DVD & Digital

DVD review: The Girl on the Train

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  Since Paula Hawkins’ thriller novel The Girl on the Train reached the top of the best-selling list last year, the anticipation surrounding the inevitable cinematic adaptation has been rife. The film version is directed by Tate Taylor, and moves the story from London across the Atlantic to a New York setting. Emily Blunt takes the role of Rachel, the titular ‘girl’ on the train who commutes daily past her former marital home where ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) lives happily with his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their young daughter. Whilst struggling with an alcohol problem, she begins to take an unhealthy interest in Tom and Anna’s idyllic next door neighbours Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans), who appear to have the perfect life from the outside looking in. However, when Megan goes missing, Rachel finds herself embroiled in the investigation.

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DVD & Digital

DVD review: Sicario

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French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve has enjoyed a relatively unblemished track record thus far with critics and cinema-goers alike, his films such as Enemy and Prisoners receiving acclaim for all angles. His latest feature, ‘Sicario’, which is a Latin American term for hitman, explores the crime thriller genre, focussing on drug trafficking and federal corruption. Emily Blunt stars as FBI kidnap-response team leader Kate Macer, a strong-willed and idealistic agent, determined to bring cartel boss Manuel Diaz (Bernardo P. Saracino) to justice. Following a gruesome discovery related to her target, she is approached by shady CIA officer Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) who invites her to join him and his mysterious right-hand-man Alejandro (Benicio del Toro) on a mission aimed at getting to the very heart of Mexico’s criminal underworld. Seizing the opportunity, Macer agrees but soon finds herself compromised, unsure who to trust in an dangerous environment where the lines between right and wrong become increasingly blurred.

Collaborating again with the celebrated cinematographer Roger Deakins, a menacing atmosphere is ever-present in Villeneuve’s visually striking depiction of the comings and goings across the US-Mexico border. We observe the dark, slow-burning narrative unfold through the initially naive perspective of agent Macer, discovering plot points as and when she does, and see her moral compass waiver as her involvement in the assignment deepens. The pulsing score, expertly crafted by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, brings nerve-shredding tension to the excellent black-ops scenes. The suspense building never lets up, hitting hard in a particularly well choreographed sequence shot using first-person techniques through night vision goggles, placing the viewer right in the midst of the threat.

Continuing on from her powerful co-starring roles as no-nonsense female figures in films such as Looper and Edge of Tomorrow, Emily Blunt comes under the leading spotlight in Sicario, showing the same heroine qualities for her portrayal of Kate Macer. Beneath her hard-edged exterior is an endearing vulnerability that gives her character depth and relatability. Her by-the-book principles creates conflict with her peers, making for enjoyable dialogue between her and her ethically-challenged colleagues. She frequently butts heads with Graver, played suitably sleazily by the ever-professional Brolin. A solid supporting cast includes Jon Bernthal and Daniel Kaluuya, their characters used as devices to dissect Macer’s character, showing all aspects of her personality.

A well-placed revenge tangent sees supporting character Alejandro take centre-stage for a brief spell. This helps implement a subplot centred around a crooked policia officer called Silvio (Maximiliano Hernández) with the main plotline, and develops Del Toro’s primarily nuanced turn into an electrifying performance, which culminates in a shocking dinner table showdown as well as a rewarding two-hander finale with the protagonist.

Complex subject matter is delved into intelligently by Denis Villeneuve, and ‘Sicario’ is further evidence of his quality as a filmmaker. With the crime genre as his current forte, he executes with style and substance in equal measures. The comprehensive screenplay is penned by Sons of Anarchy actor-turned writer Taylor Sheridan and Blunt, Brolin and Del Toro impress and excel in the richness of the material. Villeneuve’s direction and Deakins’ skilful cinematography work together to achieve the desired effect, isolating and alienating Macer in hostile territory where heroes are merely lesser villains.

4.5stars

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DVD & Digital

DVD review: Edge of Tomorrow

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  Now that we’re into blockbuster season, the Cruiser is back with another action packed sci-fi adventure. Adapted from Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel All You Need is Kill, Doug Liman directs ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ which is not only big, but clever as well. Tom Cruise stars as military media man, Major William Cage who has rallied troops to battle against an alien invasion that is quickly spreading across Europe. As face of the campaign against a deadly threat to the human race, he is as confident and cocky as ever. However, when he is forced into the front-line, he is less than enthused and relies on the help of super-soldier Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) to save the world, but most importantly to save his own skin.
  What sets the film aside from the run-of-the-mill popcorn is the time-travel elements that see William Cage effectively ‘reset the day’ each time he loses his life in the heat of battle. As a result, it becomes like watching somebody play a video game, desperately trying to reach an unattainable checkpoint…but a lot more fun. It doesn’t explain itself all too well, so there are evident plot-holes, but there is also entertainment, and a surprising amount of humour in watching Tom Cruise die over and over again. The repetitive nature of the story never gets boring and is more long lasting that any of the glossy special effects. I found the action sequences to be rather frenetic and distracting, with spider-like creatures known as mimics whizzing about the screen like moths around a light. The 3D adds very little to the experience, but the characters and their complex companionship hold it together.
  In recent years, I have been known to avoid the work of Tom Cruise, as I feel that with any role he takes on, I struggle to invest in his characters. I can’t take him seriously as the all-conquering hero. But with Edge of Tomorrow, his character is initially far from a hero. He is smug on the outside, cowardly on the inside which is an interesting turn to see Cruise pull off, and he does it very well. He links with Emily Blunt believably, as she plays a strong willed warrior, not dissimilar to her powerhouse part in Looper. They share moments that are genuinely funny as she prepares him for his next attempt at overturning the alien army. Of course, there is a Hollywood romance aspect involved but it is handled well without being overdone.
  Edge of Tomorrow is a smart, inventive summer flick that showcases two stars at the top of their game. With obvious flavours of Groundhog Day, it still manages an aura of originality as the majority of the film is contained within a tight time-frame creatively played through continually, before stretching further a field for an expansive finale. The computer game feel lends an odd sense of ownership over the lead, and though it may be frustrating at times to watch him fail, you urge him to pick himself up and give it another go, improving all the time.
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