apostasy is a thoughtful and surprisingly poignant film from an exciting director.

8/10

The Florida Project

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“The Florida Project” is the latest film from director Sean Baker, starring Willem Dafoe as a hotel manager and Bria Vinai as Halley, one of his most challenging tenants.

The stars of the film are the child actors, Brooklynn Prince (Moonee) and Valeria Cotto (Jancey), who turn The Magic Castle into their playground and bring joy to a bleak narrative.

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The first act focuses on the children and their mischievous exploits at the hotel; they spit on cars and hassle residents, making the most of their surroundings whilst their parents stay inside and struggle to make rent. These opening scenes are hilarious and heart-warming and the children’s mannerisms feel completely natural, but there’s always a sense that something is about to go wrong as tension builds in the background.

As the film progresses Halley’s situation becomes unmanageable and it’s obvious by the third act that she can’t provide for her child. This makes scenes in which the children venture off on their own feel suddenly disconcerting and brings a sense of urgency to what could’ve been a meandering narrative. Baker pulls this tonal shift off perfectly, allowing it to creep up on you slowly before abruptly injecting dread into what is an otherwise colourful and joyous experience.

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“The Florida Project” is a great film and one of the best that I saw at the London Film Festival. The direction is fantastic and the performances that Baker is able to get out of the child actors are exceptional. By juxtaposing the world that the children make for themselves with the altogether less wondrous one that their parents live in, Baker creates a poignant and at times beautiful film which packs an emotive punch.

8.5/10

Stronger

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“Stronger” is directed by David Gordon Green and stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman, a man who lost his legs during the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

This film is as much about acceptance, overcoming adversity, and taking ownership of your responsibilities as it is about Jeff’s recovery from a life-changing injury, and Green does well to frame the entire movie around these themes.

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via sbs.com.au

At the start of “Stronger” Jeff is a funny, likeable, care-free man chasing a girl he’s been dating on-and-off for a prolonged period of time. Immediately the idea that Jeff doesn’t show up is planted in the audience’s mind as Erin (played by Tatiana Maslany) cites this as one of the reasons why she recently broke up with him, and it’s this character trait which sparks the conflict of the movie into motion.

In this film just as in real life Jeff goes to the Boston Marathon to cheer Erin on, attempting to displace the aforementioned idea that he isn’t reliable and therefore isn’t a good choice of partner. In doing so his life is altered dramatically as not only does he lose his legs but he also identifies one of the bombers from memory and becomes a local hero in the process.

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This movie works on a number of levels – in one sense it’s a film about coping with a horrific injury and the trauma that comes with that, but in another it’s a story about handling celebrity whilst struggling to keep a stable personal life. It’s a very complex and emotionally affecting drama which is made all the more powerful by two immaculate lead performances from Gyllenhaal and Maslany.

The love story between Jeff and Erin is the thread that ties the film together and it’s worth saying that Maslany is perfect as Erin. Erin is devoted to Jeff throughout the film and loves him sincerely, but before the accident she was tired of putting up with his lack of dependability and although Jeff’s injuries create an obligation for her she’s strong enough to do what’s right for herself regardless of the situation that she’s in.

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She’s a very well-realised and relatable character and she certainly isn’t a plot device in this movie. She doesn’t feel as though she’s there to act as a pawn in Jeff’s story and if anything this is as much a film about her as it is about him – as she points out in the movie Jeff’s injury didn’t just happen to him, it happened to all the people that love him and are there for him every day.

To summarise, “Stronger” is a wonderful movie about a painful event in our recent history and a family’s struggle to recover from something that they never could’ve expected. It tackles its subject matter with care and within the ugliness there’s plenty of joy to be found. The visuals are harrowing, the performances are fantastic, and from start to finish I was emotionally invested in what was happening.

8/10

Borg vs McEnroe

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“Borg vs McEnroe” is a surprisingly cinematic film which is much prettier than it has any right to be. Colours pop off the screen and strike you with their clarity, although at times the artificially enhanced visuals can take away from the fact that this is a movie designed to interpret true events.

This is an accomplished film with much to enjoy, but there’s a sense in which the technical aspects have to be exceptional in order to make up for a limited narrative. Whilst screenwriter Ronnie Sandahl does well to focus on the mental side of tennis and the pressure that success brings, the margins that this movie sets itself are inescapable. It’s a well-made film with many positive features, but the experience as a whole is very samey.

Nothing stands out beyond the presentation because the story is narrow and ultimately predictable regardless of whether or not you’re familiar with what happened in real life, so it can be difficult to feel invested in the narrative.

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Thankfully, “Borg vs McEnroe” boasts strong performances and thus remains compelling in spite of its flaws, although I would’ve liked Sandahl to explore the psychological conflict at the heart of the titular characters in a more inventive manner.

The characters in this film are developed mainly through exposition and flashbacks; these writing tools are tired and contrived and their inclusion can make the film feel lazy. Mainstream audiences aren’t likely to recognise the shortcuts that the script takes when using these plot devices but that doesn’t make them any less frustrating from my perspective.

There are also points at which certain characters can seem slightly exaggerated which takes away from the realism of a story which is inspired by true events. However, because Shai LaBeouf (McEnroe) and Sverrir Gudnason (Borg) capture the basic flavour of their real-life counterparts this issue is somewhat mollified. The dynamic between the ice-cool Borg and the hot-headed McEnroe is interesting and I appreciated the fact that the two were kept separate for large periods; this made their personalities clear before they were thrust together in the movie’s final act and allowed their characters to feel properly realised.

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via premiere.fr

In summary, “Borg vs McEnroe” is a limited but well-presented film with good performances and a fascinating real-life story. Framing the narrative around the psychological struggle of being a top sportsman was a smart decision and I enjoyed the movie for what it was, but I felt it could’ve been improved with a few careful tweaks. I would happily recommend it to mainstream audiences and I think that it’s a much better film than its lack of meaningful marketing would suggest, but it wasn’t creative enough to be a great movie.

6.5/10