RESISTANCE

Cert 15 Stars 3

I was speechless when I discovered the world’s most famous mime artist Marcel Marceau had stopped clowning around for long enough to be a highly successful member of the French Resistance during the Second World War.

A handsomely staged and moving passion project for writer and director Jonathan Jakubowicz, this respectful, involving and occasionally thrilling biopic sees how as a young aspiring painter in Strasburg, Marceau reluctantly underwent a political awakening.

This resulted in him directly saving the lives of hundreds of orphaned children by leading them across the Alps to neutral Switzerland. So a bit like The Sound of Music but with a lot less singing and a much more silent comedy.

It’s a wonderfully physical and charming turn by Jesse Eisenberg as Marceau, particularly as he’s spent so much of his career playing hyper-articulate characters such as Mark Zuckerberg in drama, The Social Network.

Ed Harris gives a sombre yet stirring speech as US General Patton, but the drama is at its best when it says nothing at all.

RADIOACTIVE

Cert 12 Stars 3

An extraordinary life is subject to an earnest but less than inspired telling in this sincere story of groundbreaking Polish scientist, Marie Curie.

It’s not for the lack of trying by talented Brit actress Rosamund Pike, who’s spiky, proud and determined as she bares her soul and her bum in her strenuous efforts to bring the double Nobel prize winner to life.

Sadly rather than focussing on the most important of Curie’s achievements, the discovery of two radioactive elements Radium and Polonium which would eventually poison her, the script falls into the elephant trap of biopics by trying to cover too much ground.

And the pace is more stately than whistle-stop as we flash back and forth as we witness her struggle against the glass ceiling of the scientific establishment, her research and her work on the battlefields of the First World War, all set against the backdrop of her busy domestic arrangements of kids and a marital affair.

There are handsome sets, costumes and performances throughout, but the science is kept to the bare minimum and we never experience the thrill of discovery.

THE LAST FULL MEASURE

Cert 15 Stars 3

A battle for justice is fought for a Vietnam War veteran in this straightforward and respectful real life US drama given gravitas by the astonishing roll call of acting talent.

Giving gravitas to a workaday script are William Hurt, Ed Harris, Peter Fonda, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Plummer, and in the lead is Sebastian Stan, fresh from saving the world in Marvel’s blockbuster smash Avengers: Endgame.

Sporting an interesting bouffant hairstyle he plays a young ambitious government lawyer strong-armed into securing a posthumous prestigious Medal of Honour for a Pararescueman, a member of what’s essentially the air ambulance wing of the US air force.

Flashback combat rescue scenes are effectively staged so we’re in no doubt as to him being a worthy recipient, as well providing as some welcome punctuation to the pedestrian investigative stuff.

Where once the Vietnam War was used to explore the dark heart of humanity, this is a solid endorsement for family, the flag and the sacrifice of the common soldier.

MISBEHAVIOUR

Cert 12A Stars 3

Feminists rock the Royal Albert Hall in this disappointingly tame and light-hearted account of the controversial true events of the 1970 Miss World beauty contest final, a competition with a then bigger global TV audience than the Moon landing or the World Cup.

There’s some great British on show, as Keira Knightley and Jessie Buckley lead the charge as activists disrupting the show with rattles, flour bombs and water pistols.

Knightley is engaging and earnest as always, and well cast as the posh single mother and mature student who’s drawn into the world of activism after being belittled in academia.

When she meets a sneering commune dweller, she becomes a key player in sadly the least interesting and convincing performance by the usually brilliant Buckley.

Sympathy is given to the thinly sketched contestants who see the substantial cash prize as the means to a better life, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw offers dignity as the eventual winner Miss Grenada.

Her best moment is when she points out to Knightley how the struggles of white western women are very different in scope  to those of black African women, but generally she struggles with the weak script along with everyone else.

Rhys Ifans gives a clownish turn as impresario, Eric Morley, and  Greg Kinnear gives an listless and unflattering portrait of showbiz legend and host, Bob Hope.

Billed as a comedy-drama but less than compelling on either front, its refusal to portray any sleazy or predatory behaviour – Bob Hope aside – lessens the dramatic impact, which undersells the women’s achievement in garnering global publicity and kickstarting the feminist movement in the public consciousness.

And always pulling its punches, it barely hints at any possible influence the Prime Minister of Grenada may have exercised on the contest as a member of the judging panel.

Despite its best intentions Misbehaviour is as unthinking a celebration of sisterhood as the contest itself.

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TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG

Cert 18 Stars 3

Having been given the runaround in the Oscar winning First World War drama, 1917, Brit actor George MacKay now follows in the footsteps of rockstar Mick Jagger and the late great Heath Ledger playing the Australian outlaw with the tinpot helmet, Ned Kelly.

It’s a demented performance driving the transgressive, trippy tone of this intriguing but exhausting blood soaked western, and shows how Kelly became a bank robbing killer.

Based on Peter Carey’s award winning novel and exploring the gap between the legend and the real life historical figure, it creates a hellish folk horror nightmare littered with layers of lies, delusion and poetic license which constitute Ozzie history, and strips away the macho self-image and myths of modern Australia to their raw and rapacious roots.

As oppressive British officers, Nicholas Hoult is wonderfully louche alongside the increasingly impressive Charlie Hunnam, who sports his native north-east accent. Meanwhile Russell Crowe gives a magnificent bawdy performance worthy of his former Gladiator co-star, Oliver Reed.

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A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD

Cert PG Stars 4

Tom Hanks is at his most disarming and subtle as a real life US TV icon in this soulful, therapeutic and irresistible family drama.

We’re not familiar with the saintly Fred Rogers over here, but for over four decades he hosted a PlayAway style kids show, and the film suggests he was so popular and beloved he was capable of inspiring an impromptu singalong on the subway simply by sitting there.

However Matthew Rhys’s cynical investigative journalist is hoping to uncover some dirt underneath Roger’s spotless halo.

This seems a reasonable proposition as the cardigan wearing Rodgers seems remarkably old fashioned even in 1998 when the film is set, particularly as TV stars of my 1970s childhood have been revealed to be far from wholesome.

Rhys is full of barely suppressed anger, even more so when he finds himself on the end of a gentle inquisition from Rogers regarding his own estranged relationship with his father and the difficulties of bonding with his new born son.

And you have to feel sorry for the actor as the superb Hanks quietly steals the film from him, earning himself a Best supporting actor nod with his 6th Oscar nomination.

An avuncular, polite, generous and humble dispenser of wisdom, Rodgers often feels a distant relative of Hanks’ 1995 Oscar winning role as Forrest Gump.

And intent on bringing out the best in everyone he meets, he’s essentially an American Paddington Bear, but without the marmalade sandwiches.

Directed by with a firm, sensitive and accomplished hand by Marielle Heller, she drives the film from the backseat and allows the actors to hold our attention.

Though far less needy and attention grabbing her staging and camerawork are in their own way as impressive as that in First World War film, 1917, and she deploys the power of silence with a nuclear emotional efficiency.

Plus the TV theme tune is impossibly catchy, and you’ll be humming it on the way out through your tears.

RICHARD JEWELL

Cert 15 Stars 4

Approaching his fiftieth year as a film director, Clint Eastwood’s latest real life drama uses a tale of heroism to train his sights on two of his favourite targets, the US government and the media.

As represented here by Jon Hamm’s FBI agent and Olivia Wilde’s ambitious journalist, they’re considered as being so much in bed together, they actually go to bed together, and are portrayed as the real enemy of gun-loving white folk.

Paul Walter Hauser brings quiet dignity and sympathy to the title role, an under-educated, over-weight former cop turned security guard who saves lives during the bomb attack at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

However he finds himself accused of terrorism in the court of public opinion, with only Best Supporting actress Oscar nominee Kathy Bates as his mother, Sam Rockwell’s down-at-heel lawyer, and the US Constitution, at his side.

The latter part of Eastwood’s career has focused exclusively on celebrating ordinary blue collar people in extraordinary circumstances, and Richard Jewell is typically accessible, crowd pleasing and polished.

BOMBSHELL

Cert 15 Stars 5

This shocking, compelling and explosive real life drama explores the real life serial sexual abuse at the top of a TV network and the drama is powered by several brilliant and award worthy performances.

Oscar nominated Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie are joined by Nicole Kidman to complete an outstanding trio of talent, playing the sharp, smart, professional and highly polished news presenters, seeking to bring down the predatory boss of the Fox News TV network, Roger Ailes.

John Lithgow makes the most powerful man in American TV a horribly grasping and paranoid figure, who’s created an atmosphere of fear in order to maintain his monstrous regime of systematic sexual abuse.

Fox News and Ailes himself lack the cultural resonance in the UK they have across the pond, but imagine if Holly Willougby, Alex Jones and Steph McGovern announced they and a dozen more presenters had been abused by the Director General of the BBC, and you’d have some idea of the high profile shockwaves the case caused.

Robbie plays a fictional ambitious new employee called Kayla who’s model looks and  sweet nature puts her immediately on Ailes’ radar.

However it’s Theron who dominates the film as Megyn Kelly, Fox’s most high profile journalist, a spiky and demanding presence who describes herself as a lawyer not a feminist, and is more keen on high ratings than popularity with her colleagues.

Kidman has the least flashy but vital role as Gretchen Carlson, who sues Ailes after being demoted then fired after refusing Ailes sexual advances, which leads to his behaviour being made public for the first time.

Sadly the three actresses only appear altogether in the one brief scene, so we’re denied the fun of seeing three great acts sparking off each other.

The sheer volume of testimony is extraordinary and the scale of abuse is staggering, especially as we’re left with a postscript which is perhaps the most devastating revelation of all.

SEBERG

Cert 15 Stars 2

Celebrity, activism, FBI dirty tricks, and a mental breakdown are wasted in this sympathetic if timid and low key and dull dramatisation of the tragic downfall of actress, Jean Seberg.

It’s easy to see why Kristen Stewart was drawn to playing Seberg as her career has similarly moved between blockbusters to prestigious French dramas, and the Twilight star is again excellent.

This begins in 1968 and covers a three year period when Seberg was hounded out of Hollywood by the media after being fed stories by the FBI.

They had Seberg under constant surveillance as they considered her association with revolutionary group The Black Panthers to be a threat to national security, and wanted to ‘neutralize’ her influence on her young fans.

It’s suggested Seberg became mentally ill as a result, which eventually her death aged forty, having had her Hollywood career deliberately destroyed almost a decade earlier.

Though starring in a mega flop musical western alongside Clint Eastwood as a singing gold prospector can’t have helped.

 

VITA AND VIRGINIA

Cert 12A 112mins Stars 3

A former Bond girl gives an compelling turn as a predatory jazz age socialite in this real life lesbian love story.

Since her breakthrough role in 2008’s Quantum of Solace, Gemma Arteton has developed into an an authoritative and compelling big screen performer.

As Vita Sackville-West, she’s a married ‘promiscuous exhibitionist’ aristocrat who pursues a scandalous affair with famed writer, Virginia Woolf.

She’s the psychologically fragile heart of London’s racy bohemian Bloomsbury set, and Elizabeth Debicki’s ethereal presence combined with Arteton’s earthy urgency engenders their coupling with an erotic charge.

But there’s nothing gratuitous on show, instead Chanya Button’s steady-handed direction gives us an articulate and complex character study, which explores the many different forms of love and desire.

There are elements of magical realism, a strong supporting cast, excellent locations and gorgeous costumes. Plus there’s a startlingly modern electronic score by Isobel Waller-Bridge, who also provided the music for her sister Phoebe’s, Fleabag TV series.