Reviews

Page 1 of 42  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 »

The Gambler

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

THE GAMBLER (USA/15A/111mins)
Directed by Rupert Wyatt. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Jessica Lange, Brie Larson, John Goodman.
THE PLOT: Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is a literature professor, with a sideline as a high stakes gambler. When his past debts come back to haunt him, it seems that Bennett is digging himself deeper and deeper into the red. With loan sharks out to get him, Bennett has no choice but to play to win.
THE VERDICT: THE GAMBLER, directed by Rupert Wyatt, is a remake of the film of the same name starring James Caan which, in turn is based on the Dostoyevsky novel. Mark Wahlberg steps away from the Wahlberg-ian roles of his past to play a verbose and intelligent literature professor. Wahlberg does well with the rhythms and seeming arrogance of the character, but it is in the softer, more vulnerable scenes that he falters.
Brie Larson plays Amy, a young student who starts off as the love interest in the piece but quickly descends into nothing more than a vehicle for exposition. Jessica Lange brings the frosty as Bennett's wealthy but withholding mother, John Goodman has a great speech about being in the right position to tell people to fuck off, and Michael Kenneth Williams turns up as a loan shark and gangster.
William Monahan's screenplay attempts to show how an intelligent person becomes bored when there is nothing to challenge them, and resorts to high stakes gambling for thrills. The trouble is that Bennett more often comes off as pretentious than an everyman, and makes decisions that the audience does not understand, for the sake of creating tension, and showing just how someone can come from privilege, but still end up self-destructive and despondent. Brie Larson's character is quickly sidelined and, although John Goodman has a terrific monologue or two, all the to-ing and fro-ing between different debtors, and a rather clunky payoff, mean that THE GAMBLER sinks rather quickly.
As director, Rupert Wyatt creates an interesting and engaging first act for the film, but soon loses his way as Bennett becomes embroiled in a murky underworld. Plotlines run across one another without any apparent reason, and motivations for the cast are exceedingly unclear. It is only a matter of time before The Gambler sinks under the weight of its own ambition, and audience sympathy is quickly lost.
In all, THE GAMBLER is a film that tries to be something that it's not. The film lacks the dark dealings of Monahan's THE DEPARTED, the slick touch of Ocean's Eleven, as well as motivation, clarity and audience empathy. Walhberg may be up for trying new challenges, and while he certainly tries here, THE GAMBLER is not the film it is trying to be, nor is it coherent, or remotely entertaining. Instead it is frustrating, muddled and unsatisfying.
RATING: 2/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

A Most Violent Year

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

A MOST VIOLENT YEAR (USA/12A/125mins)
Directed by J.C. Chandor. Starring Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, Albert Brooks, David Oyelowo, Alessandra Nivola, Elyes Gabel, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Peter Gerety, Christopher Abbott.
THE PLOT: 
New York City, 1981, and Abel Morales (Isaac) is signing on the dotted line, buying up the neighbouring property to the oil distribution business he inherited from his wife (Chastain) - and he's got 30 days to close the deal. His business manager (Brooks) reckons it's worth the risk, but just as they exchange congratulations, one of Abel's drivers, Julian (Gabels), is being hijacked out on the freeway - and another of Abel's Standard Oil trucks is being relieved of its $6,000 load. The hijacks have been going on for two years, and police officer Lawrence (Oyelowo) hasn't yet solved the case. Being a little distracted by his building of a case against Standard Oil, with the charges being filed next week. The pressure is on, and Abel begins to slip under, as the hijackings continue, the law closes in, and the suspicion that it's all an inside job begins to grow...
THE VERDICT:
 This is a movie that you know you're going to love right from the opening scenes - the look, the feel, the characters, the set-up. From the get-go, A MOST VIOLENT YEAR plays like a great 1970s American movie. And it pretty much is. Give or take a decade or two. 
Writer/director Chandor (who made his mark with MARGIN CALL) holds the reigns beautifully on a crime drama that would have been so easy to Tarantino the crap out of. The cast helps, of course, Oscar Isaac rarely better, and Chastain once again proving she's the true heir apparent to Streep. The presence of the gravel-throated Albert Brooks instantly reminds you of his recent turn in Drive, and the comparison works well here. Know there's a truckload of Oscar contenders vying for your pocket money right now, but amidst all the worthy posturing, A MOST VIOENT YEAR might just be the most satisfying of the bunch.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Paul Byrne

Ex Machina

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

EX MACHINA (USA | UK/15A/108mins)
Directed by Alex Garland. Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander.
THE PLOT: Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), is a talented programmer who wins a staff lottery to spend a week with their reclusive CEO Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Once there, Caleb is drawn into Nathan's world, and finds himself part of an experiment to prove a new brand of artificial intelligence.
THE VERDICT: It seems like it has been a long time since we have had a film about artificial intelligence, but as much as EX MACHINA presents itself as such, it is also a film about relationships, lies and manipulation.
Domhnall Gleeson continues his run of choosing great roles, with his turn as Caleb. Gleeson has shown, time and again, that he is capable of playing the every man, and does so again here. Gleeson easily makes Caleb the emotional heart of the film, and it is with him that our affection lies. Oscar Isaac treads a thin line between enthusiastic and creepy, incredibly well. Nathan turns from one of the guys, to megalomaniac within the blink of an eye, and it is the fact that Caleb is never sure how Nathan will react, that keeps the tension building in the film. Alicia Vikander rounds out the central trio as Ava, the AI creation that Nathan has built. Vikander keeps Ava curious and polite, but gives her enough emotion, innocence and warmth to keep her interesting. Vikander conveys gentle kindness through her body language and way of moving as Ava, and this grace adds a layer of humanity to the character.
The story, written by Alex Garland, feels familiar in some ways, and is definitely reminiscent of Pedro Almodovar's THE SKIN I LIVE IN. There are times where it seems obvious where the film is going to end up, but through twists and turns along the way, it manages to keep the audience guessing. The notion of a soul is never expressly mentioned, but is obviously at the heart of the debates that Caleb finds himself in both internally, and outwardly.
As director, Alex Garland keeps the tension building nicely throughout the film. Since Gleeson's performance is so strong, we utterly believe what he believes, but Garland also allows Isaac's charm and confidence to put doubt into the film. The cinematography by Rob Hardy is both austere and beautiful, bare and abundant, and serves to underline the unsettling, disconcerting feel of the film.
In all, EX MACHINA is a tense and tightly wound sci-fi film that is as much about human emotion and feeling as it is about artificial intelligence and cruelty. Vikander, Gleeson and Isaac are a strong and mesmerising central trio, although there are times when twists, turns and sabotage are easy to see coming. Still, a strong directorial debut from veteran screenwriter Garland, which cements his place as a director to watch.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Testament of Youth

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

TESTAMENT OF YOUTH (UK/12A/129mins)
Directed by James Kent. Starring Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Sominic West, Emilt Watson, Anna Chancellor, Miranda Richardson.
THE PLOT: 
Based on the WWI memoir of Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth follows Brittain (Alicia Vikander) as she goes from young girl in search of knowledge and a place at Oxford, as she grows and changes as she lives through the war and loses those closest to her.
THE VERDICT: Released just after the centenary of WWI, TESTAMENT OF YOUTH looks at the war through the eyes of a young, educated woman as she tries to come to terms with the effect that death and destruction has on her, and what she can do to support her family, and feel as though she is contributing to the war effort. Alicia Vikander, as Vera Brittain, is the heart and soul of the film. She allows Brittain to change slowly throughout the course of the film, and her performance - with its gleeful highs and devastating lows - feels utterly believable and complex.
Kit Harington plays Roland Leighton, and his performance underlines the effect that the conflict had on the men at the Front. As well as Harington, the cast is filled with recognisable faces, including Dominic West, Emily Watson, Anna Chancellor and Miranda Richardson. Each give strong performances in their roles, no matter how small, and add to the rich and vibrant landscape of the film.
If there were to be a complaint about TESTAMENT OF YOUTH, it would be this; there are times when the film feels a little rudderless. The performances, directed by James Kent, remain strong throughout, but the story often wanders and meanders, since it is trying to tell the story of war from far behind the front lines. Screenwriter Juliette Towhidi seems to have been so intent on keeping the important moments from the memoir in the film, that the film often feels as though it is a collection of beautifully shot and lyrical scenes put together, without much of a story - other than this being true - to hold it together.
TESTAMENT OF YOUTH is a beautifully shot film, anchored by Alicia Vikander's incredibly layered and detailed performance. Part romance, part melodrama, part survival tale, TESTAMENT OF YOUTH is an examination of love and loss, which could have done with a stronger through line in order for it to work to its full potential.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Wild

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

WILD (USA/15A/115mins)
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée. Starring Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Keene McRae.
THE PLOT: Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) sets out to walk the Pacific Crest Trail after the breakup of her marriage. Along the way she realises truths about herself, makes peace with her past and, for the first time, sees a way to move forward in her life.
THE VERDICT: WILD is based on the memoir of Cheryl Strayed a woman who, presumably, was inspired to undertake the trek across America when she felt like her life was out of control. There are similarities between WILD and last year's TRACKS, but huge differences when it comes to the women that undertook the journeys.
Reese Witherspoon is on rare form as Cheryl Strayed. Witherspoon not only makes Strayed a relatable character - she struggles with the task she has undertaken, and the intense solitude and quiet mean that she is suddenly bombarded with parts of her life that she has not yet come to terms with. Witherspoon's performance does not open the audience up to judging the character, instead making sure that we accept Cheryl for the struggle she has gone through and the mission she finds herself on to come out the other side.
The rest of the cast is made up of Laura Dern as Strayed's mother Bobbi, Thomas Sadoski, Keene McRae, Kevin Rankin and Leigh Parker. All do well with their roles, but this is really and truly the Reese Witherspoon show, so the film lives and dies with her.
The screenplay, adapted from Strayed's book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Nick Hornby, allows the audience to go on the journey with Strayed. There are times where the entire thing feels a little convenient - woman sets out on massive hike, has realisations along the way - but this is the tale we are being told. If Strayed had simply walked from one end of the US to the other, without ever really learning or growing, there would not be much of a story to tell. There are also times where it could be said that the film is a little indulgent, but while this may be the case, this never overwhelms the journey with sentimentality. The dialogue feels natural, as do Strayed's realisations about her grief and her feelings toward her mother.
Director Jean-Marc Vallée carefully weaves past and present together, so the audience is allowed to go on the journey with Strayed, and learn more about her without tons of expository dialogue. The flashbacks work well here, and it feels as though we are stepping into Strayed's memory as she works through the problems in her life.
In all, WILD is a powerful, moving and engaging look at one woman trying to come to terms with her life. Reese Witherspoon is at the top of her game as the sweet and honest Cheryl Strayed. Although there are times where it could be said that the film is self-indulgent, it is never sentimental, and feels honest all the way through. Killer soundtrack too.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes 

Whiplash

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

WHIPLASH (USA/15A/107mins)
Directed by Damien Chazelle. Starring Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser, Austin Stowell, Nate Long, Chris Mulkey, Damon Gupton.
THE PLOT: Like all drummers, Andrew (Teller) is soulful, sexy and sensitive, and he's keen to show off his jazz drumming skills at New York's Shaffer Conservatory. Mainly to impress the school's notoriously brutal band conductor Terence Fletcher (Simmons), who leads an elite band in a training programme where only the very, very good, and the very, very strong-willed, survive. Invited to attend the band's morning practice, Andrew initially takes the role of substitute drummer, turning the pages for the band's regular drummer. In front of a teacher who believes in lots and lots of pain for little or no gain, all it takes is one slipped beat for Andrew to be given the chance to undermine his better. When that chance comes, Andrew impresses enough to become drummer no.1 at an out-of-town concert, but an accident along the way results in a late, bloodied and quickly fired star pupil. Having sacrificed everything for the band - including a budding romance with cinema attendant Nicole (Benoist), when Andrew is given a shot at revenge, he takes it...
THE VERDICT: Fittingly marching to its own particularly beat, Whiplash is wonderfully perverse in its portrayal of the madness that comes with too much rhythm method. It's BLACK SWAN for drummers, Buddy Rich's FIGHT CLUB, BLOOD ON THE STICKS, or THE KARATE KID if Miyagi was sadistic & overbearing. And it's wonderful. Despite all those crappy but genius puns.
Developed by young American filmmaker Damien Chazelle from his eponymous 2013 finance-courting, Sundance-winning short (which also starred Simmons but not Teller), WHIPLASH is far more ERASERHEAD than FOOTLOOSE when it comes to getting lost in music. The pretty-much-always-wonderful Simmons (who picked up a Golden Globe for this last Sunday) has rarely been better, or better cast, as the perfectionist-verging-on-nazi band leader who believes a compliment should come right before a crushing putdown, whilst relative newcomer Miles Teller brings the perfect balance of vulnerability and seething anger to the role of the more-than-willing pupil.
The dark, brooding, bonkers horse of the awards season, WHIPLASH dares to be difficult, and defiantly, devilishly, deliriously dogged. Enjoy! 
RATING: 5/5
Review by Paul Byrne

Into the Woods

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

INTO THE WOODS (USA/PG/125mins)
Directed by Rob Marshall. Starring Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine, James Corden, Meryl Streep, Joohnny Depp.
THE PLOT: 
Rob Marshall's musical ties together famous fairytales into one story; the story of a childless Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) who must gather together magical items so a witch (Meryl Streep) can reverse a curse put on their family tree.
THE VERDICT: INTO THE WOODS is based on a Stephen Sondheim musical of the same name, which uses characters from Cinderella, Jack & the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel to tell a single story of characters who are drawn to magical and mysterious woods on at the same time.
The cast is made up of Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, Chris Pine, Christine Baranski, newcomer Lilla Crawford and Daniel Huttlestone, who was most recently seen on screen in LES MISERABLES. The good news is that the entire cast can sing, and do so well. The chemistry between Blunt and Corden is a joy to behold, Johnny Depp obviously relishes his small but memorable role and Anna Kendrick brings the sweet and innocent as Cinderella. Chris Pine is surprisingly funny and over the top as Cinderella's Prince and Meryl Streep moves away from the matriarchal roles she has done of late, and is on fantastic, mysterious form as the witch.
The story, as mentioned, ties together several fairy tales in which the woods are a common theme. The tie that binds is the Baker and his wife's search for magical items - each from a different fairy tale - and it is a clever way to bring the stories together. The trouble arises after 90 minutes when, although it seems that all is wrapped up, the cast are dragged into the woods once more, and the whole thing begins again. It is obvious this film is an attempt to stay true to the darkness of many original fairy tales, but there are times when all the death and destruction feel out of place with the rest of the film, and characters disappear far too quickly.
As director, Rob Marshall has already proven that he can direct musicals for the screen - successfully in the case of Chicago, and less so in the case of Nine - and it is clear he understands how to make a musical work on screen, and carefully weaves the ensemble together. There are times when the film expects a certain amount of knowledge, since it is a combination of fairy tales, but this means that some of the stories are a little unsatisfying, and others unnecessarily drawn out. Marshall has teased wonderful performances from his cast, which are just the right amount of heightened, but the pacing distracts from the lovely cinematography and the strong cast performances.
In all, INTO THE WOODS could well have been a better movie with better pacing and a clearer focus. As it stands, it is a decent adaptation of a lesser known musical, which looks good and sounds good. Streep, Corden, Blunt and Kendrick shine in this quirky little tale and although the film does not always work, it's a joy to see some familiar faces try something different.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Brogen Hayes 

National Gallery

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

NATIONAL GALLERY (France/USA/UK/Club/181mins)
Directed by Frederick Wiseman.
THE PLOT:
 Allowing the art - and, more significantly, those whose job it is to put the art up on the walls of the 181-year-old London art gallery - to speak for itself, National Gallery works best when going deep down into the basement, where great works are restored to their former glories, revealing not only much of the original beauty but also the techniques involved in the original painting. Other stretches fail to charm quite so much, as we go through admin meetings about the forthcoming seasons, with impeccably-mannered roundtable debates about what people want versus what people need (one woman, in particular, may even still be talking on this subject, given her relentlessly monotonous delivery). Joining the occasional tour guide, as they wax lyrical about an individual painting, offers up a few sparks too... 
THE VERDICT:
 Veteran documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman (who justed 85 on Jan 1st) takes another walk on the mild side after the recent At Berkeley, with yet another slow, ambling and very, very long fly-on-the-wall look at another renowned institutions. Wiseman likes to let his subjects do all the talking, leaving the audience to bring their own perceptions to the everyday, often seemingly throwaway moments. It makes for a brazenly slow burn, and one that demands patience and concentration on the part of the viewer. For those who need their kicks a little more immediate, National Gallery will be very much akin to watching paint dry. It's an old master though, so, you know, make the effort.
RATING: 3/5 
Review by Paul Byrne 

Taken 3

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

TAKEN 3 (France/12A/109mins)
Directed by Olivier Megaton. Starring Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Maggie Grace, Dougray Scott, Famke Janssen, Jonny Weston, Jon Gries.
THE PLOT: Opening with a little quality family time for the extraordinary, decent CIA operative Bryan Mills (Neeson), as he surprises his secretly pregnant twentysomething daughter Kim (Grace) with an early, unwanted birthday present (a dirty big stuffed panda, just to prove that he's a big softy) and his superhot ex-wife Lenore (Janssen), reveals that her marriage to Stuart (franchise newcomer Scott) is in trouble - mainly because, it seems, she's got the superhots for our boy. When Lenore turns up dead in Bryan's apartment though, he immediately turns fugitive, determined to find out who really killed her before cuddlesome detective Franck Dotzler (Whitaker) finally manages to catch up with his newfound idol... 
THE VERDICT: After the box-office failure of last year's A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES, and the general groan that has greeted this latest Luc Besson-created franchise outing, it would appear that Liam Neeson's Rainier Wolfcastle days might be coming to an end. There's only so many roaring rampages of revenge an actor can go on before they become Chuck Norris. Or, if audiences really turn against you, Steven Seagal. 
Co-written once again by Besson, the former arthouse favourite's latest shiny B-movie offering is full of daytime soap plotting, car commercial photography, and OTT action sequences. For quite some time now, the man who brought us THE BIG BLUE and LA FEMME NIKITA seems to work by the old Chandler idiom of when in doubt, have a speeding car walk into the room. Which can all be happily forgivable if the guilty pleasures come hard and fast, and funny, but TAKEN 3 never goes beyond the call of duty. That you're presented early on with a murder and a sweaty-palmed stepfather leaves little to the sleuthing challenge. 
Neeson should go back to acting before it slips beyond his reach. 
RATING: 2/5
Review by Paul Byrne 

Foxcatcher

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

FOXCATCHER (USA/15A/134mins)
Directed by Bennett Miller. Starring Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave.
THE PLOT
: Olympic wrestling gold medallist Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is surprised with an offer from a wealthy heir John E. DuPont (Steve Carell) to support and train him for the 1987 World Championships and the 1988 Olympic Games. Schultz leaves his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) and his family behind, as he moves across the country to be part of Team Foxcatcher. It is not long, however, before this new upswing in his lifestyle begins to affect Schultz's sport.
THE VERDICT: 
There has been a lot of talk about FOXCATCHER since it screened at the Cannes Film Festival last year, not least because of Steve Carell's prosthetic nose. Channing Tatum takes everything down a notch for his performance as Mark Schultz; there is very little bravado here, just a quiet man who is confident in his abilities. That said, Tatum also manages to make Schultz's bratty, petty and jealous nature shine through in a way that still makes him relatable, but more human than he could have been. Steve Carell works through the extensive prosthetics to give one of the finest performances of his career. Carell's posture, gait and speaking rhythms have all but disappeared in his transformation into John E. DuPont, and he makes the character feel like an idle heir simply playing with ‘toys' until his interest runs out.
Mark Ruffalo has a talent for playing the everyman - part of the reason his performance as Bruce Banner is so strong - and the same goes here. Like Carell, Ruffalo changes his posture, gait and mannerisms to accurately portray an Olympic wrestler, and he is the emotional heart, and voice of reason of the film. Vanessa Redgrave turns up in a handful of scenes as DuPont's mother, but her presence dominates every scene she is in.
The story is based on the real life history of Team Foxcatcher and the Schultz brothers' experiences at Foxcatcher farm. The film was delayed for over a year to allow it to be completed, and it seems that these issues could well have arisen from E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman's screenplay which actually does rather little to give us an insight into the characters, although the actors performances go some way to filling in the blanks. There is a lot to be told about John E. DuPont, but precious little of the man's erratic behaviour makes its way into the film. Everything is toned down to such an extent that he feels like a petulant child throwing his toys away for displeasing him, rather than a man with a deep-seated mental illness, an illness that would end in tragedy.
Director Bennett Miller has created wonderful performances in the lead cast, many of whom have not attempted a film of this emotional depth and scope, perhaps ever. Miller carefully weaves the personalities at the centre of the film together, and allows the little information given to be released slowly. It is credit to his acting team that they make this drip feed of story, emotional change and relationships shifting work to the benefit of the film.
In all, FOXCATCHER is a film that lives and dies with the performances from the central trio. Ruffalo, Carell and Tatum are at the top of their game here, and are an absolute joy to watch, but they are let down by a script that omits too much of actual events from the film, leaving some aspects of the story feeling undertold and underexamined.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes 

The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

WOMAN IN BLACK: ANGEL OF DEATH (UK/Canada/15A/98mins)
Directed by Tom Harper. Starring Heln McCrory, Jeremy Irvine, Phoebe Fox, Adrian Rawlins, Leanne Best, Ned Dennehy, Oaklee Pendergast, Jude Wright, Eve Pearce.
THE PLOT: London, 1941, and the Blitz sees schoolteacher Eve Parkins (Fox) taking a group of schoolchildren out of bombs' way by ferrying them away to the derelict and isolated Eel Marsh House, deep in the English countryside. Where, almost immediately, things start going bump in the night. Luckily, Eve had befriend local RAF pilot Harry (Irvine) on her journey to Eel Marsh, but the budding young lovers are no match for the spooky spectre causing havoc, horror and hairy, scary hide-and-seek games. Particularly troubled is little Edward (Pendergast), a young boy who has remained mute since witnessing his mother's death in a bomb raid. The biggest frights, of course, come from within, as dark secrets begin to surface, and suffocate...
THE VERDICT: It'll be interesting to see if the brand can beat the lack of star power here, WOMAN IN BLACK returning without the Potter boy, or, indeed, any bona fide star to replace young Radcliffe. Chances are, given that people are just happy to get as far away from Christmas, relatives and frozen turkey sandwiches at this time of year, a franchise horror film should pick up a healthy audience. Initially. Once people see WOMAN IN BLACK: ANGEL OF DEATH, they're unlikely to recommend this FRANKENSTEIN-esque slice of schlock horror. Having started out as a mediocre screenplay that spawned a badly-received novelisation in 2013. From such stunted acorns a mutant, muted tree is born, ANEGL OF DEATH having little or no redeeming features. The acting is mediocre, the plotting painfully predictable, and the camerawork only occasionally giving rise to an actual fright. Avoid. 
RATING: 2/5
Review by Paul Byrne 

The Theory of Everything

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (UK/12A/123mins)
Directed by James Marsh. Starring Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Tom Prior, Harry Lloyd.
THE PLOT: Stephen Hawking has changed the way we look at the night sky, and this week Eddie Redmayne takes on the role of the famous theoretical physicist and cosmologist in a film that takes a look at the man behind the theories.
THE VERDICT: Motor Neurone Disease was thrust into public awareness earlier this year, with the Ice Bucket Challenge craze sweeping the globe, and Stephen Hawking is perhaps one of the most famous living people with the disease. Eddie Redmayne's performance as Hawking, both before and after the disease left him confined to a wheelchair, is simply extraordinary. It seems as though Redmayne, in order to play Hawking, embraced the challenge and plays the role as a brilliant man who is determined to find something new and wonderful in the world, and does not allow his diagnosis to deter him. Redmayne never allows his performance to feel like mimicry, instead this feels like an organic performance; one that is hugely touching and engaging.
The rest of the actors in THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING are cast in Redmayne's shadow, but equally give strong performances; Felicity Jones is strong and warm as Jane Hawking, Harry Lloyd is at once carefree and caring as Brian, and Christian McKay and David Thewlis shine as Hawking's mentors.
Anthony McCarten's screenplay is based on Jane Hawking's book Traveling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen, and it focuses on the personal life of the man whose theories are groundbreaking. In this way, the huge personal struggles that Hawking has faced become the truly groundbreaking aspect of the film, and the public persona of Hawking; one we are familiar with, is allowed to fade into the background. The screenplay allows the audience to see a different, funny and self-deprecating side of Hawking, but if there were to be a problem with THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, it would be the fact that somehow, the story feels a little unsatisfactory at times. Perhaps it is the dream sequence toward the end, which is certainly not needed, or the fact that a true balance between work and life is never struck, but for a film with such an inspirational character and such an incredible performance from a leading man, there are times when the whole affair falls a little flat.
Director James Marsh, whose previous films include SHADOW DANCER, MAN ON WIRE and the wonderful PROJECT NIM has created a world where the audience feels at home, and Stephen Hawking shines. The cast do a great job and, although the film meanders at times, it is, on the whole, engaging and emotionally wrought.
In all, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING is a touching and engaging story that is anchored by an extraordinary performance from Eddie Redmayne. There are times when proceedings fall a little flat, but this is a story about overcoming the things that life throws at us in order to be great, and to be happy, which is just about the most human story of them all.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Page 1 of 42  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 »