Friday’s movie reviews

Captain Phillips

Tom Hanks charts a steady course towards a deserved sixth Oscar nomination for his tour-de-force portrayal of an unlikely hero in Paul Greengrass’s nerve-racking thriller.

Based on the book ‘A Captain’s Duty’ by Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty, this expertly crafted picture dramatises the true story of an American seaman, whose cargo ship was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009.

Working from a lean script by Billy Ray, Greengrass demonstrates once again why he is one of the finest directors of nail-biting action. If you thought the Surrey-born filmmaker had peaked with the adrenaline-pumping thrills of ‘The Bourne Supremacy’ and ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’, think again.

From the moment the Somalia pirates first appear on the radar, ‘Captain Phillips’ leaves us feeling seasick with tension until the extraordinary final scene that releases all of that pent-up emotion in a torrent of tears.

‘Captain Phillips’ is one of the year’s best films, blessed with a terrific ensemble cast who rise magnificently to the physical challenges.

Hanks is flawless – we can see his mind whirring as he engineers distractions to keep the crew safe – and final gut-wrenching scenes wring him, and us, emotionally dry.

Abdi delivers a striking supporting performance, adding depth and complexity to a role that could easily have been a caricature.

Greengrass’s propulsive direction, coupled with Christopher Rouse’s hyperkinetic editing and Henry Jackman’s heart-pounding orchestral score, leave us scant time to gasp for breath.

Star Rating:


Enough Said

The sudden death of actor James Gandolfini in June, three days before he was due to be honoured at an Italian film festival, adds poignancy to Nicole Holofcener’s wonderful romantic comedy.

Gandolfini was a formidable talent, winning three Emmy awards and two Golden Globes for his signature role as a conflicted mobster in ‘The Sopranos’.

He might well be feted, posthumously, for his disarming portrayal of a divorced man on the hunt for second-chance love in ‘Enough Said’.

Wearing his heart on his character’s sleeve in every frame, Gandolfini leaves us in a swoon when he sweetly confesses to his new girlfriend (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), “I kind of adore you already.”

Their molten onscreen chemistry induces a giddy smile. Every time they snatch covert glances, when they think the other person isn’t looking, we see a twinkle of joy in their eyes.

Even their bedroom scenes feel genuine: slightly awkward, tender and underscored with flashes of humour. It’s a fitting swansong for an actor, who was unafraid to lay himself emotionally bare for his art.

Galvanised by the winning rapport of Gandolfini and Louis-Dreyfus, ‘Enough Said’ is a valentine to the transformative power of love and to the film’s leading man. “For Jim” reads a simple dedication during the end credits.

Holofcener’s dialogue trips off the tongue, peppered with some great one-liners.

A quirky subplot involving Ellen’s best friend Chloe (Tavi Gevinson) adds more colour.

Love hurts whether you’re an impetuous teenager or old enough to know better.

Star Rating: 4/5


Turbo

A garden snail feels the need, the need for slime-burning speed in David Soren’s heart-warming computer-animated adventure.

Following a tried and tested formula that propels the film into the winner’s circle (albeit without any surprising detours), ‘Turbo’ is a classic David-and-Goliath story enlivened with larger-than-life characters and high-octane action sequences.

The script written by Soren, Robert Siegel and Darren Lemke is simplistic, particularly the relationship between Turbo (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) and his snail sibling Chet (Paul Giamatti), who insists on casting dark clouds of doubt over the diminutive hero’s dreams.

Soren’s film is harmless and wholesome family entertainment, punctuated by racing sequences that shift our pulses up a gear.

The title character is instantly likeable and we root for Turbo as more obstacles are flung in his path. Snails have rarely looked so gosh-darn strokeable.

Reynolds radiates warmth in the lead opposite a suitably downbeat Giamatti, with supporting cast dividing up the one-liners as the comic relief including Ken Jeong as a sassy manicurist.

Visuals are slick, even at high-speed, but lack some of the intricacy and minute detail that have set Pixar films apart from the pack.

Turbo puts up a spirited chase but doesn’t quite have enough original ideas in the tank.

Star Rating: 3/5


Escape Plan

Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger are evidently growing accustomed to each other’s company on the big screen.

Having spent much of their careers as box office rivals, the muscle-bound stars united for the ‘Expendables’ franchise and now they team up again for Mikael Hafstrom’s preposterous, yet thrilling, prison break.

‘Escape Plan’ is an undeniable guilty pleasure, energized by breathless direction and a script co-written by Miles Chapman and Arnell Jesko that keeps us on our toes.

The film is brazenly divorced from reality and the two leads demonstrate an amazing ability to emerge unscathed from a hail of bullets or outpace teams of prison guards half their age.

Stallone and Schwarzenegger’s grizzled charm carries the film through its loopier moments though, including an opportunity for the two men to exchange bone-crunching punches.

Book-ended by two hare-brained breakouts, which rely as much on meticulous planning as good fortune, ‘Escape Plan’ makes light work of the 115-minute running time.

Stallone and Schwarzenegger are an appealing double-act, growling expository dialogue that handily details every twist and turn.

Slick editing keeps the pacing brisk and the scriptwriters engineer a neat sting in the tail that, while not entirely unexpected, proves the film has some brains as well as plenty of brawn.

Star Rating: 3/5


Also out this week…

Prince Avalanche

David Gordon Green writes and directs this comedy drama based on the Icelandic film 'Either Way', which is also released this week.

Rock band Explosions In The Sky and composer David Wingo provide an evocative score to complement the breathtaking landscapes of the Texan wilderness.

Like Father, Like Son

Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda delivers another masterclass in filmmaking with this delicate portrait of two families coming to terms with the news that their young sons were swapped at birth.

The two sets of parents are brought together with their respective offspring to decide if they want to swap their sons to restore the bloodlines.

Walesa: Man of Hope

Director Andrzej Wajda dramatises the story of one of Poland’s most renowned politicians, revealing how this husband and father was instrumental in helping millions of workers to realise their dreams of freedom.

Celebrated journalist Oriana Fallaci (Maria Rosaria Omaggio) arrives at the apartment of Lech Walesa (Robert Wieckiewicz) and his wife Danuta (Agnieszka Grochowska) to interview the leader of the country’s Solidarity movement.

In the process, Fallaci discovers that Walesa’s Gdansk apartment provided a refuge from momentous, political events and his emotional rock throughout this turmoil was his wife Danuta, who kept the family together when the rest of the country was threatening to fall apart.

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