The DCH Blog
The Revenant - Weds 29 June - a pre-screening review - Wednesday 15th June 2016
When Leonardo DiCaprio won this year’s best actor Oscar there were disingenuous mumblings that this was largely due to it being his turn. On the contrary, DiCaprio gives a masterfully mature performance as Hugh Glass, a man left for dead in the wilderness, who then crawls half way across America in pursuance of those who wronged him.
Finally casting off the pretty boy good looks that have so frequently masked what a fine actor he is, DiCaprio relies more upon physicality than the spoken word, to mesmerising effect. Tom Hardy, as the psychotic John Fitzgerald, is not so pretty either, offering up a spittle-flecked performance of ferocious intensity, and while Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson are more measured, they are just as good. All of them, however, play second fiddle to the technical brilliance of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. The images of the West he presents are so beautiful that they come close to distracting from the momentum of the narrative, notwithstanding the muscular bravado of Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s direction.
I could have happily lost the spiritual flashbacks, as Glass’s traumatised mind drifts back to his Native American wife, but put them aside and this is a supercharged film that gobbles up its screen time, yet has a depth and grand sweep more usually associated with long form television - a rare example of a film that is both a spectacle and an intelligent commentary on human nature.
By David Vass
The Big Short - a pre-screening - Thursday 9th June 2016
Anyone who was fortunate enough to catch Ramin Bahrani’s excellent 99 Homes, a film that mercilessly exposed the fallout from the collapse of the US mortgage market, is sure to be enthralled by Adam Mckay’s exploration of the flip side of that seismic event. Loosely based on Michael Lewis’s similarly titled work of non-fiction, The Big Short is the story of the men that saw the collapse coming, and bet on it.
Though funny and engaging, it couldn’t be further from the whimsy of Mckay’s Anchorman series, and though packed with stars, this is an ensemble work. While Carell and Gosling are larger than life, Bale and Pitt offer performances that are unusually understated. What all of them do, and brilliantly, is map out with startling clarity the venal criminality of the events that led to a global crisis. It’s a mark of their skills, and the quality of Charles Randolph’s screenplay, that we find ourselves rooting for men staking millions on folk losing their homes and their jobs and their dignity.
The film fizzes with an energy throughout – imagine the impish charm of Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People suffused with the intelligence of an Aaron Sorkin script and you’re getting somewhere close to a movie that takes banking and makes it interesting, takes a complicated concept and makes it compelling, and leaves its audience both thorough entertained and quietly furious.
By David Vass
Tangerines - Thursday 26th May 2016
Director Zara Urushadze had the misfortune to receive his Oscar nomination for best foreign film in the same year as to Paweł Pawlikowski, and so ultimately lost out to Ida. Consequently, we’ve had to wait until the end of last year for a UK release for Tangerines, an uncompromising anti-war film set in post- Soviet Caucasus at the height of the early nineties conflict.
In the wake of the war between Georgians and Abkhazians whole villages were left deserted as ethic Esthonians fled for their lives, but Urushadze’s film concerns two farmers who stayed put. Played with understated charm by Elmo Nüganen and Lembit Ulfsak, Margus and Ivo exude a quiet, stoic bravery when circumstances lead to them nurse both a Georgian and a Chechen, who do little else but bicker through the conflict with an almost Beckettian absurdity.
This is an angry, indigent film, but not without humour, and its lightness of touch reminds us that these are all fundamentally ordinary men thrown together by circumstance. Each of them grows and changes in a way that is dramatic yet completely believable - the audience finds itself caring deeply about the fate of, not just Ivo and Margus, but also the men that have intruded into their lives - something which makes the exciting, tense conclusion all the harder to bear.
By David Vass