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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*NEW* DUNKIRK REVIEW *NEW*

The greatest war film ever made?

Not even close. BUT still a bloody good watch.

Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

Did hype hinder on Nolan’s latest endeavour? Isn’t that always the case, I hear you say? Scandalous!

The opening act had me on tenterhooks. It was tense, exhilarating and Hans Zimmer’s score. That score!

I loved how the lesser known faces took centre stage. Fionn Whitehead was superb as the exhausted Tommy. Desperate to get home. Evading gun fire and fighting for a spot at the port.

The crazy planning behind the withdrawal strategy was shocking. Sending only one ship at a time with a goal of securing a realistic number of men; “We need our army back!”

As much as you understood Commander Bolton’s frustration, Kenneth Branagh literally stood on a pier looking across at the cliffs of Dover. Really? He looked dashing doing it BUT was that it?

It was still daunting watching the troops wait in fear as the German forces knew they had the upper hand. The planes creeping in the clouds. The Jaws of the sky line. Waiting to strike. Picking off their prey.

The dread. Bombs flying, torpedoes slithering across the waves. Mental. I couldn’t imagine what I would do in a situation like that.

Nolan captured the claustrophobia of it all perfectly from the confined Spitfires to the overcrowded boats. Speechless.

I say lesser known, in the context of film, Harry Styles . . . Well, I can’t believe I’m saying this.

He was very good in the role. At first, I thought; “Oh God. Why is he in this? Gratuitous cameo, I see”. BUT the popstar actually had to do some acting. And he didn’t do bad at all.

It was the middle act where I felt my attention wading. The tension left to cook on the back burner. That score, that score!

Whether it was the cinema speaker system, it soon went right through me. Pounding against my head. It was almost comical. Seriously, I couldn’t hear what the characters were saying.

It felt like one of the soldiers was following the gang about with a giant drum! Come on, now. There was only so much the soundtrack could do to make sitting in the sand and staring into space tense and brooding.

Of course, Dunkirk couldn’t completely conform to a mainstream narrative. It wouldn’t be a Nolan movie otherwise.

His renowned fragmented time frame left me a little confused. The penny should have dropped from the beginning. Each sequence titled: “The Mole: One Week, The Air: One Hour and The Sea: One Day”.

In a nutshell, we followed the various troops as they endured a week on the beaches, an hour in the air and a day at sea.

At first, the flicking back and forth was a little disjointed and baffling. Especially when we encountered a shell-shocked Cillian Murphy in one scene, then a cool and composed one in the next frame.

It should have dawned on me when one scene was set in the day and the other in the night. Hoyte Van Hoytema’s cinematography was outstanding.

Apart from that little niggle, the time frame worked well. Especially during the finale as each location came to their thrilling conclusion.

Tom Hardy’s story line was riveting once it going. And wasn’t it nice of Nolan to make him wear yet another mask. Thankfully I could understand him this time.

All the fuel gauge and co-ordinates talk was a little mind numbing for me. BUT once the pilot encountered the enemy, I was transfixed.

Mark Rylance was brilliant in the minute role of Mr Dawson. A civilian who answered the call of duty to help bring our boys home.

The toll of war encapsulated in the traumatized and “appropriately titled” Shivering Solider (Cillian Murphy).

From all the endless praise and hype, I expected something along the lines of Saving Private Ryan (My favourite war film). I know it’s tough to compare war stories and events BUT Dunkirk did stumble with the pacing.

However, the final act was where this movie really won me over and brought it home. Heart breaking and uplifting in the same moment as the defeated soldiers returned home. Fearing they would be spat on and branded cowards for their failure.

The overwhelming support and unity as everyone pitched in was a sight to behold. Something that seems to be missing in these dark times. A polite reminder with Churchill’s iconic speech.

A little over-hyped BUT still one of the better ones.

3.5/5