Civil War

Jessie and Lee take cover behind a car

Civil War. The title and the upfront concept – a modern-day fight to the death between secessionist states and the rest of the USA – is more enticement and attention grabber than political provocation. Look for evidence of red v blue or the culture wars writ large, or the Trump years, and you’ll find them, but you have to look hard and writer director Alex Garland has other rockets to launch here. For all the big budget and hardware, helicopter firestorms and battle scenes, it’s a very small, old-fashioned B movie about a single person’s journey towards salvation, with Kirsten Dunst as the battle-scarred war photographer whose inner dialogue about her approach – get … Read more

The Power of the Dog

Phil on a horse

The Power of the Dog makes it five films in nearly 30 years for Jane Campion, plus a TV series and a handful of shorts. She’s not exactly banging them out. And taken at the level of the individual film you’d never accuse Campion of being in a rush either. It’s Slow Cinema, almost, storytelling done at a languid pace, the power coming from the meditative approach, whether it’s The Piano or In the Cut or Bright Star. Not everyone’s cup of well brewed tea. But here we are, a western, centring on two brothers, Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George (Jesse Plemons) who run a massive ranch in the 1920s. The influence of … Read more

Judas and the Black Messiah

Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton

Part history lesson, part undercover thriller, Judas and the Black Messiah takes it as read that the audience knows the bare-bones facts about the Black Panther movement. And just in case they don’t, there are three powerful performers in key roles to help bounce over the gaps. These are the shapeshifting Daniel Kaluuya as Black Panther “Chairman” Fred Hampton, dead at 21, killed while asleep in nothing less than a state assassination. LaKeith Stanfield as Bill O’Neal, the mole who fed information about the Panthers to the police. And Jesse Plemons as Roy Mitchell, the FBI handler running O’Neal. We meet O’Neal before we meet the Panthers – he’s an audacious car thief … Read more