Cert: TBC Runtime: 95 mins Director: Lynne Ramsay Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alessandro Nivola, Alex Manette, John Doman and Judith Roberts
Lynne Ramsay brings her Cannes fan favourite You Were Never Really Here to LFF. We Need to Talk About Kevin was her last film, and if that is anything to go by we are in for a treat. Joaquin Phoenix knows how to pick a film and this seems like a Joaquin classic choice. It has been dubbed the Taxi Driver of the 21st century, with a tag line like this you have to watch it. What is You Were Never Really Here about then? Joe (Phoenix) is a Gulf War veteran and former FBI agent turned killer-for-hire, specialising in saving victims from child sex rings and living at home with his ailing mother. When Nina, a US Senator’s daughter is kidnapped, he is contracted to dispense with the perpetrators and save the girl (Ekaterina Samsonov). Having located Nina in a seedy New York brothel, Joe’s escape plan suddenly derails, unleashing a maelstrom of violence that ultimately takes him deeper into the hallucinatory darkness and closer to the truth.
Lynne Ramsay take a bow, You Were Never Really Here is a tour de force at LFF this year. I’ve had to watch Ramsay’s adrenaline filled masterpiece twice. This was to ensure that I will have my fill until it’s actual release day. From the opening scene we are inside Joe’s mind and body. He has had a harrowing journey in life but he has good intentions for the innocent of the world. What elevates You Were Never Really Here is Jonny Greenwood’s electrifying score. The beat takes you on a pulsating journey through the dark underbelly of this horrible world. Ramsay’s direction and narrative has elevated You Were Never Really here from a simple action/thriller into a dark and thought provoking noir. You won’t see slow motion shots, fast paced gun-slinging or scantly clad ladies. This is a tale of man fighting his own personal demons while saving an innocent child, The CCTV sequence in particular is a sequence I adore. It’s such a simple effective method and Ramsay captures it effortlessly. She has woven the tale to perfection, you have no real moments of obviousness in the narrative. You have to pay attention to the finer details throughout to understand Joe’s past. Simplicity elevates You Were Never Really here into a masterpiece and Lynne Ramsay’s finest work to date.
Joaquin Phoenix gives one of his finest performances since The Master here. His mental and physical preparation can be felt through out. You tend to forget this is Joaquin most of the time, it’s just Joe. There is a Travis Bickle feel to Phoenix but Joe is his own character. The scene in the sauna in particular is nothing but stupendous. His transition is pure cinema and closer view into his mind. Ekatarina Samsonov gives a top performance too. Limited screen time was her only issue, but she truly is Joe’s driving force in this journey. Her awareness of the role is astounding, especially the dinner table scene. You Were Never Really Here is a masterpiece. The depiction of PTSD and trauma is un-paralleled. It’s simple, effective and leaves the audience thinking. It isn’t for the faint at heart, but it will boil your blood and give you heart palpitations.
Cert: 18 Runtime: 117 mins Director: Nicolas Winding Refn Cast: Elle Fanning, Jenna Malone, Bella Heathcote, Abbey Lee, Alessandro Nivola, Christina Hendricks and Keanu Reeves
Beauty isn’t everything. It’s the only thing
Nicolas Winding Refn returned to Cannes this year with his latest picture The Neon Demon. Only God Forgives was a major flop for him there! The Neon Demon was a mix bag but it was more accepted. During a trip to France I was fortunate enough to catch a screening since it’s not out in the UK for a few more weeks. So what is The Neon Demon about? Just after her 16th birthday, naive young Jesse (Elle Fanning) arrives in Los Angeles eager to become a catwalk star. She’s quickly signed up by agency boss Jan (Christina Hendricks), who assures her she’s got what it takes to succeed, and gets a room in a run-down motel run by sleazy Hank (Keanu Reeves). But this innocent teen soon finds herself out of her depth among the dead-eyed beauties in a glossy, competitive, cutthroat world fuelled by envy and desire. Even though this is a town that’s renowned for consuming its young, Jesse could never imagine the grisly fate her jealous rivals are planning.
You will have had a mind trip in the weirdest possible directions and a physical reaction with The Neon Demon. It oozes David Lynch to the fifth element! From the beginning to the very end is all about aesthetic and visual beauty, both explicitly and thematically. The latter part might be the less successful element of the film. You get sunk into a world and no matter how dark and messed up it appears to be, I wanted more of it. The canvas that is drawn from The Neon Demon is pure Winding Refn, with so much blue, red with a hint of neon tint. The dialogue is barely given any importance and serves more as a connective tissue throughout the crazy journey we are taken through.To talk about the visuals in this film proves to be very difficult, both because they are so clearly and complexly assembled and thought out, both for their immense beauty and abstraction, there are a number dolly shots scattered around the film that work magnificently, with superb staging and lighting, they were definitely highlights of this visually stimulating movie. Yet, the images of this film are only one part of the many that combine seamlessly in making a piece of art that overcomes its flaws with the sheer value of the overwhelming sensual and moving feelings you get to live.
The score is spot on with the tone of the film and ranges from unsettling and scary atmospheres to full on techno and it all moulds perfectly. The performances are all particular and special in their own way. Elle Fanning goes to places that are uncomfortable and fascinating to see explored. It’s unbelievable how much she has developed as an actress! She has gone from a teenage sweetheart into a dark human being! Jena Malone stole the show for me! She went up and beyond my expectations. I did enjoy Nivola and Reeves roles too, they did provide a witty aspect to the film.
Thematically the film struggles to emerge, there is not a deep emotional connection established, no particular pay off nor a profound or interesting moral, yet the film clearly isn’t as interested in being a traditional, three act story! The Neon Demon does come with very disturbing scenes. But I have seen much far worse in my movie going time. Welcome back Mr. Winding Refn!
Cert: PG Runtime: 92 mins Director: Joe Johnston Cast: Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Tea Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan and Laura Dern
Great, just great. We’re in the worst place in the world and we’re not even being paid
Since Jurassic World is only a few days away now, I thought I would complete my set. Check out my Jurassic Park and The Lost World reviews. I will admit I will never enjoy Jurassic Park III, it’s a pretty bad film in my opinion. Colin Trevorrow has said that Jurassic Park III has been disregarded from Jurassic World, but it’s still a part of the franchise. After being persuaded by a wealthy businessman to conduct an aerial tour of Isla Sorna, InGen’s second site for a failed Jurassic Park experiment, Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) discovers the true reason for his invitation. A tragic accident maroons the party of seven, and they must attempt to escape with their lives.The original Jurassic Park was a film held together by good pacing, good cinematography, convincing actors, and of course the unfair advantage of being one of the first films to showcase photo realistic CGI effects. Jurassic Park was basically a special effects demonstration, but a well crafted one. With that said, Jurassic Park III has more in common with its predecessor than many would give it credit for. However, JP III lacks the fore mentioned finer points that made the original work. JP III is the Attack of the Clones of it’s respected franchise.
The acting is flat, quite flat. Even Jurassic Park veteran Sam Neil, who gave a solid performance as the charter Alan Grant in the first film, is stiff in his acting this time around. The other issue is the film’s pace. Jurassic Park had suspenseful timing. It would build up tension and then release it at well chosen moments. Jurassic Park III tries to just throw dinosaur themed action at you as fast as it can, without effectively building up the moment. As for the story, well it is actually pretty lame. It is a sad excuse for a sequel plot.The cinematography in Jurassic Park III isn’t poorly done, but it can’t compare to the cleverness of Jurassic Park’s constantly iconic and dramatically chosen points of view. Not all in this movie is bad. The dinosaurs themselves don’t disappoint. If anyone in Jurassic Park III should be nominated for best actor, it should be one of its CGI or animatronic cast members who are actually more convincing than the flesh and blood human cast. There are moments when it is a real challenge to tell apart the late Stan Winston’s practical dinosaurs from Industrail Light and Magic’s CGI ones. It is a pure delight to watch the roaring, hissing, winged, and clawed creatures interact with the scenery, fight, and destroy on the screen. If only they could tear apart the lame story and dull characters in the process.