I've heard it said that if 80% of us were to receive an anonymous message that simply said "They know everything. Run.", we'd obey the imperative of the final word in the message. Even if we had no idea who 'they' are or which 'everything' was being referred to, we'd assume the very worst possible and attempt to outrun the impending storm.
I don't know if that has any basis in real research, but this film takes that premise and runs with it in the age of the smartphone and 4chan - and just to twist the knife a little more, sets it all in Salem, Massachusettes. Someone is hacking the secrets of first one, then a couple more, then a few more, then a good number of the population of the town and posting them for all to see. A group of girls become the target of vigilante justice, believed to be responsible for the hacks, and it spins ever further out of control. Directed with an immense visual flare that never distracts from plot or character, and a sharp script that manages to stay just the right side of too on the nose, it's a highly effective, thought-provoking and gripping film that almost literally winks at the camera without breaking the tension - and its timely social commentary never overburdens the suitably brisk running. Better than its been given credit for, it deserves an audience.
What an effervescent, thrilling adaptation this is. If ever a film pointed up the need for major awards categories for casting and ensemble performances, it's this one. There's not a false note in any performance here, and the diversity of that casting helps pull fresh wrinkles out of a familiar text. Dev Patel is the film's beating heart - humane, warm, funny and notes of pathos. Behind it all lies the brilliant eyes, ear and writing of Armando Iannucci, with bold flourishes that only enhance and never distract. A simply brilliant film.
A brisk, tense, stripped-down thriller set against a chemical attack on Los Angeles, focussing on a woman who was heading into the city as the explosions happened and her husband at home. If the film's central dilemma is pretty predictable from the outset (not least given the title), it's well-executed, the two main performances are good and the short running time is in its favour. It takes on extra resonance this side of a pandemic, and the ending shows some story-telling guts.
It's possible to argue that Diego Maradona was football's first global celebrity; where you place him in the top 5 male players of all time is perhaps not relevant to that. His emergence as a great, moving from Argentina to become a dominant European force and driving his country to World Cup success, went hand in hand with being one of the very first footballers to achieve the sort of fame which is now such a feature of the sporting landscape. Celebrity - its pitfalls and its effects on the person themselves - was also the focus of writer-director Asif Kapadia's outstanding film on Amy Winehouse, and it's fitting that it's also the theme of this film on the great Argentian footballer.
We follow - in significant detail - his career from its early days, skipping over his brief and less successful stint in Spain, and home in on his days in Naples. It's here he found his peak as a player; it's here that his fame ascended to previously unheard-of levels; it's here that he ended up broken. In doing so his addiction to cocaine is the focus of the second half the film and alongside that the way he became owned more by organised crime than he was by his employers.
In terms of his relationships, the film gives less away. We do hear from sisters and his mother; the relationship with the woman who bore his son whom he only acknowledged late in life is given little time, and the same is true of what has been reported elsewhere of his poor treatment of women. It may be that this is seen as less essential to the study of celebrity as a phenomena, but it also feels a little troubling.
The rest of the film is often thrilling or moving. Watching footage of his genius is always something to behold; there is little room left to doubt just how special a talent he was. And his final descent, which is really only briefly addressed as the film comes to a close, is no less moving for it; in fact, its brevity may be the point. It's almost as if giving little screen-time to that later part of his story, Kapadia is saying something about the toxic cost of celebrity, and what happens to a person who becomes something different to what those who idolise him demand. The film as a whole skilfully unpacks the difference the man himself spoke of between the two parts of his persona; Diego, the boy from Argentina who just wanted to play and Maradona, the man who carried a world on his shoulders and ultimately found it too heavy to carry. As such, the film marks a valuable entry into what needs to be a growing understanding of what celebrity culture is and does; watched alongside the Amy Winehouse film (Amy), there is much to think on here.