A UNITED KINGDOM REVIEW

A Very Good Film.

Two stellar turns and a surprising true story makes this one to watch.

The story of King Seretse Khama of Botswana (David Oyelowo) and how his loving but controversial marriage to a British white woman, Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), put his kingdom into political and diplomatic turmoil.

Hazaar! Rejoice! A film I actually enjoyed!

The film chugged along at an easy going pace as the couple first met and the inevitable romance ensued. Dancing the night away and playing jazz LPs.

It wasn’t long before Seretse revealed his royal bloodline and put Ruth in an impossible position. I really felt for the pair as they suffered abuse, judgement and ridicule from their friends and family. And that was just from Britain!

Danny from Spooks has come a long way. I’ve always found Oyelowo an underrated actor BUT if he keeps delivering performances like this, it won’t be long before he bags an Oscar.

That speech alone with the kgotla (a public meeting, community council or traditional law court of a Botswana village) was something else. Goosebumps. You really felt for him. A man torn between the love of his life and his duty to his people.

“You belong with the whites and even they don’t want you”.

In all fairness, you felt just as much for Ruth as she faced public scrutiny on both continents. Even the South Africans refused to help her during a particular difficult period of her pregnancy after collapsing in the shanty town.

I couldn’t believe the red tape and hypocrisy of it all as Seretse battled exile and banishment by the British government from his own country.

And who better to play the slimy hypocritical British bureaucrats than Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) and Norrington from Pirates of the Caribbean?! Jack Davenport was particularly brilliant as the delightfully smug diplomat Alistair Canning.

Accusing the pair of sabotaging the plans of the British Government. Plans that involved illegal mineral digging!

There was a decent supporting cast at the helm. I couldn’t believe ol’ Rodders Nicholas Lyndhurst was in this as Ruth’s intolerant father. Laura Carmichael (Little Edith from Downton Abbey) played the shy little sis well.

It helped that Oyelowo and Pike had fantastic chemistry as Seretse and Ruth’s relationship was put to the test. The racial tension could have been cut with a knife. I couldn’t believe how many times Seretse was called back and forth to Britain to stand trail for his exile leaving a heavily pregnant Ruth struggling in Botswana.

I was mortified at how Churchill (Well, his “advisors”) handled Seretse’s situation. Promising to send the troubled king home if the party won the 1951 election; only to banish him from returning home after winning office.

Of course this is a drama and you have to take the facts with a pinch of salt. BUT this story made me want to know more.

I was engrossed and engaged. There was even a little lump in the throat when Seretse missed the birth of his own child and had to talk to his baby over the phone. The tide turning as Seretse’s uncle publicly shared his disapproval of Ruth. Demanding that he abdicate.

Everything riding on one speech. One last chance to prove his dedication to his wife, to his uncle and his people. It was a nice touch in the closing credits when archive footage was shown of the pair.

I can’t believe this nearly slipped my radar. I’m surprised that there wasn’t more of a buzz around this film. Shame.

It wasn’t without its imperfections BUT you can’t fault an endearing and wonderfully acted little drama. Worth your attention.

3.5/5

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*JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT REVIEWED AND REVISITED*

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New recruit. Same problems. Hardly the best Ryan outing but it wasn’t a complete misfire.

Jack Ryan (Chris Pine), as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack.

Jack Ryan has been brought back numerous times and always (shamefully) fails to stick around as a continuing franchise, much like the Alex Cross series. There have been some great installments with Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck taking the helm. Clear and Present Danger being a personal favourite.

Pine (Star Trek) was an engaging and very likeable Ryan. His charisma carried the film when the pace slackened. Something that happened far too often.

We flashed through Ryan’s origins (A nice change) as he became a “shadow recruit”. Working for the CIA on an unofficial capacity (In a nutshell). Harrowing images of 9/11 spurring our protagonist to drop his economics degree and join the Marines.

You could argue that it wasn’t needed as Ryan’s commitment and patriotism were established early on BUT it did present a post 9/11 reboot of the travelled Clancy icon.

All the training montages zipped along nicely and breezed through the usual cliches. BUT that was soon thrown out of the window when Ryan fell for his doctor in training, the beautiful Keira Knightley (who delivered a convincing American accent).

Kevin Costner’s (The Untouchables) mysterious Colonel Harper was heavily underused. Not nearly in it enough. It took a good half hour before the film really picked up as we drudged through economic gobbledygook as Ryan gathered Intel at Wall Street.

I didn’t need a retread of The Big Short. All that complicated jargon to explain that a bunch of Russian terrorists were funding their next attack through their corporations. I had to laugh at the irony when said attack was on the US economy.

Thankfully as soon as Ryan reached Russia, I got a bit more of what I expected. A bizarre hotel ambush fight sequence was a much needed catalyst and my griping soon subsided.

Kenneth Branagh (Valkyrie) was perfect as the maniacal Viktor Cherevin. Tattooed up and looking bad ass. Every time he shared the screen with Pine, there was suspense and tension. The pair worked brilliantly together.

A nail biting sequence in which Ryan infiltrated Cherevin’s office had me on tenterhooks. Tragically, it was bogged down with hammy dialogue and more of Knightley (Pirates of The Caribbean) and Pine’s cheesy romance.

As much as the couple had good chemistry; it was the same old guff. Juggling ‘the girl over the job nonsense’ with Knightley inevitably roped into the chaos.

It was a little disappointing as the plot suggested something darker with sleeper terrorists hiding in the US but that was soon cast aside with a predictable twist and endless punch ups and explosions.

Don’t get me wrong. It was fast and furious with an all out frenzy of a finale. All be it a rushed one BUT Branagh wasn’t even in it. Ryan ended up fighting a generic underling in a rapid city chase. Disappointed, to say the least.

A mixed bag. Watchable if flawed to bits. I mean these actioners are supposed to be good fun but this was adapted from a Tom Clancy novel. Novels that could deliver action as well as engaging suspense-filled political story lines.

This felt like a taster of things to come. It set out some good groundwork BUT why didn’t it hit the ground running? A little more effort, a meatier story line and a super villain that could actually be involved in the finale would certainly make for a decent sequel BUT, as things stand, I don’t think that will be happening any time soon.

Pine was a solid lead BUT the plot, tone and pace made this a missed opportunity to reboot a character that should be on the silver screen. Maybe a TV outing have been better?

Don’t get me wrong, it killed the time and was a fun enough ride. Just not one that you’ll remember long after.

3/5 (just)