The Autopsy of Jane Doe – LFF Review

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After a brutal mass murder in suburban America police uncover a corpse half-buried in a basement. Unlike other bodies littered throughout the house this corpse has no identification and no obvious signs of trauma. Baffled, and with half a dozen murders to solve, they take the mystery corpse to Tommy (Brian Cox [not that one]) and his son Austin (Emile Hirsch) who work as coroners in a basement beneath their funeral home. Tommy and Austin are tasked with finding a cause of death that night so set to work immediately. As they dig deeper (sorry) the more they reveal the more the mystery thickens. With a wry dark humour The Autopsy of Jane Doe gradually reveals itself to be the most terrifying film I have seen all year.

The beauty of The Autopsy of Jane Doe is that it is a film that evolves. Despite a consistently sinister tone to the score the beginning of the film is disarmingly chipper. We spend time with the father and son team, enjoy their interactions with one another and allow the combined acting power of Cox and Hirsch to create a convincing familial relationship that disarms and distracts from impending events. The comfort of the film’s beginning is undercut by the impressive prosthetics as the pair dissect a badly burned corpse. Little did I know that worse was to come.

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From these humble beginnings the film really does evolve. In imperceptible increments director André Øvredal nudges the film from dark comedy into full-on horror with real scares, endless tension, and a pervading feeling of claustrophobia. It has been a long time since a single film has had me squinting my eyes as I brace for the scare I know is coming, jumping out of my seat in terror, and chuckling to myself for how petrified I am. With effects as simple as the sound of a bell or a shadow where it shouldn’t be, The Autopsy of Jane Doe had me on edge throughout. For all the blood and gore in the tamer moments the film nicely holds back when it really wants to give you a chill. The suggestion of something sinister is frequently more nerve shredding than the sight of it ever is and Øvredal knows when to hold back and when to fill your eyes with horror.

Having such a strong pair of actors in Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch no doubt helps to elevate the film. It forces you to take the film seriously and they really help to sell the more outlandish moments. I don’t know what else to say without spoiling the film’s many delights/surprises/horrors but just know that it is an efficient, enjoyable, and devilishly humourous horror that rarely puts a step wrong.

I laughed, I screamed, I loved it.

Coriolanus – LFF Review

I lack any of the skills needed to write a satisfactory synopsis for Coriolanus, one of Shakespeare’s more complex plays so instead I point you towards Wikipedia to set the scene fully. Ralph Fiennes directs himself as Roman general Caius Martius, at first celebrated for fighting off rival forces from the Volscian army but later banished from Rome due to complicated political plotting. To take revenge on the city that betrayed him Martius joins the Volscian army, turning against his family and joining forces with his blood enemy Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler). Coriolanus being one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, things don’t end well.

Fiennes and writer John Logan have brought Coriolanus into the modern-day, not through the dialogue but certainly in the setting; now a war-torn contemporary city filled with gunfire and explosions. The start of the film is incredibly intense, filled with loud gun fights, Shakespearean shouting and plenty of blood. This is all a bit much before 10am on a Sunday morning and it’s a relief once this all dies down when we can get back to studied dialogue and acting we Brits do so well.

That’s not to say that the Shakespearean shouting is all done. Ralph Fiennes seems unable to rein himself in as he spits his way through every monologue, trying to reach the back row of the upper circle but instead coming on a little strong considering he is in close-up rather than on stage. The rest of the cast, Vanessa Redgrave, James Nesbitt, Brian Cox and Jessica Chastain, give much more understated and cinema friendly performances. As a director Fiennes is restrained; keeping the camera moving but allows room for the actors to strut their stuff.

The highlight of the film is the appearance of Jon Snow as a newsreader, surprisingly comfortable with Shakespeare’s dialogue and a big help in grounding the film in our reality. Gerard Butler also impressed with his best work to date.

Coriolanus is a fine modern adaptation of nobody’s favourite play, suffering a little from overacting and a slightly saggy plot.

Coriolanus is in UK cinemas on 20th January 2012.