WRITERS William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy’s gritty dramatisation of Jon Krakauer’s bestseller Into Thin Air tells the true story of two different expeditions trying to climb the world’s highest mountain in 1996, when freak conditions caused the death of eight mountaineers.
“I am very proud of this film,” director Baltasar Kormakur told us at the screening of his visually impressive film and he’s right to be.
The strong cast, led by Jason Clarke as the leader of one group of climbers, includes Jake Gyllenhaal as a laid-back rival mountaineer, Josh Brolin and Emily Watson.
Sheer spectacle inevitably tends to reduce human performers, none of whom disgrace themselves, to the status of supporting actors to the mountain.
Stunning sequences, shot in vivid 3D by Salvatore Totinoare in the Himalayas and Italian Dolomites, are even more powerfully evocative on the giant Imax screen and brilliantly establish Mount Everest as the real star.
Review by Alan Frank
Tangerines (15) Directed by Zaza Urushadze 4/5
SET in 1992 during the growing conflict between Georgia and Abkhazian separatists, this captivating drama makes a powerful statement about the futility of bloodshed over ethnic division.
It centres on Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak) an Estonian tangerine farmer who has stayed behind in Georgia to harvest his crop, along with his neighbour and friend Margus (Elmo Nuganen).
As the bloody conflict erupts on their doorstep, Ivo reluctantly agrees to treat two wounded soldiers from either side who vow to kill each other once they have recovered.
Under his strict guidance, the pair are forced to confront their racial hatred and the reasons for the conflict. It’s a slow-burning drama from Zaza Urushadze, with a stalwart performance by Ulfsak as Ivo, who shows that kindness and humanity can win out in the end.
But just as it seems a predictable ending is in sight, events takes a surprising turn.
Exquisitely crafted and moving, Tangerines is a great advocate for peace.
Review by Maria Duarte
A Syrian Love Story (12A) Directed by Sean McAllister 5/5
AS WE continue to witness the worst refugee crisis since WWII, this powerful documentary by Sean McAllister puts a human face on the issue as it recounts the personal cost to one Syrian family.
When the British film-maker first met Amer in 2009 in Syria, just before the Arab spring, his wife Raghda was a political prisoner while he was caring for their four sons alone.
Filmed over the following five years, the film tells the poignant story of how they were torn apart by events and the untold pressures which affected their family and marriage.
Once released from jail Raghda and Amer, who met 15 years earlier in prison when she was a Syrian revolutionary and he was a Palestinian freedom fighter, were forced to flee for their lives with their children to Lebanon and then to France, where they were awarded political asylum in 2013.
This is another very candid and intimate portrait of an ordinary family battling to survive against all the odds by McAllister, who’s known for his frank film-making. But witnessing the marriage slowly imploding after overcoming such great hardships, along with the effects they have had on their children, at times feels voyeuristic.
While Amer embraced their new life in France for their children, Raghda could not cope watching events in Syria from afar.
She felt like a traitor and desperately wanted to return to her home and her old life suffering a mental breakdown in the process.
This heart-wrenching film gives an idea of the human cost of seeking asylum in Western Europe. If this family could live safely in Syria, they would.
Review by Maria Duarte
The D Train (15) Directed by Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul 2/5
JACK BLACK’S film career proves his wide range as an actor but, demonstrably, his forte is comedy.
Playing Dan Landsman, he has comic chances and takes them in a disappointing film in which he has a devoted wife, a 14-year-old son battling to bond with him and a good job.
When he sees former school hero Oliver Lawless (James Marsden) in a television commercial he believes, wrongly, that he is a star and sets off to LA to recruit him for his high school class reunion.
Lawless and his acolyte Landsman get high and, jolting the story from thin comedy to dark melodrama, have a one-night stand with dreadful emotional consequences for the latter and his family.
The queasy blend of mostly unfunny dark comedy and grating drama created by co-writers anddirectors Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul leaves Black struggling to create a credible, likeable character and ultimately failing — like the film itself.
Review by Alan Frank
A Walk in the Woods (15) Directed by Ken Kwapis HHHII AFTER Tracks and Wild, welcome to the male version of walking your way through a midlife crisis. Based on Bill Bryson’s best-selling memoir, Robert Redford fills the celebrated travel writer’s boots as he embarks on walking the Appalachian Trail, which stretches more than 2,000 miles from Maine to Georgia in the US. He’s joined by Nick Nolte, who portrays his former old irreverent friend Stephen Katz. All manor of ageist jokes ensue as the septuagenarians launch into their road trip. It’s highly amusing and Nolte and Redford play brilliantly off each other. The problem is that Bryson was 44 when he did the walk so being portrayed by the 79-year-old Redford is a bit of a stretch too far. Enjoyable, though, as long as you can suspend your disbelief. Maria Duarte
A Girl at My Door (18) Directed by July Jung HHHHI CHILD abuse, persecution, alcoholism and bigotry are all explored in this bizarre South Korean drama from first-time director July Jung. It focuses on elite police officer Young-nam (Doona Bae) who due to “misconduct” is transferred to a small seaside village. There she befriends 14-year-old year old Dohee (Sae-ron Kim) whose father and grandmother physically abuse her. When Young-nam agrees to let the youngster stay with her for her protection you start to suspect it isn’t going to end well. Jung delivers an impressive debut feature film, mysterious and surprisingly compelling due mainly to Bae’s hypnotic performance. Bae plays Young-nam as a secretive and introspective character who is battling her own demons quietly and like Dohee, brilliantly portrayed by Sae-ron Kim, is also being persecuted. Although the ending doesn’t quite ring true it is an intriguing ride. Maria Duarte