71: Surviving The Troubles

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

This film follows Gary Hook, Jack O’Connell, a young soldier who becomes separated from his unit and finds himself having to survive the night in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

I enjoyed this film a fair bit, it kept me entertained throughout. I thought the film did a good job of maintaining its tension and it never allowed you to feel safe, or to feel like the character was safe, which also adds to the realism of the film.

In many respects this is quite a hard film to watch, there are a number of scenes that are very visceral and graphic and that will leave and impression on you afterwards. The sudden and random death of Hook’s fellow soldier early in the film being one of them, in many ways it perfectly manages to capture the murky and unpredictable nature of that part of Irish history.

Moreover, Sean Harris as the morally dubious covert intelligence officer Captain Browning is a revelation. Harris always shines through whatever he appears in and adds an uncertain edge to proceedings. I would say he comfortably out acts O’Connell here, with the latter’s rough boy charm sometimes clashing with the character he is trying to portray. For example when Hook is taking his younger brother out for the day he becomes very angry at the doorman for no explained reason, this doesn’t work when later in the film he is portrayed as the ordered and controlled soldier who would never lose his temper in a yobish sort of way. It becomes a clashing personality over the film.

Overall, a good film though more character work was needed with the construction of the lead, a fixed personality was needed rather than one that jumps around.

Pros.

Harris

The tension

Not knowing what was going to happen next

Cons.

O’ Connell

A few plot threads that are unanswered and also go nowhere

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Outlaw King: The Fight For An Independent Scotland

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The film follows the struggles of Robert The Bruce as he rebels against the English crown and fights to become the King of Scotland.

Though there are a lot of historical epics, this one managed to stand out to me. I thought the pacing was tight and it covered a lot in an interesting way. The film could have easily felt slightly xenophobic and even as anti-English propaganda but honestly I think the film feels far more balanced than that and I found myself easily rooting for Bruce and his cause.

I thought the battle scenes were well done and very weighty enough to leave an impact. Moreover, I thought the performances were strong across the board, with Chris Pine being a dependable leading man throughout, only being upstaged by Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s James Douglas and Florence Pugh’s Elizabeth De Burgh. Truly everyone who said something to the extent of ‘oh Black Widow is Florence Pugh’s big breakout role’ are so deeply ignorant to a well of great performances from her.

Overall, I felt for a Netflix action film this was very standout.

Pros.

Pine

Pugh

Taylor-Johnson

The battle scenes

Cons.

Perhaps just a tad bloated  

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Outcast: Nicolas Cage’s Weirdest Haircut Yet

Outcast

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

So I put this on for two reasons, Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen. Cage is barely in this film after the opening 5 minutes appearing what feels like hours later, but is in fact less, to be present for the final fight- clearly a pay check role for him. Christensen fares better and has some good fight scenes that at least make his character some what memorable.

Liu Yifei is in this film- yes that is the woman with the terrible views on freedom and who stared in the recent Mulan live action film: she is okay but does not really have much to do here. What she and other characters do have to do however is spout weirdly clunky racist lines every now and again. Yes there are comments such as ‘white devils’ and ‘do white people actually bathe I’ve heard they don’t’, to paraphrase, thrown into this film, why? Who does this serve?

The only real pro I can give this film is that it has cool fight scenes, the fights themselves are well choreographed and look suitably impressive, however everything around and in-between them is dull, cliched and vaguely racist.

Overall, Cage and Christensen deserve better.

Pros.

The fight scenes are well done

Cons.

It is racist ‘

It is uninspired

It feels like a straight to DVD film in all the worst ways

The CGI in the first section is particularly terrible

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The Courier: Been Here Before

The Courier

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

I had heard good things about this film, prior to seeing it, and was looking forward to my chance to see it on VOD. However, when it arrived I was left perplexed, whilst it is by no means bad, it is in fact very serviceable for what it is in terms of setting and genre. Yet there is something of a formula to it, it is very predictable and samey and that raises wider questions about historical dramas as a whole- namely is the genre played out?

In historical drama films set during the Cold War the narrative tends to go one of two ways, either the character, with an assumed western perspective as most of these films focus on western characters, defects to the Soviet Union after growing disillusioned with their own government, or the character tries to break into/ commit some sort of mission behind Soviet lines and ends up getting captured- this film is the latter.

I understand that the film was based on real people and events so there is only so much they can do with it, but honestly we have seen this story before and as such know where it is going. Viewing the genre for what it is, I question if this film even needed to be made, yes the actual person this film is based on deserves to have their story told, but on the other hand this film has nothing new to say so what does it contribute to the medium?

Cumberbatch is as strong as ever and manages to anchor the film, quickly becoming the only reason to continue on. Jessie Buckley is strong too, but sadly she is only given a few thin scenes and is mostly wasted.

Overall, nothing you haven’t seen before.

Pros.

Cumberbatch

Buckley

Cons.

Wasting Buckley

The generic nature of the plot

It is ease to lose interest in

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Pride: Fight For The Change You Want To See In The World

Pride

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

This film made me both happy and sad, as paradoxical as that might be. On the one hand it was hopeful to see the miners embrace the LGBTQ+ activists, but on the other, seeing the horrible homophobia made me sad. I left the film feeling conflicted towards humanity.

This film can beautifully play with your emotions, as it did to me, and that is a testament to the writing, but also the real events that inspired the film. The film feels empowering to watch, inspiring you to make a change for the betterment of society.

The acting talent on display here is undeniable, Joe Gilgun, Dominic West, Andrew Scott and an always reliable Paddy Considine all perform well and leave an impression long after the film ends. George McKay is a little less strong and does drag down some of the scenes he is in, but thankfully he is not given much of the heavy lifting to do.

Furthermore, Pride does struggle with pacing and ends up feeling overly long and a little indulgent, by the time we reach the end the film is already starting to outstay its welcome.

A final note before concluding, Faye Marsay is terrific and should be cast in more films- a staggering young talent.

Overall, a good film that suffers with pace.

Pros.

The acting, bare McKay

The message

The empowering tone

Cons.

The Pace

George McKay

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Son Of The South: Anyone Can Be A Hero

Son Of The South is a biographical drama film directed by Barry Alexander Brown. The plot retells the early life of civil rights activists Bob Zellner (here played by Lucas Till), showing his early struggles and triumphs.

There have been many films where Till has been good, but he never stood out enough with a film to deserve awards and to break through into wider Hollywood, this however is that film. Till deserves awards for this one, this is his breakout film or should be at least.

This film was near perfect in every way, there was only one slight issues with it, can you guess what it is? Anyone who has been following my reviews for a while know damn well how I feel about Lucy Hale, (she can’t act and ruins any film that features her prominently, with Fantasy Island being the one film that made me question that statement), and the same could have been true here: thankfully after the first half an hour this film ditches here. Her half an hour performance isn’t good, but that almost goes without saying.

This film is important as it shows that no matter where you come from in life, you can help to better the world. Zellner’s own grandfather was in the Klan and threatened to kill him for helping the civil rights struggle, but despite his family Zellner went on to help change history. We truly can all be heroes.

There were a number of powerful scenes here, including the lynching scene and the riot at the bus station, that hit hard and leave an impact; this was not long ago in our history and have we come all that much further since? Really? So a mixture of despair for the monster that is the human race, but also a hope that the good can beat the bad in our world to a point where words like the Klan and White Supremacy lose their meaning and can be forgotten about permanently.

Overall, I can’t recommend this film enough, please watch it.

Pros

Lucas Till

The powerful message

The emotional impact

It leaves you thinking after watching

Cons.

Lucy Hale

4.5/5

Reviewed by Luke

Seberg: Leading To Tragedy

Seberg is a political thriller film directed by Benedict Andrews. The plot serves to tell the real-life story of Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart), an actor who got a bit too close to black civil rights movements and so became the target of vicious harassment from American law enforcement, which lead to tragedy.

Kristen Stewart is one of those actors who can either be really good or really bad and struggles to find a middle ground, however here she is dazzling. Her portrayal of Seberg is both empowering and heart breaking, Stewart manages to capture her so perfectly that it gives me hope for her upcoming Princess Diana film.

Stewart and Anthony Mackie (who plays Civil Right leader Hakim Jamal), have such amazing chemistry that you can’t look away for a second they are on screen together.

Vince Vaughn is also in this film as sadistic FBI agent Carl Kowalski, and once again he shines in the dramatic role proving her far more than just a funny man; if you are not already aware of the Vince Vaughn renaissance going on, you are now.

The message of this film is poignant and as timely now as it was then.

Overall a tragically beautiful film and one of Stewart’s best.

Pros.

Stewart

Mackie

Vaughn

The message

The heart-breaking ending and its emotional weight

Cons.

None

5/5

Reviewed by Luke  

Judas And The Black Messiah: Power To The People

Judas and the Black Messiah is a historical drama film directed by Shaka King. The plot follows the real life rise and assassination of prominent Black Panther Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), and his betrayal at the hands of FBI informant Bill O’ Neil (Lakeith Stanfield).

I have been looking forward to watching this film for a long time, and it did not disappoint.

I think this is an important film that needs to be seen and understood, moreover it should be a stepping stone to a larger conversation around race and struggle, not just in The States but worldwide. It’s message is furthered by events that have happened in the recent past, showing that police violence and institutional racism is still a festering part of our society that needs to be dealt with.

Both leading men give terrific performances, as I knew they would, however, I think this is Kaluuya’s film; what’s more I think this film should net Kaluuya some Oscar gold. His performance of Hampton is so effective and impactful, it reaches you on a deep emotional level and opens your eyes to the evils of the world, we see through Kaluuya that Hampton truly wanted to better the position of the oppressed in society and wanted to be a force for positive change, and what did he get for that? They shot him while he slept.

Pacing wise this is a model for other films. Usually I knock off points for pacing issues or drag, but I have to say that every second of this film felt needed and important and for that I tip my hat.

Overall, this is not an easy watch it is infuriating and depressing, but at the end of day that’s reflective of life. Moreover, the film highlights the need for further change within our worldwide community and inspires the viewer to go out there and make that happen.

Pros.

It opens your eyes

Kaluuya

Stanfield

The ending

It makes you mad and then channels your energy into a force for good
Cons.

None
5/5

Reviewed by Luke   

The Dig: Get Out The Shovels And Dig Up Your Back-Garden Now!

The Dig is a drama film directed by Simon Stone. The plot serves as a reimagining of the Sutton Hoo dig of 1939 from the point of view of pushed to the side excavator Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes).

I remember the other day seeing a tweet from Netflix (possibly Netflix UK), saying something to the extent of this is one for the tweed lovers, and that is true, but there is also so much more to like about this film besides from its nice country esque wardrobe.

I was surprised to find how much I ended up caring about this dig and those involved in it. Fiennes and particularly Carey Mulligan really manage to develop these characters out into real flesh and blood people who you care about and become emotionally invested in; Lilly James struggles to the same with her character, she is a little out of her depth here.

This film is unrelentingly bleak, you can tell right from the off that it will not end happily, this is real life after all or a ‘true story’ version of it. Yes, the ending is bleak but in a way that serves to strengthen the emotional significants of the film and the discovery itself. The ending serves to enrage you for reasons that will become clear if you watch it.

Overall, I think this is another win for Carey Mulligan, after Promising Young Women see really is one a marvellous streak.

Pros.

The emotional beats

Fiennes

Mulligan

The ending is infuriating but also perfect for the film

Cons.

Lilly James sticks out for all the wrong reasons

4/5

Reviewed by Luke    

The Highwaymen: Old Men Can’t Climb Fences

The Highwaymen is a period crime drama film directed by John Lee Hancock. The plot details the man hunt for the infamous bank robbing duo Bonny and Clyde from the point of view of the two Texas Rangers who were tasked with brining them down.

If you like crime drama films, as I do, then you will find some enjoyment here. The story of the final days of Bonny and Clyde is not one that has been overexposed in films before and there is something to explore there.

However, yes there was a but coming to that praise, these moments only take up maybe 30% of the film. The film seems to think that the narrative as a whole and its take on it, are both far deeper then they actually are. There are many lines peppered in throughout the film that are clearly supposed to make you think ‘hey this is a deep film, with some things to say about the world’, though instead they just come across as obvious and trite.

Moreover, there is no reason this film is on for over 2 hours, it comes across as unnecessarily arduous, with the slow pace only serving to ruin the film in the long run.

Overall, though the acting from Harrelson and Costner is okay and the shootouts are more than just basic set pieces, this film is not an easy watch as the pace and self-importance force you to lose interest quicky.

Pros.

The acting

The ending

Having the set pieces matter in narrative rather than just being things that happen.

Cons.

It is painfully shallow

It is incredibly slow

It is poorly paced, and that is what kills it.

2/5

Reviewed by Luke