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Spencer (2021) Review

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Spencer (2021)

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language & self harm references
Cast:
Kristen Stewart as Diana
Timothy Spall as Alistair Gregory
Jack Farthing as Charles
Sean Harris as Darren McGrady
Sally Hawkins as Maggie
Director: Pablo Larraín

The marriage between Princess Diana and Prince Charles has long since grown cold. Though rumors of affairs and a divorce abound, peace is ordained for the Christmas festivities at the queen’s estate. There’s eating and drinking, shooting and hunting. Diana knows the game, but this year, things will be profoundly different.

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Spencer was a movie I had been anticipating for a little while. It’s a movie about Princess Diana, starring Kristen Stewart in the lead role, and most of all it has the director of Jackie. So I was intrigued to see how it would turn out, especially with all the acclaim it has been receiving leading up to its release. It didn’t disappoint, I really liked Spencer and think it’s one of the best of the year.

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Much like Jackie, Spencer is not a conventional biopic by any means, and I’m so glad that this is the case. It doesn’t feel tired or cliched like a lot of other biopics, and I was captivated throughout. The movie is set over the Christmas period in 1991, taking place over a few days. As a result, it feels like it wasn’t progressing anywhere necessarily, but I was nonetheless invested in it. I won’t talk about the accuracy to real life because I’m not an expert on Diana, but I can say that it is definitely more a character study than biopic. It does a great job at diving into the personal life of Princess Diana and makes us see her life from her eyes. This character piece focuses on Diana’s sadness, anxiety and struggles as she has to change to fit in with the royals while haunted by her past and future. Much of the movie feels like a horror movie sometimes, and it is effectively unsettling. Spencer does a great job at making the audience just as uneasy as her, especially with the tense and uneasy atmosphere. It definitely leans into being more psychological compared to Jackie, there are even hallucinatory elements, from a direct metaphor between Diana and Anne Boleyn which has the former imagine seeing the latter, to Diana literally imagining herself eating her pearl necklace. It thought it worked for the type of movie that it was going for.

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Whether or not her character in the film is accurate to the real person, Kristen Stewart disappears into the role of Princess Diana and delivers a powerhouse performance. She does incredibly well at portraying a princess forced to live in a family that doesn’t want her and really conveys her pain and anxiety. Stewart definitely places emphasis on the subtlety and leans into the overall feel of Diana rather than pure impersonation, which is definitely for the best (especially when looking at performances of other widely known real people). Nonetheless, she nails the voice, mannerisms and expressions, and gives an eloquent performance. It’s the best acting work I’ve seen from her so far. There are some other really good supporting performances from Sally Hawkins, Timothy Spall and Sean Harris, however it’s a film very much focused on Stewart as Diana.

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Pablo Larrain directs Spencer incredibly well, which was to be expected after watching Jackie. There is a lot of incredibly visual storytelling on display in this film. Claire Mathon’s cinematography is gloomy and hazy, and helps convey a feeling of claustrophobia, creating a layers of anxiety, ambiguity and paranoia. It all works to make us feel the pressures of the lead character. The production and costume design are also on point and are perfect for the period. Another thing constantly present throughout the film is Jonny Greenwood’s jazzy and intense score, which perfectly captures the tone of the film.

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Despite being a Princess Diana biopic, Spencer is definitely not for everyone. On top of definitely being a character piece over a conventional straightforward biopic, it is slow moving and definitely not what some might expect going into it. However I loved it, incredibly well crafted, its directed well, and Kristen Stewart gives one of the best performances from the past year. It’s one of the best movies from 2021.

The Green Knight (2021) Review

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The Green Knight

Time: 130 Minutes
Cast:
Dev Patel as Sir Gawain
Alicia Vikander as Essel and the Lady
Joel Edgerton as the Lord
Sarita Choudhury as Morgan le Fay
Sean Harris as King Arthur
Ralph Ineson as the Green Knight
Barry Keoghan as the Scavenger
Erin Kellyman as Winifred
Kate Dickie as Queen Guinevere
Director: David Lowery

King Arthur’s headstrong nephew (Dev Patel) embarks on a daring quest to confront the Green Knight (Ralph Ineson), a mysterious giant who appears at Camelot. Risking his head, he sets off on an epic adventure to prove himself before his family and court.

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I was greatly anticipating The Green Knight. I was a fan of David Lowery, director of A Ghost Story, Pete’s Dragon, and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and it had a good cast that included Dev Patel and Alicia Vikander. From the descriptions it was a medieval fantasy based off an Arthurian legend and I was interested to see how Lowery would do with that. The Green Knight isn’t for everyone by any means, but I found watching it to be a phenomenal experience.

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Try to go into the movie blind, the less you know about the movie, the better. The Green Knight is based on a 14th Century poem (called Sir Gawain and the Green Knight) which I’m unfamiliar with. Essentially (and without spoiling anything) the movie is about the protagonist Sir Gawain going on an epic journey to seek honour and fulfil his destiny. It sounds simple and familiar, but its not a conventional (or easily accessible) movie by any means. It certainly wasn’t the type of movie I was expecting. This is definitely not like most fantasy films or tv like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. The story has such a grand scope, but its also blended with this deeply intimate emotional journey, a journey which I found thoroughly compelling. Much of the movie is Gawain wandering different lands and encountering other individuals on his spiritual journey. This movie very much subverts the familiar ‘hero’s journey’ trope, and deconstructs it, and thematically there is so much here to unpack. It is a very contemplative and meditative film, and as such is very much a slow burn. It takes its time to establish its themes, tone, and the development of the main character. However I was personally never bored, I was drawn into this dreamlike world especially with its surrealistic atmosphere. I was surprised at how effectively unsettling it was considering what the movie is based on, there is this constant sense of impending doom which kept me riveted all the way to the end. The last 20 minutes was truly spectacular, with the movie ending with one of the most visually stunning sequences I’ve seen.

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There are a lot of great actors in this movie, and they are all really good in their parts. First of all, you have Dev Patel as the lead character of Gawain and this has to be the best performance I’ve seen from him. He’s perfectly cast in this role, the whole film follows him, and he does well carrying it. It’s a very subtle performance, you feel the weight and gravity of what’s happening and you see his state of mind just from his expressions alone. The supporting cast were all fantastic too. Alicia Vikander is really good and memorable in dual roles, definitely a standout in the cast. Sean Harris and Joel Edgerton are great. Barry Keoghan is only in one scene but makes a strong impression, and Ralph Ineson is great as the Green Knight in his few appearances.

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David Lowery has directed some great movies, but The Green Knight is on a whole other level compared to what he’s done before, his work here is practically flawless. It is lower budget at around $15 million, but everything on a technical level from the sound design, camera work, visuals and set designs are stellar. I imagine that it would’ve been amazing to watch this on the big screen. The cinematography is truly phenomenal and dreamlike, it just felt so epic and magical. It really is one of the most visually mesmerising films I’ve seen in recent years. The film does use CGI, but it is minimal and subtle, and the fact that they shot on location goes a long way. The sets and costumes are very well detailed too. The score from Daniel Hart is great, a mix of epic and folk music, really helping to set the tone of the film.

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The Green Knight lingers in the mind long after I watched it, and it is a movie I want to revisit in the future. It definitely isn’t for everyone, but I loved it. The performances are outstanding led by a career best Dev Patel, the story is compelling with a unique take on the hero’s journey, and the visuals and David Lowery’s direction was amazing to watch. One of my favourite movies of 2021 thus far.

Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018) Review

Time: 148 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt
Henry Cavill as August Walker
Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell
Simon Pegg as Benjamin “Benji” Dunn
Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust
Sean Harris as Solomon Lane
Angela Bassett as Erica Sloane
Alec Baldwin as Alan Hunley
Vanessa Kirby as White Widow
Frederick Schmidt as Zola
Michelle Monaghan as Julia Meade
Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Two years after Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) had successfully captured Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the remnants of the Syndicate have reformed into another organization called the Apostles. Under the leadership of a mysterious fundamentalist known only as John Lark, the organization is planning on acquiring three plutonium cores. Ethan and his team are sent to Berlin to intercept them, but the mission fails when Ethan saves Luther (Ving Rhames) and the Apostles escape with the plutonium. With CIA agent August Walker (Henry Cavill) joining the team, Ethan and his allies must now find the plutonium cores before it’s too late.

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Mission Impossible: Fallout was one of my most anticipated films of 2018. This action franchise has been running for over 2 decades, and since the 3rd instalment, every film was better than the last. Along with Rogue Nation (originally the best film of the series) director Christopher McQuarrie returning, we have the additions of Henry Cavill, Angela Bassett and Vanessa Kirby. At the very least I was expecting a solid action flick with Tom Cruise doing great stunts and some entertaining action. It certainly was that but it was much more than I thought it would be. Greatly directed, acted and executed, Fallout is not only by far the best instalment in the franchise, but also one of the best action movies in recent years.

One criticism that Fallout might get from some people is that it’s not really not the most unpredictable of stories. If you’re familiar with the Mission Impossible movies or any similar movies, you’re very familiar with these kind of spy plots and it doesn’t really do anything vastly different. You’ll be able to pick up most of what’s going on before it happens. There’s particularly one twist that was being built up throughout the story that audiences will be able to figure out within the first 10/20 minutes. With that said, there was a handling of a repetitive Mission Impossible plot point that I’m very happy was subverted here. Outside some of the predictability of the movie, the story really works for the movie. This is the longest Mission Impossible movie yet, at just under 2 hours and 30 minutes and yet from start to finish I was engrossed. This movie is tonally dark and the stakes are really high, both in terms of scale and on an emotional level. I feel like this movie really utilises the characters really well, at least the main team. Something that separates Ethan Hunt and his team from other action movie characters (particularly in Fallout) is that they are only just pulling off what they set out to do, barely scraping by and making it up as they go along. I lost track of the amount of times I heard phrases like “I’ll figure it out”, “I’m working on it”, and “We’ll make it work”. The plot also challenges the characters, not just Hunt, but also Benji, Luther and Ilsa, putting them in seemingly impossible situations. At the same time it does have a lot of well timed and utilised humour. Fallout does tie back to all the previous Mission Impossible movies (except for the second film, unless I missed anything). However, you don’t have to watch all the previous movies to understand Fallout. As it’s a direct sequel to Rogue Nation however, I think it’s a good idea to watch the 5th movie beforehand at the very least. And if you’re a Mission Impossible fan, I think you’ll be very satisfied with some of the things that happens in this movie. As for the way that the movie ends, it doesn’t necessarily end it on a cliffhanger or do any sequel baiting, but there’s room for future movies and some loose ends that have yet to be tied up, and I’m completely on board for more Mission Impossible movies.

The cast all do very well here. Tom Cruise once again plays Ethan Hunt and as usual he’s great. While Hunt doesn’t have the greatest depth in terms of character, he is effective enough in the movies. Also this is the first time since Mission Impossible 3 that there’s been a movie that has personal stakes involving him. This movie allows Hunt to show his age a little, and really acknowledges that he’s been doing this for a long time. It really does give the character much more depth. Cruise’s commitment, charisma and everything is on display. That’s not even mentioning all the stunts that he takes part in, the running, the driving, the fighting, the flying, every time Ethan Hunt is doing something on screen, it really is Tom Cruise doing all of that. Hopefully future MI films will continue to have stories more personal to Hunt because it really makes the movie stand out, and Cruise is great at it. The rest of the returning cast is great as well. Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg again are good, with Ving as Luther getting to do the most out of the whole franchise, and Simon as Benji doing more field agent work than before. You do feel the lack of Jeremy Renner here (who’s not here because of Avengers 4 filming) but he’ll not doubt be back for Mission Impossible 7. Rebecca Fergusson like in Rogue Nation, stole the show as Ilsa Faust. She’s great in her action scenes and makes a very strong impression as her character. Alec Baldwin is good in his role as the new IMF director and also returning is Sean Harris as Solomon Lane, who’s now the only Mission Impossible villain to appear in more than one movie. Once again he’s great and truly sinister, one of the best villains in the Mission Impossible series (however that’s not saying a lot). We’ve also got some new additions to the Mission Impossible cast. Angela Bassett gets to have some solid moments (although being rather underutilized), and Vanessa Kirby is fantastic in her role, even though she’s very much a supporting actor in the movie. The stand out new actor however is Henry Cavill, as a CIA agent that Ethan Hunt and the IMF are forced to work with. I do wish that his character had a little more depth than what we got but he was really good. His character of August Walker really stands out as being distinctly different from Ethan Hunt, he’s much more intense and ruthless, and he really was a force of nature. As Angela Bassett puts it, Hunt is a scalpel, whereas Walker is a hammer, with him being younger and physically more imposing and stronger. This role really showed a different side to Cavill as an actor, yes he’s great as Superman and as Napoleon Solo in The Man from UNCLE, but he’s proved here that he’s also solid with darker characters, and I do hope he gets more roles like this as well.

The Mission Impossible series usually have the tradition of having different directors for every film to feel distinctly different, Fallout breaks this tradition with Rogue Nation director Christopher McQuarrie returning for the sixth instalment. Despite him directing the previous film, Fallout feels like it was done by a completely different director, McQuarrie really upped his game here. In a lot of good action movies, there are usually a few great action scenes and the rest of the action scenes are decent enough. Here though, pretty much all the action sequences are absolutely fantastic, and had any of them been placed in most other action movies, it would be the best action scene of that film. Whether it involve motorcycles, running, helicopters, cars, you name it, McQuarrie, Cruise and co. perform them wonderfully well. A big part of why they work so well is the cinematography. Along with the movie just generally looking great, during the action sequences there are no unnecessary close ups and no jarring cuts during fight scenes, instead we have wide shots, tracking shots, the cinematography really helped showcase the action and we can see all of it unfold. All the Mad Max Fury Road comparisons that Fallout has been receiving make sense when you watch the movie. I’d say that 90-95% of the movie is practical, and as we know, 100% of Tom Cruise’s stunts was done by Tom Cruise. I wouldn’t know how to really talk about the stand outs action sequences because I’d just end up listing all of them, but some highlights include a brutal and excellently well done fight which takes place in a bathroom, a HALO jump performed by Tom Cruise and a helicopter flying scene. Lorne Balfe does the score and it really adds something to the movie. The constant feeling of uneasiness in the movie comes mostly from the score, giving the film a heightened sense of tension. It does feel like a Hans Zimmer score but that really worked for the movie.

Mission Impossible Fallout takes all the great elements from the previous movies in the series to create a fantastic, thrilling and intense movie, that had me gripped from start to finish. This is definitely the best film in the series and one of the best action movies of recent years. Although I’m not even sure how they would top Fallout, I’m completely on board for future Mission Impossible films. Even if you’re not a big fan of the series, I strongly recommend checking Fallout out, you won’t regret it.

Prometheus (2012) Review

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language and horror
Cast:
Noomi Rapace as Elizabeth Shaw
Michael Fassbender as David
Charlize Theron as Meredith Vickers
Idris Elba as Janek
Guy Pearce as Peter Weyland
Logan Marshall-Green as Charlie Holloway
Sean Harris as Fifield
Rafe Spall as Millburn
Director: Ridley Scott

The discovery of a clue to mankind’s origins on Earth leads a team of explorers to the darkest parts of the universe. Two brilliant young scientists lead the expedition. Shaw (Noomi Rapace) hopes that they will meet a race of benevolent, godlike beings who will in some way verify her religious beliefs, while Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) is out to debunk any spiritual notions. However, neither the scientists nor their shipmates are prepared for the unimaginable terrors that await them.

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Prometheus is one of the most unfairly disliked movies of the 2010s. The highly anticipated Alien prequel (with director Ridley Scott returning) was met with some very mixed opinions. Some loved it, others were immensely disappointed with what they got. While there are some writing issues and it would’ve benefited from being longer, most of the film is actually great. It’s has a very intriguing and suspenseful story, and does tie into Alien quite well, despite leaving some unanswered questions. Prometheus is very underrated, and it will hopefully be better looked upon in the future.

False expectations likely played a large part in this movie being unfairly judged. This is not a direct prequel to Alien, you won’t see the Xenomorphs attacking people or anything like in the classic Alien movies, you really need to know all this going in, or you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment (like plenty of people already had). It has a lot more depth and is also its own thing, with religious themes that it explores and more. You also need to know that it doesn’t answer all the questions that this film asks. It’s possible that Scott wanted to expand his prequel story over multiple movies, which is why many things aren’t addressed. But I did find this movie very engaging and suspenseful. I was interested throughout, I wasn’t ever bored. It added new levels of history to the Alienverse and learning more and more about it was absolutely investing. That’s not to say that this movie doesn’t have any issues. Prometheus infamously have many cases of characters just making some really dumb decisions, two in particular (one involves people running away from a large falling object and the other involving a newly discovered alien life). The characters aren’t really that interesting (they really weren’t the high point of the movie), the best characters were Noomi Rapace’s Shaw and Michael Fassbender’s David. The biggest problem however is the length of the movie, 2 hours and 4 minutes. It really feels like this movie should’ve been longer than it actually ended up being. I did see some deleted scenes of the movie and some of them did really work for the movie. I’m not suggesting that this movie was unfairly cut down or had editing issues, I just feel like it should’ve been longer, so that this movie would be able to go even deeper.

There are two highlight performances. One is Noomi Rapace, she’s the lead of the movie, a lot more history and depth have been given to her character compared to many of the other characters, and on top of that Rapace did a great job in her role. The other highlight performance is Michael Fassbender as an android named David, who basically steals the show. He is just so convincing and unsettling, you can’t tell what his intentions are. Definitely one of Fassbender’s more underrated performances. As I said earlier, most of the characters aren’t that interesting, everyone else other than Rapace and Fassbender didn’t leave much of an impression. I guess the only other performance which is really memorable is Idris Elba, but that’s because of his effortless charisma, which elevated his role in the movie. Other actors like Charlize Theron and Logan Marshall-Green were fine but they really didn’t stand out much, mostly due to their boring and uninteresting characterisation.

The direction by Ridley Scott is absolutely fantastic here (unsurprisingly). The visuals are beautiful, the CGI is great and is implemented well in the movie. The designs of all the locations, ships and creatures are so well put together. Also when Ridley Scott directs horror and suspense here, he does it so well. There are many cases of this but the biggest example involves a surgery, if you’ve seen the movie you know exactly what I’m talking about. Directionwise this movie is pretty much perfect.

Prometheus is not a perfect movie. There are some issues in the writing and characterisation, and it would’ve much benefited with a longer running time. But it is definitely worth a watch, and doesn’t deserve all the hate its been receiving. It has a story which is interesting, suspenseful, creepy, and very engaging. And it was nice seeing some of the connections with the first Alien (even if it doesn’t address everything, yet at least) With Alien Covenant coming out very soon, I’m expecting a Prometheus sequel, just with slightly more Xenomorph content than we get here. And I’m completely fine with that.

Mission Impossible Rogue Nation (2015) Review

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Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt
Jeremy Renner as William Brandt
Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn
Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust
Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell
Sean Harris as Solomon Lane
Alec Baldwin as Alan Hunley
Director: Christopher McQuarrie

With the IMF disbanded, and Ethan (Tom Cruise) out in the cold, the team now faces off against a network of highly skilled special agents, the Syndicate. These highly trained operatives are hellbent on creating a new world order through an escalating series of terrorist attacks. Ethan gathers his team and joins forces with disavowed British agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who may or may not be a member of this rogue nation, as the group faces their most impossible mission yet.

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It would be hard to imagine Mission Impossible Rogue Nation getting anywhere close to Ghost Protocol, the previous entry in the Mission Impossible franchise. While I liked Jack Reacher, director Christopher McQuarrie’s previous film, I wasn’t sure if he was the best choice for directing this film, and Ghost Protocol was so great that it would be a pretty tough job to get anywhere close. After seeing it I can say that Mission Impossible Rogue Nation is actually one of the best Mission Impossible movies. It has all the thrills and entertaining factors that a good summer blockbuster needs. I’m not sure if Rogue Nation is better than Ghost Protocol, but it’s up there.

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One of the only flaws of the previous Mission Impossible film (Ghost Protocol) is that the film really peaked at the tower scene halfway through the movie and the rest of the movie never really got to that level of intensity. Rogue Nation however manages to keep the stakes and tensions high all the way. Something great from the previous film that crossed over was the fact that their gadgets didn’t always work all the time. This made the situations much tenser and much more unpredictable. Even when the action is really the main focus, I was able to follow the plot quite easily, it wasn’t unnecessarily convoluted and it was actually well laid out and planned.

Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.

Tom Cruise is effortlessly great in this movie and proves once again that he’s great as an action star. Along with doing his own stunts, he really commits to what is going on at the moment. Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames are also great in their roles. I also liked Alec Baldwin’s addition to the cast. A great addition is Rebecca Ferguson, she made the film even better. From what I can tell, she hasn’t done much in her career aside from the Dwayne Johnson Hercules movie but I have a feeling that we are going to see her in many more movies. Mission Impossible doesn’t have a great record of good villains, the best villain we’ve gotten so far was Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the 3rd film. Fortunately the villain here (played by Sean Harris) is one of the better villains of the franchise. His motivations are developed and you understand why he makes the decisions that he makes.

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The action scenes continue to up the ante as the film progresses. The stunts are great as always and makes these action scenes so much better because unlike a lot of action movies today, you can tell that a lot of what you are seeing actually happened, it wasn’t just green screened or used CGI. There are many stand out scenes, there is a motorbike chase scene (which honestly might be my favourite motorbike action scene), an underwater scene, and so much more including a scene where Tom Cruise is on the side of an airbus mid-air (as advertised many times in promotion of the movie).

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Mission Impossible Rogue Nation is a fun ride and one of the best action movies of the year, and given the action films released this year, that says a lot. I’m not sure if this is my favourite Mission Impossible movie, it’s a toss-up between this and Ghost Protocol but even on its own, it is a great movie and I’m looking forward to seeing more films in this franchise.