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.

Lion

Director: Garth Davis (2017) BBFC cert: PG

This real life long distance drama covers a lot of hard miles on its struggle around the globe.

Searingly sincere and with few surprises, we follow the footsteps of Saroo, an illiterate Indian boy adopted by a wealthy white Australian couple.

Played by the endearing Sunny Pawar, the six year old inadvertently goes on an epic train journey before ending up in the claustrophobic chaos of Calcutta. There’s a touch of Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp in the sad soulfulness of the streetwise urchin.

Saroo is eventually adopted along with another boy by Nicole Kidman in a bad haircut. Suddenly it’s twenty five years later and he’s a strapping surfer dude, played by the charming presence Dev Patel.

Suffering an identity crisis at university, Saroo begins the struggle to find his birth family. Rooney Mara plays the most generic of girlfriends, forced to parachute in and out to give Saroo someone to explain himself to.

It’s a seemingly impossible task given Saroo doesn’t know his surname, the name of his home town and he has search area with a radius over twelve hundred kilometres long.

Fortunately in the intervening years some clever bod has invented google maps, which helps his quest no end. I’ve had less effective sat navs when trying to find an open garage. Too little time is spent on the detective work and the solution feels woefully under-earned.

There’s a spiritual core to the film which helps us cope with the poverty porn, the frequent suggestions of abuse and extended bouts of moping. Identity, culture and language are all touched upon but sadly not explored.

And after a sure footed sprightly start,it becomes a long slog under the weight of some heavy emotional baggage. Plus the presence of Patel reminds us another, finer film. At times it feels like we’re watching Slumdog Millionaire 2: The Backpacker Years.

Ultimately, what the film says is just because you’ve gone to Oz, there’s still no place like home.

@ChrisHunneysett

Secret in Their Eyes

Director: Billy Ray (2016)

In my eyes there’s far too little mystery in this plodding political pot boiler.

The star of 12 Years A Slave (2014) Chiwetel Ejiofor is now 13 years an investigator, that’s the time his character Ray has spent hunting for a killer.

As talented as the public school educated British actor is, he fails to convince as a blue collar New York cop.

Ray’s convinced he’s found the man responsible for the murder of the daughter of former colleague Jess.

Julia Roberts performance has been described as ‘brave’, meaning she wears no make up.

To borrow Stephen Fry’s ungentlemanly phrase from the Baftas, she looks, albeit intentionally, like a bag lady.

Nicole Kidman’s glamorous District Attorney is reluctant to jeopardise her career by reopening the case on the basis Ray’s flimsy evidence.

There are corruption, confessions, chases, interrogations, break ins and some waffle about baseball.

The story switches between two years, most of what happens in 2002 lacks tension and 2015 is too concerned with Ray trying to resolve a romantic obsession.

The top drawer cast are on great form and none disappoint as in turn they’re granted the space to demonstrate their considerable ability.

But we’re not terribly invested in the characters and the script isn’t interested in the plot and moments of humour are misjudged as the cast strive to carry weighty themes.

Based on an Argentine film The Secret in Their Eyes (2009) it’s been heavily retooled for the American market.

There’s an effectively created mood of paranoia and uncertainty in the aftermath of 9/11.

Addressing the attacks’ effect on the American psyche, the script demands the US bury its grief and stop feeling guilty over allowing it to occur.

Arguing the US must in future deliver swift and terminal justice to wrong doers is an insular and biblical view point which may play better across the pond than over here.

Grace of Monaco

Director: Olivier Dahan (2014)

How is it possible to have made a terrible film like this out of such a remarkable story – the life of a Hollywood star who married into European royalty?

The tale of Grace Kelly, later Princess Grace of Monaco, has terrific elements – real-life drama, Tinseltown glamour, riches and royalty, fast cars, great locations, intrigue and international conflict.

But this is an insult to our intelligence. It is poorly cast and packed with unsympathetic characters who deliver dreadful dialogue with appalling accents. The script is terrible and the film looks like it has been edited with a hacksaw.

Stunningly beautiful and an Oscar-winner, Grace gives up her film career for a fairytale life in Monaco on the French Riviera. But now she is bored.

You need an actress who can make an audience sympathise with the plight of a beautiful, pampered, wealthy woman. Instead we get ice queen Nicole Kidman.

The self-pitying princess passes time watching videos of her wedding and, preposterously, is portrayed as an international diplomacy mastermind.

Alfred Hitchcock (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) pops by to offer her the title role in the film Marnie – playing a disturbed woman who was molested as a child. Grace, with the backing of her hubby Prince Rainier (Tim Roth), gladly accepts.

Dithering Rainier is trying to preserve his family’s lengthy rule by keeping Monaco as a tax haven for wealthy petrol-heads and gambling addicts.

However he’s driven to chain-smoking by the grasping president Charles de Gaulle (Andre Penvern) who wants to impose taxes on Monaco, exploiting the ‘scandal’ of Grace’s planned return to acting by trying to tax Monaco and threatening to blockade it.

In desperation, Grace takes a shopping trip to Paris and organises a jolly banquet to bring everyone together. Hoorah! And Marnie? In the end the role was taken by Tippi Hedren.

☆☆☆☆

Paddington

Director: Paul King (2014)

In a huge bear hug of fun to warm your family, Paddington the loveable orphan bear from deepest darkest Peru makes his big screen debut.

This marvellously magical and funny adventure retains all the silliness and charm of Michael Bond’s original books. And hidden in the script is a hatful of kind messages, handed around as often as Paddington offers out his beloved marmalade sandwiches.

The computer-animated bear, endearingly voiced by Ben Whishaw, blends seamlessly into his real-life surroundings.

When a British explorer in Peru found a family of extraordinary bears, he left them with a passion for marmalade and a gramophone for learning English.

Years later an optimistic young bear stows away to find the explorer but London is not as warm and welcoming as he has been led to believe.

As in the book, he’s discovered at Paddington station by the Brown family who name him after the first sign they see and then take him home for the night.

Mrs Brown (a wonderful Sally Hawkins) and son Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) take a shine to the bear. But teenage daughter Judy (Madeleine Harris) is embarrassed while uptight Mr Brown (Hugh Bonneville) simply wants rid of him.

Mrs Brown helps Paddington search for the explorer but wicked Millicent wants to add the talking bear to her collection of stuffed animals.

She’s played by a snakeskin-clad Nicole Kidman, who’s always better when she’s being bad. There is a brief showing from Jim Broadbent as antiques dealer Mr Gruber, Broadbent channels Benny Hill’s performance as The Toymaker in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Paddington inadvertently causes mayhem in a series of imaginative stunts and the film romps along before the slapstick ending in an exciting night at the British Museum.

If young kids don’t enjoy this treat I’ll eat Paddington’s hat – and all his marmalade sandwiches.