My Cousin Rachel, 2017

Directed by: Roger Michell

Starring: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin

IMDb

Can a film be compelling if none of its core cast of characters are likeable? My Cousin Rachel attempts to prove that they can, and unfortunately falls short, resulting in a fairly dull time.

The story opens sloppily with heavy exposition, what I can only assume originated as a chunk of the book of the same name left out of the film, explaining that Philip’s (Sam Claflin) cousin/father figure got ill and had to move to Florence to stay with his cousin, a girl named Rachel (Rachel Weisz), who he promptly falls in love with and marries. A single letter comes back to Philip, completely contrary to his prior praise of her, claiming she is slowly killing him in an attempt to acquire his fortunes, but unfortunately he dies before Philip can reach him again. When the widow comes to visit her husband’s home, Philip finds that she wasn’t quite what he expected.

Characterisation wise, Philip is an entitled prick, an idiot, completely irresponsible and overall quite unlikeable. This is a bold move for a film, a medium obsessed with self-insert blank slates and generic good-guy-with-flaws types. Other films that attempt this kind of thing, however, have other characters to root for, and therefore can hold the viewer’s attention more aptly. The entire driving force for this film, however, is the back and forth of the audience’s opinion on Rachel. It’s very hard to root for her when half the time we’re supposed to think she’s a horrendous human being. To the film’s credit, its best aspect is its ability to have the audience constantly shifting its opinion as more information is revealed. It’s a good mystery. I really liked the payoff, and overall found the ending to be the best part of the film.

Both leads do a good job, especially Weisz, who’s performance I found to be pretty nuanced, given the mystery, but my above criticism still applies. Knowing the ending, I might have appreciated her more, but with neither lead being compelling, I had to fight the urge to check my phone.

Pretty much everything else, I found to be average to fine for a Victorian style period piece. There was the occasional unconvincing accent, some really shoddy CGI of Florence, and some awkward editing decisions at times. But in equal measure there was effort put into cinematography to convey symbolism, for better or for worse (one shot was about 80% obscured by an out of focus table).

While I haven’t and don’t intend to read the 1951 novel of the same name from which the film is adapted, I would recommend you read that over seeing this. Alternatively, the 1952 film I’ve read is also superior. The mystery is good, but not worth it in my opinion.

Arrival, 2016

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

IMDb

Arrival stars Amy Adams as a linguist who must come in contact with extraterrestrial visitors to earth and interpret the reason for their ‘arrival.’ I’m super late to the game on this one, it came out while I was in exams and I just never ended up getting around to it ’till now, but I can’t say I regret it. Arrival was great.

The biggest criticism I had heard of the film going in is that it’s slow, which irks me slightly, yet I completely understand. Almost every shot seems to linger, a technique I’ve criticised before in films such as Hunger Games: Mockingjay. The difference is that there is a rhythm to the cinematography of Arrival; each shot seems exactly as long as it should be, and the camera was quite dynamic so every second gave something to the audience that the previous didn’t. Additionally, the camerawork was quite beautifully done, so it didn’t bother me at all. I do understand, however, that most mainstream movies don’t do this anymore, favouring very quick editing, so a typical moviegoing audience may not be used to it. I think, however, if you know that going in, you’ll be able to appreciate just how well done it was.

The premise was really excellent, definitely something I haven’t quite seen before and the plot was more than satisfying. The thing I actually wish to praise the film the most for is unfortunately a spoiler, so I won’t be explicitly stating it here, but I will say that the story went in a particular direction that I wasn’t expecting, and that I thought was really clever. It was really fantastic and creative storytelling. I also really liked the subtleness of how the film conveyed the world falling apart due to this event.

I’m running late to go see Rogue One, so I’m going to cut this slightly short, but I really liked Arrival, I don’t have any major criticisms, and if you’re a Sci-Fi fan or a fan of good cinema, you’re bound to enjoy it!

The Girl on The Train, 2016

Directed by: Tate Taylor

Starring: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson

IMDb

The Girl on the Train was something few mainstream films are anymore: unpredictable. I honestly had no clue where it was going to go for most of the runtime, which I feel was a successful attempt to get the audience identify with the protagonist, who spends most of her time simply trying to interpret what the hell is going on. The unpredictable storytelling is the film’s greatest accomplishment. However, I can’t think of anything else that really stood out to me as amazing or unforgettable, but I can’t think of any real weaknesses either. It drags slightly in the middle but that section was ultimately quite brief. Overall I really liked it.

I’m aware that everyone makes this comparison, but it really does remind me of Gone Girl, at least in tone, theme and some story elements. That said, Gone Girl was a better movie overall.

So yeah, I recommend The Girl on the Train to anyone who enjoyed Gone Girl.

10 Cloverfield Lane, 2016

Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg

Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.

IMDb

Really enjoyed it. The most stand out feature was the performances, particularly John Goodman’s (not to discredit Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who was also excellent). His performance and the way the film was directed and edited brought a fantastic level of intensity. The writing was also excellent, it had me constantly going back and forth on whether I thought Goodman’s character was telling the truth or not, and didn’t really figure it out until it was revealed, which was refreshing for a hollywood film.

My only criticism is in a CGI effect which is so ridiculously out of place in this highly realistic film that it’s almost laughable. This doesn’t spoil the film as a whole though, and I highly recommend you check it out.