A United Kingdom – LFF Review

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In a beige-tinted past familiar to viewers of the classic British period drama, Prince Seretse Khama of Botswana (David Oyelowo) falls in love with white Londoner Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) causing unrest in England, Botswana and everywhere in-between. Amma Asante follows up Belle with another period drama about love, racism, and the power of one to conquer the other. Sadly this film is not as successful as her previous.

David Oyelowo gives a convincing performance as the king-in-waiting torn between the woman he loves and the country he was born to rule. It is easy to see what drew him to the role as the film provides numerous grandstanding speeches as the music swells and the camera pulls into his face. Oyelowo carefully balances the monologues and the more tender moments to create a character I could sympathise with despite his alien predicament.

On the other side of the romantic pairing is Rosamund Pike playing the overlooked sister of the overlooked sister from Downton Abbey (Laura Carmichael) and the daughter of Nicholas Lyndhurst’s character from Goodnight Sweetheart. I kid you not. Pike has a character I find harder to like; wearing an unwavering expression of worry and an air of white privilege. Knowing the strength that Pike can bring to a role it was hard to watch her play a more simpering part, though she does rally by the end.

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Sadly when Pike and Oyelowo were together on-screen I felt no love between them. Their initial romance in London is rushed, and jarringly edited, so reason they are willing to cause so much political unrest never comes across. In fact the whole London segment at the start of the film, despite featuring my beloved Greenwich, is televisual and unconvincing. It is only on reaching Botswana that the film finally gets its cinematic legs. Some moments near the start of the film teeter close to parody as emotional proclamations are made in landmark locations between two characters we barely know, and who hardly know each other, and with two great actors performing below par. I breathed a sigh of relief when the film escaped the confines of London to the vistas of Botswana. Finally the camera could move.

For whatever the reason the film falters at the start and then struggles to catch up for the rest of its running time. The true story at its core might be worth telling but without a well-developed romance to justify it there’s a limit to how engaged an audience can get.

I was expecting a love story but the result was a dispassionate film with some decent performances but no real spark.

Gone Girl – Film Review

Gone Girl

I’m not* going to attempt a full review of Gone Girl because I feel like there is so much loud praise for the film it really doesn’t need my feeble voice added to the mix. Having been to see it earlier this week however I can’t just say nothing. I am a blogger and so I must blog. For those unaware Gone Girl is the story of Nick and Amy Dunne (Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike) a couple in an imperfect marriage. The film begins as Amy goes missing and Nick finds himself in a media whirlwind as suspicions run rampant. Did Nick murder his wife?

As someone who has read Gillian Flynn’s original novel I came to the film with certain expectations. My brain had already done its own casting, built all the sets, and written the score. I was also already aware of the satisfying reveal that comes neatly at the centre of both novel and film providing a perspective shift and keeping the questions running through your mind from getting too repetitive.

Luckily David Fincher must have peered into my mind as a lot of what I saw on-screen matched my imagination. As a result I wasn’t wasting any time mentally complaining about the layout of a house or colour of someone’s shirt. I had been slightly worried about the casting of Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s obsessive ex Desi Collings but I was proved wrong as Harris gave the perfect performance as a pathetic but controlling man. Similarly Affleck and Pike fit their roles to a tee; neither being wholly likeable or trustworthy but both proving enigmatic despite their failure to generate sympathy. Trying to read the machinations behind their eyes is a game you are unlikely to win.

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My only disappointment with Gone Girl is that I could not watch the film from a completely uninformed point of view and experience each twist and turn with fresh eyes. Regardless of this Gone Girl was a gripping thriller that had me second guessing myself to the end. It may not be Fincher’s finest but is certainly in the better half of his body of work. Gillian Flynn has made good work of adapting her own book; her faithful approach to the text will satisfy diehard fans fearing Hollywood sabotage and cinephiles shouldn’t detect any first-time screenwriter foibles.

Fans of the book will love Gone Girl. Fans of Fincher will too. It’s rare to get a proper 18 certificate film these days and Gone Girl certainly doesn’t shy away from showing you the seedier elements of the story. Dark, tense, and deeply engrossing you will find it hard to tear your eyes away from the screen but at times might need to look away for some relief.

See this as soon as possible or risk having a carefully plotted, if slightly implausible, film spoiled for you.

Gone Girl is in UK cinemas from today.

*Or at least I wasn’t planning to

Johnny English Reborn – Trailer

Let me begin by apologising for the lack of a trailer dissection, but frankly it’s far too sunny outside for that amount of effort. The sequel you sort of knew was coming, but had forgotten about a little, now has a trailer as Rowan Atkinson returns as the UK’s most hapless spy, Johnny English.

It looks like it’s taking on the likes of Batman Begins with its martial arts training opening and has the same level of humour as the first film. With Johnny English you’re not getting the most high brow form of comedy, plenty of slapstick and probably some toilet humour. As my favourite line from the first film was “it’s only a bit of poo”, in the interest of balance I should say that Mild Concern‘s other writer looked at me with scorn when I explained this, and is indifferent at best about the sequel.

Watch the trailer and judge for yourself.

Guaranteed to be better than Get Smart.