This is Part 3 of my 2016 Catch Up. For Part 1 (Hell or High Water, Don’t Think Twice & Max Steel) click here. For Part 2 (A Bigger Splash, Deepwater Horizon, The Light Between Oceans & Ben-Hur) click here.
Love & Friendship
Director: Whit Stillman
Stars: Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevigny, Xavier Samuel
Love & Friendship is a quirky, costume-period comedy. Well there’s something you don’t see everyday. The film follows a rather manipulative Kate Beckinsale as she temporarily moves to Churchill and starts trying to control everyone, trying to provide a husband for her daughter and someone for herself as well, of course. What this creates is a pleasantly entertaining comedy.
The film isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, apart from a couple scenes, but it is hard not to enjoy the scheming and magnetic sleaziness of Beckinsale’s performance. She’s surrounded by plenty of characters who are played completely straight like Chloe Sevigny and Morfydd Clark, although Tom Bennett provides us with a hilariously dumb Sir James Martin. It’s not a must watch but if you do watch it, you won’t be too disappointed at all.
The Birth of a Nation
Director: Nate Parker
Stars: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller
I didn’t mention the controversies surrounding Ghostbusters and Manchester By The Sea in their reviews. I won’t mention anything here either.
The Birth of a Nation is a film based off the true events of a slave, Nat Turner (Nate Parker), who led an uprising in the American south, while also taking its name from an important but disgustingly racist film from 1915. The film’s obviously telling an important story that is so very unfortunately a little relevant today and so you hope the film is the next 12 Years A Slave. It’s not. It’s not even close.
The film is hard not to be affected by at least slightly due to the subject material, it would be hard to screw it up that badly, but the film is seriously slow and very poorly made. Before the revolt is started, the film crawls around with the literate Nat Turner being taken in by his owner Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer) and made a preacher but there’s not much character work done. There is a romance building on the side but there’s nothing that powerful there and the film just doesn’t develop much depth at all. To top it all off, the film is ugly. The direction is middling at best, although giving a few scenes that did have actual impact. It’s just not a good film in the end.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Stars: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney
And now we come to this year’s Clint Eastwood directed film, Sully, based on the true story of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks), who managed to execute a water landing on the Hudson River without any casualties. The feat is extraordinary but while he’s seen as a hero by the public, the insurance companies need to have something or someone to blame. Using computer simulations, they believe Sully could have actually turned the plane around and landed it back at the airport while Sully is certain that wasn’t possible. The film shows the legal push against Sully and how it even started to create doubt in the Captain’s own mind.
The film switches back and forth between the post-crash drama and the actual event while also providing the psychological angle with Sully’s PTSD-based nightmares. The film’s been criticised for the choppy editing and it’s definitely a structural choice that is noticeable and awkward. It is, however, quite necessary. This is a real life miracle that deserves the widespread coverage a film would give it but even at one hour and 36 minutes, this film is really struggling to find the material to fill it. There’s really not much to the story, even with the behind the scenes legal drama and so the film has to take on an unusual structure to keep things interesting. While it isn’t executed brilliantly, it does end up making a compelling enough film with Tom Hanks at his most cuddly, making it very hard not to engage with.
Also impressive is Aaron Eckhart, playing Sully’s co-pilot Jeff Skiles and sporting an even bigger ‘tache than Hanks. The dynamic between him and Hanks feels genuine and really works for the film, while Laura Linney’s role as Sully’s wife is literally only in the film via phone calls Sully makes. There wasn’t much else they could do with her character but it just feels a little odd in a film. That’s this film’s largest hurdle. It’s a story that might sound ripe for Hollywood but in actual fact, it isn’t. It’s definitely a good film and I’d recommend it as it does feature good performances and a very well done crash sequence but don’t expect a year best film. I did chuckle at nightmare Katie Couric though.