Sunday 21 January 2018

Movie reviews: Run All Night, Suite Francaise, X+Y


Under the microscope this week is Liam Neeson's latest, Kristin Scott Thomas in a wartime drama and an unconventional coming-of-age drama


Action/Thriller/Romance, starring Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman, Ed Harris, Vincent D’Onofrio, Boyd Holbrook. Directed by  Jaume Collet-Serra. Cert 15a

The sins of two fathers are visited upon their sons in Jaume Collet-Serra’s sleek action thriller set on the rain-lashed streets of New York.

The Spanish director, who helmed Unknown and Non-Stop, reunites with Liam Neeson for this propulsive genre piece, casting the hulking actor as a booze-sodden hit man, who will stop at nothing to protect his loved ones.

Handily, the role is an amalgamation of Neeson’s last two films – A Walk Among The Tombstones and Taken 3 – so he barely breaks a sweat as an emotionally scarred anti-hero, who punctuates bruising fisticuffs with pithy mantras: “I wanted a better life for you than the one I chose for myself.”

Brad Ingelsby’s script lays on the Catholic guilt with a trowel, making clear that for every crime – and there are plenty in Run All Night – there must be swift, brutal punishment.

“I’ve done terrible things in my life, things for which I can never be forgiven,” confesses hit man Jimmy Conlon (Neeson).

For more than 30 years, Jimmy has outfoxed tenacious Detective John Harding (Vincent D’Onofrio) and slayed targets at the behest of his best friend, mob boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris).

Alcohol is Jimmy’s solace from his manifold transgressions, which have cast him adrift from his son Mike (Joel Kinnaman), who works as a limousine driver and has an expectant wife Gabriela (Genesis Rodriguez) and two daughters.

One fateful night, Mike witnesses Shawn’s reckless son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) killing an Albanian thug.

Danny takes to heart his father’s words – “You’ve made a mess, it’s time someone other than me cleaned it up” – and resolves to silence the only witness.

Inevitably, Jimmy becomes embroiled in this deadly game of cat and mouse and he sides with his flesh and blood.

“I’m the only one that cared about you and that all ended one hour ago,” barks Shawn, unleashing his mob dogs of war including an assassin called Price (Common) to hunt down Jimmy and his boy.

Run All Night opens with one character on the brink of death then rewinds 16 hours, confidently staging testosterone-fuelled set pieces including a high-speed car chase and a daredevil escape from a burning building.

Screenwriter Ingelsby condenses each strained relationship to one or two scenes of succinct dialogue, including a terrific bout of verbal sparring between Neeson and Harris in a restaurant.

Both actors land glancing blows in limited shared screen time.

Swedish actor Kinnaman, last seen encased in Robocop’s metallic armour, sports a convincing New York accent as his character takes parenting lessons in a hail of bullets.

You learn quickly when there’s a gun to your head.

Rating: ***


Suite Francaise

(Drama/Romance/War, starring  Michelle Williams, Kristin Scott Thomas, Matthias Schoenaerts, Sam Riley. Directed Saul Dibb. Cert 15a

Heartbreaking truth is more compelling than fiction in Suite Francaise, Saul Dibb’s faithful adaptation of the novella Dolce by Irene Nemirovsky.

Penned by Nemirovsky, a French Jew, in the early 1940s, Dolce was supposed to be the second instalment of a five-book series documenting life under German occupation and the rise of the                                                   Communist resistance.

Shortly after completing the second tome, the author was arrested by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz, where she died, leaving behind a journal filled with finished work, detailed notes for a third book and provisional titles for the concluding instalments.

More than 50 years later, Nemirovsky’s daughter pored through her mother’s diary and gave her blessing to the publication of books one and two, Tempete En Juin (Storm In June) and Dolce, as a single volume.

Dibb’s picture concludes with moving testimony to the author, providing an emotional kick that is sadly lacking from the rest of his handsomely crafted tale of forbidden love in a time of conflict.

Suite Francaise opens with grainy black and white news footage of the German advance in June 1940 then bleeds into full colour as the narrative moves to the bucolic town of Bussy, east of the capital.

Madame Angellier (Kristin Scott Thomas), whose son has enlisted, ignores the spectre of war to collect rent from cash-strapped tenants, aided by her daughter-in-law Lucile (Michelle Williams).

On the road, they encounter refugees, who have fled Paris in the futile hope of outrunning Hitler’s troops.

Soon after, the Germans arrive and commander Bruno von Falk (Matthias Schoenaerts) is billeted with the Angelliers.

“There was a relief in his presence after months of silence,” poetically remarks Lucile, who shares the handsome officer’s love for music.

While the Viscount (Lambert Wilson) and Viscountess de Montmort (Harriet Walter) curry favour with the occupying force, farmer Benoit Sabarie (Sam Riley) and his wife Madeleine (Ruth Wilson) suffer the presence of billeted German officer Kurt Bonnet (Tom Schilling), who makes clear his libidinous interest in the wife.

Tempers flare at the Sabarie farmhouse while pulses quicken under Madame Angellier’s roof as Lucile and Bruno surrender to desire.

They keep the affair secret from the fearsome Madame – “She could scare away the plague!” quips Bruno – but they cannot keep their illicit liaisons hidden forever.


Suite Francaise is a well-crafted yet emotionally underpowered portrait of a community torn apart by prejudice and suspicion.

Thomas delivers a steely turn as a woman of substance, who refuses to bend to the Germans’ might.

At the beginning of the film, Dibb orchestrates one decent action sequence – German planes dive-bombing French refugees – then settles into a pedestrian pace, echoed in the languid voiceover narration.

Rating ***


X + Y

Drama/Romance, starring  Asa Butterfield, Sally Hawkins. Directed by Morgan Matthews. Cert  12a

Autistic savant teenager Nathan (Asa Butterfield) struggles to connect emotionally with the people around him including his caring and patient mother, Julie (Sally Hawkins).

He cannot process love or affection, and when the real world threatens to gate-crash his confusing existence, Nathan finds comfort in mathematics.

The lad’s unconventional teacher Mr Humphreys (Rafe Spall) recognises Nathan’s gift for numbers and he suggests that the teenager might be good enough to earn a place on a British team who will compete at the forthcoming International Mathematics Olympiad.

The camaraderie of the Olympiad could change Nathan’s life forever, but first he must travel to Taiwan to train.

In this alien environment, he encounters powerful feelings for a Chinese competitor, Zhang Mei (Jo Yang), and must try to compute the illogical joy of first love.

Rating ***

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