*NEW* INFERNO REVIEW *NEW*

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If The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons was just the beginning, this latest offering will hopefully be the last.

When Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia, he teams up with Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), and together they must race across Europe against the clock to foil a deadly global plot.

Burn baby burn. Reviewing Inferno. Burn baby burn. Moving on . . .

Funny enough, Inferno was the one book out of the Dan Brown series that I hadn’t read. After watching this, I don’t think I’m going to bother. BUT credit where its due, despite the lengthy running time, it was actually very watchable.

The opening 30 minutes had the mad page turning energy and intrigue of the novels as Langdon battled to fight his short term amnesia. The questions piling up. Those demented visions with feet in the ground and peoples’ heads twisted around. It was like something out of The Exorcist!

Apocalyptic. No, not a glimpse of Trump’s America (That’s as close as you’re going to get with satire with me).

What does Ben Foster have to do to get a good part? The minute role of the maniacal billionaire Betrand Zobrist didn’t do him justice. He delivered a memorable turn but after his stellar performance in Hell or High Water, I expected more. Anyone could have played him.

Zobrist’s theorizing on the overpopulation of the Earth was daunting stuff. Disillusioned and scared of the alarming rates of the ever-growing human race, the pragmatist takes matters into his own hands to find a cure. A plague.

Hanks always delivers and he certainly rocked the best hair do out of the trilogy. I just wish that momentum could have stuck. He does his darndest to make the history guff sound interesting BUT after 15 minutes of Dante the poet; I would have happily bribed this tour guide to shut the front door.

The lovely Felicity Jones (Soon to appear in the heavily anticipated and advertised Star Wars: Rogue One) was very good as Brooks. The doctor caught up in Langdon’s conspiracy. I thought she worked well with Hanks and they made a good little duo.

Salvatore Totino’s cinematography was divine in its own right. Capturing the picturesque Italian backdrops in all their glory. Florence has never looked so breathtaking.

The chase sequences were exhilarating (To begin with). Aided with another riveting Hans ‘Gladiator’ Zimmer score. BUT the sequences soon became repetitive and boring. A bit like the second half of the film, I’m afraid.

The anagram jumbling and endless history facts gave me a bigger headache than Langdon’s gun shot wound.

There was a couple of twists along the way which did surprise me but the path those twists took didn’t quite head in the direction I’d hoped for. If anything it made things even more far fetched. The self-explanatory flashbacks really didn’t help matters!

The drawn out finale put me into a mini coma. It went to ridiculous lengths to bring all these secondary characters to the fold (That weren’t that relevant or interesting) leaving Langdon and Brooks completely lost in the mix!

Sidse Babett Knudsen’s (Westwood) role was completely unnecessary by the closing minutes. Nothing more than a red herring. Irrfan Khan’s (Jurassic World) allusive Harry Sims had potential BUT it honestly felt like his character was in the wrong movie altogether.

Omar Sy (The Intouchables) was terrible. His acting and delivery was laughable. It didn’t help that his character was equally as weak and dull. Ana Ularu’s (Outbound) motorbike copper assassin was dreadfully bland. After I realized that she wasn’t the actress that played Tonks from the Harry Potter movies, she soon bored me.

In terms of ranking the film series, this has to be the weakest entry for me. Angels & Demons being the best. (If you’re wondering about my view on the books – The Da Vinci Code all the way!)

It started so well with a mad cryptic opening and some exhilarating chase sequences across some beautiful shot locations BUT the pace and story line soon dragged, ending with a mere whimper.

It killed the time BUT this might split the fans right down the middle. Shame.

2.5/5

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*NEW* HELL OR HIGH WATER REVIEW *NEW*

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Best film of the year? Hardly BUT this is still one well crafted and brilliantly acted crime thriller. Yee-ha!

A divorced dad (Chris Pine) and his ex-con brother (Ben Foster) resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family’s ranch in West Texas.

A gripping opener certainly set the tone with the amateurish brothers holding two banks in quick succession. The contrast established early on between Pine’s nervous BUT calculated Toby to Foster’s volatile and reckless Tanner.

Pine (Star Trek) was a charismatic presence yet again bringing a subtlety to the troubled thief. BUT it was great to see Ben Foster (Lone Survivor) finally getting a role worthy of his talents. He lapped it up and delivered an engaging performance. You felt your loyalties tested as you loathed him with his bipolar mood swings in one scene and laughed with him in the next.

Suspenseful and intriguing as the crazy duo raced around a barren Texan landscape stealing from the very institution that was trying to steal from them. You could feel for the pair as we got a little hindsight into their fractured relationship.

The pace didn’t mess about for the first half. It jumped from one thing to the next. I was really impressed with Taylor Sheridan’s (Sicario) script. It oozed dark humour with some cracking one liners; “What colour were they? You mean their souls?” He captured a gritty Texan underworld with lively characters. A perfect neo-noir. Hookers sharking around the casino for a quick buck. The townspeople a law onto themselves.

At first glance, I could have argued that anyone could have played Jeff Bridges’ role of Marcus Hamilton. Apart from drawling out racist Native American jibes at his partner (Gil Birmingham – Twilight) and spitting feathers about his impending retirement, I was more intrigued with Hamilton’s interaction with the community.

Draining blood out of a stone as he questioned witnesses; “Yeah, I watched them rob the bank that’s been robbing me for 30 years”. Their unwillingness to help the cops (and banks more importantly) spoke volumes. Especially when the sheriff tries to take back a tip from a waitress (played surprisingly well by Katy Mixon – Mike and Molly) as evidence. A tip that made half her mortgage payment for the month.

Sheridan’s social commentary on the state of rural communities was food for thought; “It’s the 21st century and I’m racing cattle against a field of fire and I wonder why my kids won’t do this?” – a dark glimpse into the future. Ranches and farmers feeling the gloomy uncertainty of what the next generation will bring.

BUT great writing could only really come to life with talented performances, great direction from the Starred Up director David Mackenzie (He’s come a long way from Corbridge) and some picturesque cinematography by Giles Nuttgen. How could he make something so desolate look so stunning? I was even happier when I noticed the original score was penned and performed by Nick Cave.

However, the only problem with these gritty crime thrillers is that there are only ever two outcomes which made certain moments a little predictable and the promising pace did slacken in the middle act.

BUT just when I felt the momentum was dropping; the film swiftly cranked up the heat on this slow burner as a bank run went wrong. Leading to a tense, nail biting and gripping closing act. The adrenaline-fuelled police chase had me on tenterhooks.

Bridges’ character finally came into the fold (unleashing some of that Oscar winning prowess) after countless scenes of him wandering around and playing the waiting game.

The unravelling of the brother’s motives behind the robberies was actually quite clever. I loved how Sheridan encapsulated the hypocrisy of the financial system through the incompetent Loan Officer (Richard Christie). Bureaucracy at its best.

Hell Or High Water was very much in the same vein as No Country for Old Men. Just without all the cryptic metaphors. And the closing minutes. Tense doesn’t even come close. The bubbling tension and still atmosphere, aided by the mere sound of creaking oil pumps between the thieves and their fate, felt like something out of a Western. Perfect.

Film of the year? Too early to tell. BUT certainly worth your attention if you’re in the mood for a well acted gritty crime thriller.

3.5/5

LONE SURVIVOR REVIEW

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Marky Mark bosses it with the Fuzzy Bunch in this mixed bag of a military drama.

Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) and his team set out on a mission to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shah in late June 2005. However, they are soon left to fight for their lives in one of the most valiant efforts of modern warfare.

I was a little hesitant when Peter Berg’s name flashed across the screen. At his best; the highly entertaining TV series Friday Night Lights. At his worst, Battleship. Yikes.

However, the film opened with an intense training montage (featuring real archive footage) of SEALS enduring all sorts of intense situations and physical conditions. My attention instantly grabbed.

We were thrown straight into the mix with a bloodied Wahlberg being operated on. His voiceover throwing us back to the build up before the cursed operation. Unfortunately with such a poor choice in film title, you have a gist of what’s going to happen, it’s just the how.

The pace took a hit as we had 30 minutes of cliched exchanges and muscle bound machismo as the team bonded and “hazed the new guy”. Berg had a great cast at his disposal and the leading SEALS played their parts well. The camp shenanigans should have added extra depth to the characters BUT if anything, it made them quite stocky and one dimensional.

The running contest between Hirsch and Kitsch was corny as hell. We even had a wonderful Powerpoint presentation explaining the . . . plot. It was great to see Eric Bana BUT his passive role was a waste of the actor’s talents.

Once the SEALS reached the checkpoint surrounding the Taliban compound; things finally livened up. The tension mounted as Hirsch’s Dietz struggled to maintain signal as the team got closer to their target.

“That’s not a knife, that’s a f*cking duck!”. Where Berg excelled in suspense and action, he struggled in keeping the tone of the film. The aforementioned line was a perfect example. Berg implored humour in all the wrong places in an attempt to lighten the severity of the situation BUT it just came off hammy. I was laughing for all the wrong reasons.

The accidental ambush by Taliban farmers was nail bitingly tense with the SEALs apprehending them to maintain their cover. Berg tackled the moral and ethical dilemma that soldiers face in such dangerous situations. The brewing argument between Axelson (Ben Foster) and Luttrell spoke volumes as they discussed killing or releasing the civilian farmers.

I was happy to see Foster given a bigger role. I’ve been impressed with his acting since the (incredibly underrated) TV movie, Bang Bang You’re Dead.

The film got better with the action coming thick and fast. The POV sniper shots and slow motion were executed brilliantly. The Taliban, for most of the film, were portrayed as ruthless menaces relentless in their attacks, never giving the SEALS a moment to recover.

However, although exhilarating, it soon dragged on with one sequence, involving the team rolling down a cliff to evade capture, coming off unintentionally comical. I lost count of how many times the SEALS were shot, crushed and battered. And the death toll on the Taliban was bordering Rambo 3 territory. Oh and the roll, my goodness, it was like Homer’s cliff falling scene in The Simpsons. There were actually a few titters in the audience.

Thankfully an unexpected explosive moment brought a passive Wahlberg to the forefront. The first 90 minutes was the story of the unit. The final 30 minutes was Luttrell’s story as he evaded capture and hid with some Afghan farmers who were just as anti-Taliban as the SEALS.

Shah and Tarik, the lead terrorists, were incredibly passive and weak. They really were one dimensional, if not for a discouraging decapitation scene. The real depth was provided by Ali Suliman as Gulab, the sympathetic farmer who did everything to save Marcus at the risk of his and his son’s (Nicholas Patel) lives.

As the film came to its explosive finale, the closing minutes packed a sobering punch with a fitting tribute to the men that lost their lives in that unfortunate operation. Berg highlighted the bureaucracy of the US military and the poor organisation in which the unit were left stranded for so long with poor technical equipment.

Luttrell’s heartfelt gratitude to Gulab really hit home. Unfortunately, Berg had too many faces flying about, that I had to remember who was who, when they showed real footage of the people they had portrayed. It was great to see Marcus and Gulab’s reunion.

All in all, a mixed bag. The tone of the film, like the ambush, was all over the place but what can be commended was what these men went through.

An engaging affair that could have been cut by a good half hour and been better for it. Great acting and good action set pieces save a muddled biopic riddled with unintentional jokes and mixed messages.

3/5