American Honey

Director: Andrea Arnold (2016) BBFC cert: 15

No one in cinema captures the grim essence of poverty with the clear eyed compassion of Brit director Andrea Arnold. Now she’s taken her unique talent across the pond for this extraordinary road trip through the heartlands of the USA.

When Ridley Scott made Thelma and Louise (1991) he embraced road trip convention by choosing a widescreen format. The master stylist painted beautiful landscapes on which to place his characters, though his glorious images were at odds with the desperate plight of the women.

Arnold’s decision to film in a boxlike aspect ratio creates a cage to reflect the limited life of her characters. Plus it allows the face of her lead to frequently fill the frame and these portraits create intimacy and empathy.

Always a challenging and uncomfortable ride, we’re made to experience the forlorn apathy, hopeless hedonism and rootless grind of the lives of a crew of travelling magazine salespeople.

It’s an episodic tale with undertones of Dickens’ Oliver Twist. An 18 year old named Star escapes her chaotic and abusive life. She sprints away to be recruited by a cocky and flamboyantly dressed team leader who is himself under the thumb of a snarling gangmaster.

Arnold points to the hypocrisy of avowed Christians, the tremendous disparity of wealth distribution and the casual drift in and out of criminality. She’s very concerned with the vulnerability of her characters who are physically and emotionally damaged. Their dreams for life are desperately small and pitifully beyond their means.

Star’s interactions with insects, dogs, turtles and a bear are all witness to her development. By turns selfish, courageous, impulsive, sexy, damaged and guilt ridden, she is the most real person you will meet in cinema this year. It is a breathtaking debut by Sasha Lane.

Shia LaBeouf plays Jake with the devil may care of the Artful Dodger, giving a performance to suggest he’s the great actor he’s always told us he is. As their combative boss, Krystal, the smouldering attitude of Riley Keough burns an after-image on the screen every time she appears.

A triumph for all involved.





Director: David Ayer (2014)

Hollywood big gun Brad Pitt rolls into action as a battle-hardened tank commander in this mud and guts war epic that takes no prisoners.

Engineered to a familiar and straight-forward narrative, US army Private Norman (Logan Lerman) is sent straight from basic training to the frontline as the Second World War draws to a bloody conclusion.

Despite being a uniformed clerk, recent losses mean he has to join a Sherman tank unit under the merciless leadership of Sergeant “Wardaddy” Collier (Pitt).

Pitt is a trusted father figure to the crew who have been with him since the North African campaign  and include mechanic Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan – a barely recognisable Shia LaBeouf, plus driver ‘Gordo’ (Michael Pena) and gunner ‘Coon-Ass’ (Jon Bernthal).

Struggling to adapt to his close-knit and de-sensitised comrades, the raw recruit is pounded as their tank – nicknamed Fury – rumbles into a series of battles as they cross the muddy fields of Nazi Germany.

Bravery is matched by savagery as soldiers are blown up, burnt, decapitated, shot and stabbed. There’s a brief and tense period of R&R in a small town where liberation comes at a very personal price for the local women.

Then Wardaddy leads a convoy that encounters a militarily superior enemy Tiger tank and only the Fury survives to continue the mission to the ferocious finale.

Riveted together with excellent acting and direction, the phenomenal fight sequences leave you battered and bruised. Macho down to its army boots, this brilliant and brutal war movie that magnificently depicts war as hell.