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Belfast (2021) Review

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Belfast

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Jude Hill as Buddy
Caitríona Balfe as “Ma”
Jamie Dornan as “Pa”
Judi Dench as “Granny”
Ciarán Hinds as “Pop”
Colin Morgan as Billy Clanton
Director: Kenneth Branagh

A semi-autobiographical film which chronicles the life of a working class family and their young son’s childhood during the tumult of the late 1960s in the Northern Ireland capital.

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I heard of Belfast over the past months, with it being Kenneth Branagh’s latest film and a major Oscar contender. I heard some very positive things about it, but also some backlash with regard to its high awards chances. I put aside the awards attention and watched the movie by its own merits, and I actually quite liked it for what it was.

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The script is pretty straightforward and very rarely surprises, but it is solid nonetheless. The intense political situation of Belfast in the 1960s is present throughout the film, but the movie is not solely about that specific aspect. Essentially it is a coming of age story of the lead child named Buddy, and its very much a story told through the eyes of the child. It is fairly plotless, although an aspect present throughout is the possibility of Buddy’s family leaving Belfast, and we see how that develops over the course of the film. It is a slice of life film about family and childhood, and this approach to the story won’t work for everyone, it worked well enough for me though. With that said, it is one of those movies which feel like snapshots from a period of time rather than actually telling a strong narrative, and as a result the narrative can meander and feel disjointed. Also, while I appreciate the commitment to having most of the film told through the main child’s perspective, it can occasionally work against itself. When the movie focuses on other elements, some situations and scenes can be pretty contrived, such as when Buddy happens to hear very important conversations from his family. It didn’t bother me too much, but it is nonetheless something I noticed when watching. Nonetheless I was invested with what was happening, and I particularly liked how things were ended in the third act. Finally, the film is semi autobiographical, it is very much a passion project, and that really does help the movie quite a lot. Even with the flaws of the screenplay, it does actually feel like a story Branagh wanted to tell, and that helped the movie feel genuine and heartfelt.

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One of the strongest elements are the cast, and each of them are top notch, with Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Ciaran Hinds and Judi Dench all giving great performances. They all worked very well together, and the chemistry between them felt real, they actually felt like a family. Credit should also go to the lead actor for Buddy, Jude Hill. This is his first film but he did very well especially considering that he’s in almost every scene in the film.

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Kenneth Branagh directs this movie very well. Immediately noticeable is the black and white cinematography, its gorgeous, well shot and nice to look at. I don’t really think there was much point of having the black and white outside of the few moments where colour is included, but it was nonetheless nice to watch.

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Belfast seems to be one of the main frontrunners for Best Picture, and I don’t necessarily think that it’s a great pick for the award. Putting aside Oscar chances however, I think the movie is actually quite good and was better than I was expecting. As a movie focusing on a child’s coming of age, it’s solid and I was invested enough, even if it wasn’t anything special. It is also decently directed by Branagh, and the great performances really helped the film work as well as it does. I do think it is worth checking out at the very least.

Legend (2015) Review

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Legend (2015)

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence and offensive language
Cast:
Tom Hardy as Ronald “Ronnie” Kray and Reginald “Reggie” Kray
Emily Browning as Frances Shea
Colin Morgan as Frankie Shea
Christopher Eccleston as Leonard “Nipper” Read
David Thewlis as Leslie Payne
Taron Egerton as Edward “Mad Teddy” Smith
Chazz Palminteri as Angelo Bruno
Paul Bettany as Charlie Richardson
Tara Fitzgerald as Mrs Shea
Aneurin Barnard as David Bailey
Paul Anderson as Albert Donoghue
Director: Brian Helgeland

In the 1960s, Reggie Kray (Tom Hardy) is a former boxer who has become an important part of the criminal underground in London. At the start of the film, his twin brother Ron (Tom Hardy) is locked up in a psychiatric hospital for insanity and paranoid schizophrenia. Reggie uses threats to obtain the premature release of his brother, who is rapidly discharged from hospital. The two brothers unite their efforts to control a large part of London’s criminal underworld. One of their first efforts is to muscle-in on the control of a local night club, using extortion and brutal violence.

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I was always aware of Legend being the movie where Tom Hardy plays two real life gangster twins known as the Krays. From the trailer it certainly looked like it had a lot of potential, and I generally like gangster movies. While it’s not as great as it could’ve been, it’s decent enough, and led by another great performance(s) from Tom Hardy.

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I’m not familiar with the stories about the Krays, but it sounds like there’s a lot of source material that could be used for a great movie. Unfortunately, the plot doesn’t really keep you engaged consistently. Some plotlines are interesting, others not so much. It’s actually a pretty standard gangster movie, with some issues with the script. The most annoying part for me was the narration, it was pretty much explaining everything but that’s not the worst part. The weirdest decision was having the narration by Reggie Kray’s wife played by Emily Browning, she wasn’t present for all the events that happen in the movie, so it was confusing why she was chosen. If they really wanted a narrator, they should’ve given it to Hardy or some other actor who wasn’t a character in the movie. The tone changes all the time, and not in a smart and balanced way, it’s all over the place, additionally you don’t really feel like you get to learn the main characters all that much. While the runtime of over 2 hours and 10 minutes seems like it would be the right length to cover the Krays’ stories, the film just moves a little too slowly to keep you constantly interested. Despite this, it feels like there’s some events the movie didn’t really cover, and instead chose to focus on some less interesting aspects. The script isn’t bad, it’s mostly passable, just not as interesting as it should’ve been.

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Tom Hardy is the main reason to watch this movie, as usual he’s fantastic and really elevated the film. Both the characters of Reggie and Ronnie Kray are very distinct, and Hardy embodies each of them effectively. Although not quite at the level of Hardy, the supporting cast is pretty good, with the likes of Emily Browning, Colin Morgan, Christopher Eccleston, David Thewlis, Taron Egerton and Chazz Palminteri giving some commendable performances.

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Legend is directed by Brian Helgeland, who did reasonably well with his filmmaking work on A Knight’s Tale and 42, but I knew him most for writing L.A. Confidential. His direction on Legend isn’t amazing, but was pretty good and worked for the movie. Now having one actor play dual performances on the screen at the same time isn’t a recent occurrence, but nonetheless they handled that aspect quite well, and made it look convincing.

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Legend had a lot of potential and unfortunately didn’t quite live up to it. For the most part it’s well made, and the cast are good, but although the script isn’t terrible, it’s definitely the weakest part of the movie unfortunately, and wasn’t quite the home run of a film that it looked like it would be at first. However, I’d say that it’s at least worth watching for Tom Hardy’s great performances.