The exhibition is open in London until 8th April 2018
Director: John Krasinski Writers: Bryan Woods (screenplay by), Scott Beck (screenplay by) | 3 more credits » Stars: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Noah Jupe, Millicent Simmonds
“If they hear you, they hunt you”; the seemingly simple premise for A Quiet Place manages to bring out a lot of scares and a surprisingly engaging emotional drama to boot to what could have been a B movie horror.
John Krasinski is probably still best known for his role as Jim Halpert in The U.S Office, despite a turn as the TV incarnation of Jack Ryan, but this directorial outing (his second after the 2016 romcom The Hollars) will ensure he will be remembered for much more than the affable romantic lead.
A Quiet Place is set in a near-future where human-kind is being hunted to the point of extinction.
Day 89- The world we enter is near silent as Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Lee (Krasinski) roam a looted pharmacy with their three children, barefoot, trying not to make a sound. We are shown that the eldest, Regan (played by the excellent Millicent Simmonds) is deaf which puts her in immediate additional peril as she is unaware of the sounds around her. Following the most harrowing opening 15 minutes since Up! it is revealed that terrifying monsters lurk all around, their attacks triggered by the slightest sound.
Day 472- We are then plunged into the day to day lives of the family one year on from the fateful trip to the pharmacy as they try to survive in the now silent world. Soon the camera pans down Emily Blunt’s body, revealing she is heavily pregnant. Synapses start firing as the concept of trying to keep a newborn baby quiet registers, not to mention actually being able to give birth silently. The pregnancy does, of course, become a key focus for the plot as we see preparations beginning and inevitably go awry.
A Quiet Place is a neat and perfectly taut 90 minutes long, but it really packs a punch within that time. Despite the lack of verbal dialogue (much of the communication between the family is sign language, subtitled for the audience) Krasinski has elicited some great performances from the cast, particularly the younger cast members. So much is shown in one glance that dialogue becomes superfluous. A particularly touching scene involving real-life couple Krasinski and Blunt with just touches and glances, soundtracked by Neil Young’s Harvest Moon is a masterclass in both acting and directing- show, don’t tell. With a few deft scenes we begin to really become embroiled in the relationships of the family, their fears and hopes painted rather then explained. With this investment in the characters comes an added sense of peril as we become immersed in their world, flinching with every movement and potential sound.
There are of course some familiar horror elements; the cornfield outside the family home is the perfect place for unknown horrors to lurk, the “it’s behind you” jump-scares, the petulant teenager putting themselves in danger. The film is also oddly reminiscent of M. Night Shymalan’s much maligned Signs (a film I really like) both in terms of setting and tone. There is also a feeling of 80’s films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, innocence mixed with dread. Then of course there is a parallels with The Mist and The Girl with all the Gifts with their distinctly non-mainstream endings. While some elements are not wholly original the overall effect is unlike most horror films you will have seen before, as it manages to be smart, emotionally nuanced and terrifying.
The ‘show, don’t tell’ approach does become a little over the top at the film’s conclusion as the audience is practically spoon fed one character’s thought processes and there is an over-reliance on newspaper headlines, but this is a dumbing-down blip in what is otherwise a clever horror film.
A Quiet Place will see you tip-toeing out of the cinema, hoping those monsters don’t come to get you.
8 out of 10
Director: Edgar Wright Writer: Edgar Wright Stars: Ansel Elgort, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm
*I thought of this pun during the film, then was disappointed to discover Edgar Wright had already used it for an event he curated at the BFI. GREAT MINDS is what I say. It’s not stealing. Really.
Synopsis: “A talented, young getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) relies on the beat of his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. But after being coerced into working for a crime boss (Kevin Spacey), he must face the music when a doomed heist threatens his life, love and freedom.”
Sometimes you go into a cinema showing with your expectations so high you inwardly know you’re sabotaging what you’re about to watch. I LOVE Edgar Wright. Everything he has done to date has been funny, clever, witty and all with an unmistakably Edgar Wright feel. You can spot his hyper-pop, music-loving, rapid-fire style a mile off, and that’s not an easy feat. He’s also read my blog, so that clearly means he’s a man of taste.
Here comes the but… I found myself mildly disappointed in Baby Driver. The reviews from friends who’d seen previews were glowing. In a they’d-bought-the-soundtrack-and-were-champing-at-the-bit-to-see-it-a-second-time kind of glowing. In a summer that has so far has given us stinkers like Pirates 5 (I can’t even be bothered to check if that’s the correct number, that’s how much I care about the Pirates of the Caribbean films). Transformers: The Last Knight and The Mummy reboot, it seemed no Rotten Tomatoes score would edge over 30%. Baby Driver appeared like ray of light beaming down on the cinematic universe sewage. An original film with a great soundtrack, great cast and director with a lot to prove.
The opening 20 minutes are stunning. From the tinnitus that accompanies the studio logo and first few frames, to the carefully choreographed ballet of the opening heist, to Baby grabbing a coffee and singing along while the lyrics play out in graffiti and signs on the street behind him, this is an all-time great start to a film. Every step, every shot, every extra conveys something. It’s clever, it’s cool and it filled me with joy. I was fully prepared for Baby Driver to instantly go into my top ten films of all time. However it just didn’t quite keep up that glorious early pace.
We start the film firmly in Baby’s world, witnessing events from his point of view, from the glorious heist set to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s ‘Bellbottoms’ (if you don’t own it already you should check out Orange) to the charming scene with his foster father Joseph demanding his peanut butter be spread right to the edges.
By the time Baby has witnessed the first on-screen death (there have been so many previous heists the assumption is this isn’t the first one there has been) the pace starts to slow. We start seeing how the world sees Baby and the initial joy starts to fade. No longer do we have Baby singing and dancing, instead we’re given his passive facade behind shades, looking increasingly moody and uncomfortable with the situation he has become trapped in, leading to a dramatic and tense conclusion.
The music and the visuals are so much fun, and the film really could have been dubbed ‘Car Car Land’ (see above for credit to Edgar Wright) for it’s marriage of car chases and classic musical elements, but it was the narrative which let it down a little for me.
The romance between Baby and Debora (Lily James) is a wonderful hybrid of John Hughes and Quentin Tarantino. Baby’s relationship with Joseph (CJ Jones) is sweet and touching. There is something about his interactions with the criminal gang of Doc (Kevin Spacey on fine Spacey-esque form) which just didn’t quite ring true.
The female characters were also somewhat underwritten. Debora is very charming, but she very much falls into the good old manic pixie dream girl trope, and Darling (Eliza Gonzalez) could be summed up as ‘hot drug-addict, lapdancer and wife’. Some of the decisions the characters make also seem to be somewhat pulled out of a hat. But then I guess heist films aren’t subtle, so maybe I am asking too much for the characters to be given nuance or subtlety when so much of the film is so very loud, and extended backstories would undoubtedly have slowed the pace.
Of special note is the fact that Jon Hamm somehow remains attractive in the role of Buddy, Darling’s husband, despite the dodgy haircut and neck tattoos. He also seems to be having the time of his life playing the role, which makes it a joy to watch.
Baby Driver is a fun, fast-paced, popcorn flick that shows Edgar Wright is a director at the height of his game (and clearly has a kick-ass music collection), the narrative just tends to rely a little too heavily on familiar tropes when it could have been as original and exiting as the audio and visuals.
8 out of 10
Synopsis: “The story of a young Englishman, Philip (Claflin) who plots revenge against his mysterious, beautiful cousin, Rachel (Weisz), believing that she murdered his guardian. But his feelings become complicated as he finds himself falling under the beguiling spell of her charms.”
The director of Notting Hill brings us this fresh take on Daphne Du Maurier’s dark thriller My Cousin Rachel. The book had previously been brought to life in 1952, just a year after the publication of the source novel, in a lavish affair starring Richard Burton and Olivia De Havilland which, while not quite reaching the heights of fame of other Du Maurier adaptations Rebecca and Don’t Look Now, was considered a cinematic success and was nominated for 4 academy awards. To attempt another adaptation could be seen as a bold move, but Michell and team do bring a breath of fresh air to the story.
The story itself is not so much of a whodunnit, but rather a ‘did she do it?’ as we take Philip’s perspective in attempting to unravel the true story of his guardian’s death.
During the early scenes of the film we only hear about the mysterious Rachel through letters and gossip, she comes into Philip’s life not with the bang and confrontation he had been expecting, but with an understated entrance that means our first view of her is silhouetted against the moon, her back to a window. Rather than the monster we are led to expect, Rachel is quiet, funny and warm, with the household’s army of dogs following her about loyally from the moment she arrives.
As Philip’s infatuation grows, Rachel remains a mystery. She seems genuine in her affections for her departed husband Ambrose (the ‘great family resemblance’ is achieved by Claflin playing both roles) but why does she keep plying Philip with that odd herbal tea…?
Weisz plays Rachel with great skill, with Michell seeming to lead our expectations one way as a single glance leads us another. Rachel seems decidedly modern and at odds with the stifling societal expectations exhibited by all those around her. Indeed the fact that she is a woman ‘of appetites’ is whispered knowingly by several of the supporting cast. However Weisz ensures Rachel flits between being charming and likeable then cold and standoffish, just enough to keep us asking ourselves if she could really be capable of murder.
Claflin plays Philip every inch as the ‘wet-nosed- puppy’ Rachel describes him, which does become grating at times. Seeing the world through Philip’s eyes is a somewhat disarming and claustrophobic experience, with the view sometimes becoming as blank and shallow as he seems.
Philip’s lack of experience with women is referenced several times, and indeed the view of Rachel we are given is one buried beneath his own misunderstanding and confusion, alongside a burning attraction and fascination. The whole film could be seen as a giant metaphor for modern cinema, as we struggle along with an old-fashioned male gaze trying to depict highly complex modern womanhood.
While the longing glances and candlelit encounters increase, the orchestral score swells, keeping true to the genre. Other melodramatic tropes abound, from the waves crashing on the shore to the string of pearls breaking and scattering down the stairs.
The film may seem a little slow for some tastes, but the many threads of the story are drawn together in a deft web for the final act. Audiences have been discussing their view of Rachel for over 50 years, and this won’t change that, but ultimately My Cousin Rachel is a well-made period melodrama with an interesting modern twist.
7 out of 10
Synopsis: “Rural England, 1865. Katherine is stifled by her loveless marriage to a bitter man twice her age, whose family are cold and unforgiving. When she embarks on a passionate affair with a young worker on her husband’s estate, a force is unleashed inside her, so powerful that she will stop at nothing to get what she wants.”
Oldroyd establishes early on that this will not be a run-of-the-mill costume drama, but rather a melodrama that will play with viewer expectations at every turn.
We first see Katherine (Florence Pugh) on her wedding day; a simple shot of her demure face under a veil, turning coquettishly towards the camera. The next scene finds Katherine on her wedding night, her Grinch of a husband barking at her to remove her night-gown only for him to glance at her naked body before he gets into bed and falls asleep.
There is no romance here.
For the first half hour Lady Macbeth feels like a study of boredom, as we are exposed to the same dull, quiet rooms as Katherine, with just a ticking clock marking the passage of time in the cold northern home she now inhabits, virtually alone, as her husband and father-in-law have departed for undisclosed locations. Motes of dust become dazzling points of light, otherwise the screen is still and bereft of interest, bar Florence Pugh’s captivating face.
Katherine’s sole companion in the manor is her lady-in-waiting Anna (Naomi Ackie) who helps her dress, brushes her hair and serves her dinner with increasing levels of aggression, (the reasons for which become abundantly clear).
A turning point in the story of solitude comes when Katherine wanders to the outhouses out of boredom one day to find Anna being held hostage, naked, by some of the workers. She demands she is released and bad-boy groomsman Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis) is introduced to the story.
After a distinctly problematic courtship (Straw Dogs, anyone?) a relationship between the pair unfolds and it becomes apparent that Katherine is not the usual costume-drama heroine. As her behaviour descends into the unpleasant, then the horrific, any audience sympathy for Katherine dissipates and Lady Macbeth begins to feel like an odd combination of Wuthering Heights and 2011 horror film The Woman; an exploration of the natural, primal and animalistic versus the urbane, civilised and constrained.
Katherine’s choices are made out of boredom, as a way of raging against her captivity, and Pugh’s performance is every inch the caged tiger.
There are some bold directorial choices made, with the camera often avoiding some of the more disturbing action, remaining static as if keeping it’s gaze demurely averted.
The soundtrack is as sparse and unnerving as the visuals, with long passages of almost complete silence, often punctuated only by the naturalistic soundtrack of the wind whistling around the house, or the aforementioned clock ticking.
Lady Macbeth is both a bold directorial debut for Oldroyd and also a showcase of the significant talent of Florence Pugh, but the dark tale certainly won’t be for everyone.
7 out of 10
Director: James Mangold Writers: James Mangold (story by), Scott Frank (screenplay) Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen