Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon Bonaparte

Ridley Scott does not meet his Waterloo in Napoleon, his headline-hopping spectacular about the man who conquered a huge chunk of Europe under the guise of a liberator. But nor is he covered in glory. This strange film has neither blockbuster smarts, nor arthouse depth, and is little use as a historical resource. If you don’t know Napoleon’s story already, you’ll struggle to keep up with what’s going on. In what are almost a series of sketchlike snapshots, it follows Napoleon Bonaparte the outsider upstart Corsican as the tactically brilliant army officer is swiftly promoted through the ranks. Napoleon saves the French Revolution from itself then mounts a coup d’état. He crowns himself … Read more

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

Hayley Atwell and Tom Cruise

Two hours 43 minutes of pure entertainment is what Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One delivers. The only real question it’s raised by the end of its breathless 200-odd minutes is how is Part Two going to top it? There’s even a plot, the usual one of something that needs tracking down, Ethan Hunt and his team working in the shadowy “disavowed” realm, good bad guys ostensibly from their own side and bad bad guys keen to get their hands on the thing, which this time around is a key that will disarm a rogue AI superbrain with plans for world domination. Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt. Now looking decidedly middle aged … Read more

Italian Studies

Vanessa Kirby as Alina

The (mis)adventures of a writer who suddenly loses her memory in New York City, Italian Studies boldly tries something original with the old “movie amnesiac” formula and swerves the usual mechanics: loss and recovery. Instead, writer/director Adam Leon sets out to explore what it actually feels like to suddenly have no idea of who or what you are. Vanessa Kirby plays the amnesiac author in search of character, a Brit in New York who wanders into a hardware store to buy something, having first tied her dog up outside. Nothing obvious happens while she’s in there, but on leaving, this pretty blonde walks away from the store, leaving the dog behind. She has … Read more

The World to Come

Abigail and Tallie get close

Mona Fastvold’s second film, The World to Come, continues her tick-tocking exploration of timebomb relationships, much as did her first one, 2014’s The Sleepwalker. And like The Sleepwalker, this also toys with the viewer, delaying the explosive payoff until its moment has started to recede over the hill. Has Fastvold been watching Hungarian master miserablist Béla Tarr, I wondered. If so, it might explain the disengaged atmosphere. An early shot, of frontier couple Abigail (Katherine Waterston) and Dyer (Casey Affleck) sitting down to eat a solitary boiled potato, was reminiscent of a scene in Tarr’s final film, 2011’s The Turin Horse, a drama so bleak that it dares you not to titter. Also … Read more