Big Game

Director: Jalmari Helander (2015)

A President, terrorists and wild bears are the targets in this goofy action adventure romp which provides a forest full of explosive entertainment.

The son of a famous hunter, 13 year old Oskari (Onni Tommila) is sent into the remote mountains of his native Finland.

Armed only with a sharp knife and a bow and arrow he can barely control, the determined teen must spend a day and night hunting wild bear in a traditional coming of age ceremony. Guns are not allowed.

Meanwhile high above, Air Force One ferries the unnamed US President (Samuel L. Jackson) to a G8 summit in Helsinki. The plane is shot down by terrorist Hazar (Mehmet Kurtulus).

He’s the psychotic son of a Sheik who’s so enjoyably evil he shoots a man in the back with a surface-to-air-missile, and then is rude about the quality of the Chinese made weapons.

Ejected to ground in an escape pod, the barefoot and hapless President is found by a startled Oskari.

However the boy has commendably little respect for the authority of the Oval Office. Even with Hazar in pursuit, Oskari will only take the President to safety after his bear hunt is successfully completed.

Another survivor loose in the wood is the girdle-wearing, pill popping Chief-of-security Morris (Ray Stevenson). He once took a bullet for the President.

Meanwhile back in the Pentagon‘s command bunker, a tank-top wearing, sandwich eating analyst called Herbert (Jim Broadbent) is offering advice to the Vice President (Victor Garber) and General Underwood (Ted Levine).

They’re rapidly falling to pieces quickly at the situation, having definitely picked the wrong day to quit smoking, drinking etc.

Arching an eyebrow alongside the men is the token woman with a speaking role; the CIA Director (Felicity Huffman).

As the script builds betrayal upon betrayal, the most well-intentioned is the most affecting.

Among the the sky-diving, missile attacks and shoot-outs, the special effects aren’t terribly special –  and some of the outdoor locations look suspiciously indoor.

At every possible interlude rousing blasts of orchestral music are accompanied by sweeping helicopter shots of the glorious mountains.

The director coaxes a guileless performance from the young Finnish lead actor and Jackson enjoys himself playing against type as a man definitely not in control of events. Kurtuluş has fun channeling Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) from Die Hard (1988).

With it’s young hero suffering daddy issues and familiar visual gags and stunts, it’s easy to recognise inspiration drawn from the ’80’s work of Steven Spielberg; specifically E.T. and The Temple Of Doom – but the tone is closer to that of Richard Donner’s The Goonies (1985). (Story and Executive produced by S. Spielberg)

However exciting and fun as it all is, the message one is not a man until you’ve killed something is far from typically Spielberg.

The Divergent Series: Insurgent

Director: Robert Schwentke (2015)

Welcome back to the future for the glossy second instalment of the dystopian action adventure quadrilogy.

Renegade heroine Tris returns to face a series of tests – but the biggest threat to success is herself.

Containing all the strengths and weaknesses of the first film, it balances handsome design and two great female performances with indifferent dialogue, silly stunts and a tiresome abundance of teenage posturing.

The decaying walled city is beautifully realised and accompanying uniforms, guns, trucks and technology are all heavily convincing.

Beginning where the last film ended, we’re quickly brought up to speed on the story before being thrust into the action.

Society is divided into five factions, each with it’s own role. Tris (Shailene Woodley) qualifies for more than one faction and therefore as a Divergent she is considered a threat to society.

Tris and her brother Caleb (Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort) are now outlaws. They’re hiding in the peaceful pastoral faction of Amity along with her boyfriend Tobias and friend Peter (Theo James and Miles Teller). It’s a creepy commune of niceness.

Guilt-ridden over her parent’s death, Tris suffers nightmares and scalps her hair in a self-harming act of penance. Her self-prescribed therapy for her anger is to take plenty of physical punishment through the film.

Back in the city, evil Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet) has obtained a box containing secrets that belonged to Tris’s mother.

In order to unlock it’s secrets, victims have black suspension cables plugged into them and are put into a dream-state. In this condition they have to pass five tests – one for each Faction.

We see their subconscious go maximum Inception with exploding digital buildings galore – and death in their dream means they die for real.

Realising only a Divergent will possess the qualities to open it, Jeanine sends sneering Dauntless commander Eric Coulter (Jai Courtney) to hunt down the renegades. She is convinced Tris is the best candidate and is determined to capture her.

His crack troops no know fear, no danger and no tactics – they can’t see a wall without abseiling down it and striking ferocious moonlit action poses. There’s lots of train-hopping action but despite a lot of fighting, there’s a general absence of blood or bruises.

Chased by Dauntless, the four split up. Peter turns traitor, Caleb goes home and Tris and Tobias plan to kill Jeanine.

En route they are captured by the Factionless – now a heavily armed rebel force lead by Tobias’s mother Evelyn (Naomi Watts). She asks them to join up. But when Jeanine implants her friends with remote controlled suicide devices, Tris has a difficult choice to make

Winslet wears a killer electric blue dress and Woodley aside has so much more presence than her co-stars. It’s a wonder she can’t crush the rebellion with a single exasperated sigh.

Woodley carries the film with a combination of physical strength and emotional vulnerability. It’s great to see two actresses in roles defined by their actions and not their gender – it’s a shame the film’s not deserving enough of them.

It’s a good job Theo James is so buff and handsome as he’s more than a little dull. He and Woodley share strikingly little chemistry – there’s far more spark between Woodley and Teller and even between Teller and Winslet. Teller’s strutting wind-up-merchant is the only engaging male performance.

No matter how hard the film works to surprise us – and it does work very hard – nothing ever throws us off balance as it prettily plods to the third instalment.