Blinded by the Light
His Dark Materials
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Those going into Aftermath expecting a gun-toting retired Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger are going to be left sorely disappointed by the lack of carnage on display here, in what official marks a new career point for one of the world's most famous action stars.
No doubt coming to terms with the fact that he can't continue to destroy bad guys and spurt one liners for the rest of his acting days, Aftermath sees a further continuation of a different side to Arnie that we glimpsed first in the potentially great but forgettable zombie drama Maggie from 2015 and it goes without saying that Aftermath is arguable Arnie's finest "acting" turn or at the very least most solid attempt at being anything other than what we've come to know and expect.
Sure Arnie's shown a different side to himself in comedy ventures such as Twins and Kindergarten Cop, but Aftermath's focus purely on two equally shattered souls affected by a terrible plane crash really sees the one time Hollywood kingpin dial everything back to zero and play a simple, flawed human entering into a dark abyss of depression, hatred and anger.
Arnie's turn as the grieving Roman is a turn that's commendable and one that's ably supported by the always good Scott McNairy as unfortunate air traffic controller Jake but Elliot Lester's film isn't one that ever takes off to great heights and suffers from a long drawn out process to get to a non-surprising boiling point and an even less surprising final segment.
This based on a true story tale certainly gets things off to a strong emotionally resonate beginning but it's as the film draws on that the power the tale initially had slowly dwindles away, as we're thrown into a procession of scenes that cover the same ground over and over.
Whether its Roman looking at photographs of his deceased wife and daughter or Jake taking pills and contemplating suicide as an option to escape the torment he feels for his responsibility in the plane accident, Aftermath has a tough time moving us from beginning to end which makes the film more of a middle of the road experience, rather than a memorable one.
Final Say -
It's refreshing to see a different side to Schwarzenegger and he should be commended for separating himself from roles that have dominated his illustrious career but Aftermath is neither a powerful enough drama or a satisfactory enough slow burner to truly become a must see.
2 1/2 interrupted board games out of 5
Christine (no relation to the Stephen King Christine) is an uncomfortable watch.
There's nothing grisly, seedy or terrifying but Antonio Campos's film presents such a realistic and unquestionably bleak portrait of a rapidly deteriorating human being, brought down to her lowest ebb through unrealistic expectations and dreams, that it makes for eye squinting and tough viewing, in this retelling of real life news reporter/journalist Christine Chubbuck.
There may be many that know of Chubbuck's story but for the sake of those that don't, Campos's film delves into the final months of Chubbuck's life as her fractured ego and increasingly erratic behaviour towards her work, co-workers such as Maria Dizzia's good hearted colleague Jean, Tracy Lett's tough station boss Michael or Michael C. Hall's potential love interest and news anchor George and genuine everyday life threatens to implode at any moment and when that moment comes, it ends up being one of the most shocking and sad moments in television history.
Chubbuck isn't at all an easy person to relate or warm to. She's quick to wrath, stubborn beyond reasoning, cold and self-centred but she's also clearly a person that wasn't in a sane state of mind and nailing this tricky business is Rebecca Hall who delivers a career best turn as the doomed figure.
A for some reason long-standing member of Hollywood's underrated field, Hall has over a number of years performed strongly in a large collection of big budgeted and smaller scale pictures but Chubbuck gives her a chance to really show her acting chops.
In almost every frame of the film, Hall is never less than captivating, even though Chubbuck is herself equally frustrating and it's likely had this film gained more traction in the mainstream media, Hall would've been a worthy player in awards season attention.
From big moments through to small subtle character traits Hall embodies this lost soul and is the best thing about the sometimes monotonously paced film and she's that good that many of the films side characters including those played by Michael C. Hall and Dizzia feel a little underwhelming, with Michael C. Hall in particular once again finding himself in a role that is below his range and it feels as though the highs of early Dexter are still a ways off from being recaptured in feature length roles.
Final Say -
Capturing the time and place of early 1970's America well, Christine is a solid if unremarkable drama that's filled to overflowing with foreboding, bleakness and disappointment, making it not for everyone but harbouring a noteworthy performance from Rebecca Hall. Christine is a tough slog but one that's worth tuning in for.
3 hand puppet shows out of 5
Whilst never being the biggest fan of British director Ken Loach and his rather stoic approach to filmmaking, it's nice to see the passionate filmmaker appear from what at the time seemed as though to be a permanent retirement to come back to our screens with this human interest story and 2016 Palme d'Or winning movie I, Daniel Blake.
Likely to enrage as many as it puts to sleep, Blake is a slow yet driven story of 60 odd year old hardworking British citizen Daniel Blake and his battle against the state to be financially supported after the government's frustrating assistance system continues to mess him around and with nothing much more exciting than Blake arguing about resumes or struggling to handle computers, Loach's impassioned tale won't be for everyone but you can certainly appreciate the message being told here.
Always one to make social commentary a major part of his films, Blake will be instantly recognisable to fans of the directors previous work's as scenes play out in non-cinematic fashion and Dave John's commendable central performance plays itself out in a highly workmanlike fashion as he seemingly bangs his head against walls trying to find the balance between what he needs to do after his life is turned upside down by his recent heart attack, yet finds possible new meaning when he comes across fellow struggler and single mom Katie and her two children with whom Blake strikes up a friendship with.
It's within this budding friendship that Blake finds it's real beating heart as we're thrown into the scenario that Blake's struggles to get the answers he needs aren't at all an out of the ordinary accordance and for many Australian citizens that have ever had to deal with our Centrelink regime, you will no doubt get cold shivers as Blake tries to reason with office workers or get a hold of someone via a phone and it's within these elements that Blake finds itself feeling like a true docu-drama and very far from a polished film production.
Final Say -
A slow, quiet and often ponderous drama with a rather abrupt and questionable finale, I, Daniel Blake will be a new favourite for diehard Loach fans and an accessible tale for those seeking a piece of bleak and realistic slice of life struggles in the English landscape, filled with solid if unremarkable performances, a grounded script and an important tale at its core, Loach's film may not be riveting stuff but its humanly engaging and unique in its execution.
3 graffiti attacks out of 5
In 1994 relatively unknown New Zealand based director Lee Tamahori made Once Were Warriors.
A haunting drama centred around a group of native Maori's, Once Were Warriors is one of New Zealand's most respected films and set Tamahori into a career in Hollywood were he went on to direct a group of relatively forgettable films such as Die Another Day and The Edge, but after 20 plus years plying his trade in the land of dreams and big budgets, Tamahori has returned to the beautiful shores of his homeland to helm quiet family drama Mahana, that in turn reteams him with his Warriors breakout star Temuera Morrison.
Here playing the Mahana family matriarch, the Mahana's a group of farmers in 1960's New Zealand, Morrison still cuts an imposing figure but like the film itself, his granddaddy Mahana just isn't as fully formed and memorable as Mahana the film could've so easily been and while this handsomely crafted drama attempts the epic, this is more middle of the range than Tamahori's home country return would've initially seemed to be on paper.
All the hallmarks of a captivating family drama are here, from the young teenage centrepiece Simeon, here played by Akuhata Keefe who doesn't exactly engage to the level needed, the 1960's settings, family mysteries and tensions between rival farming families but Mahana always feels like a glass half-full experience and while there's emotional material at the core of this tale, Tamahori and his cast can't make the audience commit to proceedings like Once Were Warriors so easily did.
One thing that is for sure however is that Mahana absolutely looks stunning, it'd certainly take a fair effort to make the natural surrounds of New Zealand look anything but wondrous but Tamahori is clearly relishing the chance to get back on home soil and showcase the vast and plenteous lands of this magical country and the 60's time period allows things to look even more appealing as the audience is transported back to a time and place where nature was still king.
Final Say -
It's great to see Tamahori back home and once more working with the underrated Morrison and it's especially nice to see Tamahori step away from forgettable Hollywood actioners but while Mahana has all the elements of a potential new classic NZ based drama you can't help but feel this 90 minute film is just a slight cut above a made for TV experience that could've benefited greatly from a tighter script and a sharper execution, even if the backdrop of New Zealand makes for a constantly eye-capturing tale, just not one that captures the heart.
3 interrupted cinema screenings out of 5
No stranger to the thriller/mystery genre (this film is not, as some expected, a horror), The Ring director Gore Verbinski looks to ride away from his Lone Ranger debacle with the visually stunning, sometimes brilliant, longwinded and in the end sadly disappointing A Cure for Wellness.
A film experience that tries to be many things at once to the detriment of the overall product, Wellness sees Verbinski head to the stunning surrounds of Switzerland as we follow Dane DeHaan's rising business executive Lockhart as he heads to a mysterious wellness centre to retrieve a company board member who's seemingly jumped off the deep end after heading to the facility for treatment.
It sounds relatively straightforward in theory but Verbinski's film is anything but.
Filled with foreboding gothic like intrigue behind the facilities colourful history, eels in abundance, a water source that could just harbor the elixir of life, dehydrated patients and many contemplations on the state of modern day life, Wellness over its 140 minute runtime traverses many various different paths and possibilities but we often feel as lost as DeHaan's unwillingly hosted Lockhart as we journey along the halls and grounds of Dr. Heinreich Volmer's far from the usual retreat centre.
It's unfortunate this is the case, as when Wellness clicks into gear it's an often hauntingly stunning experience that is surely one of 2017's and recent memories most visually spectacular events, that once more showcases Verbinski's talent when it comes to capturing imagery and set pieces.
Verbinski also elicits fine performances from his leading man DeHaan and Jason Isaacs as the slimy head of the facility Volmer, while Mia Goth makes her mark in the film as troubled teenager Hannah but the good work of the cast and the visual wins of the film can't help override the fact Wellness's endgame and overall plotline feel like letdowns from the long journey we've taken to get there.
Verbinski's journey takes off with a bang and rockets along for the first act as we're thrust into this bizarre otherworldly like place but as we begin to understand the answers to the films mysteries and with a finale that seems cut from another film entirely, you begin to understand that Wellness had a clearly troubled time culminating its idea into a satisfactory whole.
Filled with tidbits and brief scenes that seemingly play an important part in proceedings yet we have no idea why, it does feel as though a large portion of Wellness was thrown into the end product for nothing more than the for the sake of doing so and a more focussed and tonally strong edit of the film could've really helped this original experience reach its full potential.
Final Say -
A disappointing film, but a film many will no doubt grow to love, there's much to like about A Cure for Wellness and this unique trip is certainly unlike anything else from recent memory but Verbinski's eye-popping experience fails to connect all its elements into a satisfactory whole and no amount of eye candy can act as a cure for a story that doesn't meet its vast potential.
2 1/2 dental appointments out of 5
A world conquering streaming provider putting up $60 million dollars of hard earned cash. A beloved A-lister headlining the film and promotion of it and an Australian director who delivered one of the countries all-time great films in the form of Animal Kingdom.
On paper Netflix's War Machine seems like a sure-fire winner.
That it's not is a mighty shame, as this based around truth satirical war dramedy felt like one of Netflix's biggest wins since it received the rights to distribute the stunning African child soldier drama Beasts of No Nation back in 2015 but David Michod's largely unengaging affair is neither funny enough or dramatic enough to recommend anyone spending their valuable streaming time on.
I for one, find it bitterly disappointing that Michod has followed up his other disappointing Animal Kingdom follow-up The Rover with this effort, as it's now starting to feel like the promising director could become one of those unfortunate feature film makers that peaked with their first effort.
A stunning example of storytelling, acting and execution, Animal Kingdom suggested Michod could well be one of the countries brightest industry talents.
War Machine has none of these traits, while it at times showcases a film that might've been (rare moments of witty political commentary, scenes of Brad Pitt's stoic Army General Glen McMahon running around the streets of Europe or going for an awkward jog), the bland overall storytelling, uninteresting scene's and underuse of an experienced and well-regarded cast all point to Michod failing to grasp what War Machine wanted to be or what it is even about.
Confusing in what it's wanting to tell us, War Machine's cloudy message clearly played with its casts ability to do their magic with the material at hand and while usually Pitt playing it up in a comedy is a thing to be excited about, even the at present struggling Hollywood heavy hitter can't do much to save War Machine from its inherent blandness.
Getting to pull many a facial expression and allowed to wave his hands around a lot (like almost every scene), Pitt's grizzled yet proud American servant McMahon flays around the place trying to win the war in the Middle East with a bunch of lackeys in tow but General McMahon's mission and the story's end goal never come close to meeting at an exciting point and McMahon as a character doesn't ever click with Pitt in a way in which his similar characters in films like Burn After Reading or Snatch did.
It's therefore a continuation of a recent string of disappointments from an actor that in the late 1990's and early 2000's was on some sort of roll.
It's even more unfortunate for Pitt and the film at large in the fact that this real life character of General McMahon is such an interesting one.
Filled with unique ideas and characters traits, War Machine does a disservice to what could've been one of the year's most intriguing feature film figures.
Final Say -
If I was involved in the financials of Netflix I would be wondering deeply about why this $60 million dollar film cost what it did.
A mostly bland and lifeless experience (that's best scene is arguably its final one featuring a cameoing A-lister), War Machine squanders its ample potential on something bordering on the wrong side of the mediocre and this high profile streaming event ends up being one of the year's biggest disappointments, especially when we all know that the talent involved is capable of so much more.
2 early morning jogs out of 5
Opening with quite literally raging giant elephants waltzing into battle, this big, dumb, loud and genuinely ADD blockbuster is anything but your typical take on the longstanding King Arthur tale.
In what's supposed to be the first of 6 new King Arthur films (this is now highly unlikely due to this films extreme flopping at the Box Office), British bad boy Guy Ritchie has once more found himself away from the small budget character and dialogue driven pieces like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch that bought him worldwide fame and instead leading the charge of a massive budget and filmmaking playground in which he can enact his particular brand of movie making magic on a Hollywood sized scale.
Ritchie's style over substance approach worked wonders with his reimaging of the Sherlock Holmes cannon and anyone familiar with those Robert Downey Jr adventures will instantly recognise similarities with Legend of the Sword, but despite the spectacle and grand visions, Legend of the Sword fails to ever properly engage and becomes a blockbuster experience that's entertaining in spits and spurts, but almost entirely forgettable once the credits begin to role.
Supposedly clocking in at around 3 hours in its original cut, you can see the legacy of Legend of the Sword's troubled production history (the film was original penned in for release last year) on the final product as it stands with many pieces of the puzzle not fitting into place as the film stands today.
Characters appear and disappear only to reappear out of nowhere, often barely allowing us time to remember their names. Sequences such as a bizarre "Dark Woods" segment or a Viking run-in feel like parts of the movie Ritchie and his screenwriters tacked on just because it seemed cool while Arthur himself as played by Charlie Hunnam never fully clicks into place as a leading man we come to care for.
Never a problem with past versions on either screen or print, Hunnam and Ritchie have made Arthur a relatively arrogant piece of work and whilst initially his roguish nature makes him seem entertaining, as the runtime wears on and his attitude remains the same, it becomes rather unappealing and with Hunnam taking the majority of the film's key character scenes, others like Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou and Aiden Gillen barely get a moment to work their supporting magic.
At least the male supports get more to do than Ritchie allows for the token females in the picture with Annabelle Wallis relegated to a few brief scenes while Astrid Bergès-Frisbey as The Mage delivers a genuinely terrible performance filled with trite dialogue and equally unfortunate delivery.
With a large amount of flaws appearing over the film like a bad case of the boils, it can't be denied that when Legend of the Sword kicks up the action it really does become an over the top ride that you can't help but enjoy despite knowing better.
Filled with Ritchie's trademark quick-fire editing, a score that ramps up tension and some great over the top fighting and foot chases, Legend of the Sword becomes a much more tolerable experience when it's forgoing the serious and focusing on the fun and while a few select sequences feel far too much like a video game come to life, Ritchie's unique talent for spectacle takes the film up a notch from where it arguably deserves to be, even if oversized snakes aren't as cool as Ritchie thinks they must be.
Final Say -
Frustrating more often than not and filled with a collection of characters we should care a lot more for, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword isn't ever going to eventuate into the series it could've been, but with Ritchie as usual providing the visual treats, this over the top retelling of a well-known tale is a fun and disposable example of Hollywood at its most bombastic.
3 retired soccer stars out of 5
I like many of you out there have seen and heard of many an odd story in my life but if you'd have told me a few years ago that I would've watched and enjoyed a film about a homeless musician/recovering drug addict that strikes up an unlikely friendship with a stray ginger cat, I would've laughed and said "you're having me on" but what makes this scenario even stranger is A Street Cat Named Bob is a film about just that, and a true story.
Seasoned director Roger Spottiswoode (the man who gave us slobbery dog comedy Turner and Hooch) finds himself here adapting James Bowen's best-selling autobiography of his drug overcoming's and heart-warming friendship with his 4 legged best mate Bob as the two help each other out and become inseparable along the way.
There's not a whole lot of "big" conflict or set-up's in A Street Cat Named Bob (unless you count cat chases as big events) but there's simple joys and emotion to be found in the small moments Bob shares with Bowen and Bowen's journey to get his life back on track is a great human interest story, no doubt helping the success of his book for all those that may not feel inclined usually to call felines a favourite.
Spottiswoode (who over uses cat POV camera moments), it could easily be argued, could've made more of key moments of Bowen's story, in particular his trials going cold-turkey off drugs that is here relatively quickly passed over in favour of more shots of Bob looking cute and while Bowen is a relatively likeable down on his luck presence in the film, you do wish you felt a little more connection to him or that he would look for a more meaningful job.
This connection issue is hard to pinpoint as Luke Treadaway does a fine job in his role even if it's a relatively thankless task trying to act alongside a cat (who here is even played mostly by the real-life Bob!) but it doesn't end up being all that important in the big scheme of things as at the heart of this tale lays a story that only the most hard-hearted of movie-goers won't enjoy and perhaps shed a tear or two at along the way.
Final Say -
It's been a long time between (milk) drinks since our last loveable feline centric hit but with A Street Cat Named Bob we have our newest whisker clad winner! It may not ever threaten to become a classic and it's sprinkled with movie-making emotional manipulation but this smile inducing true story that's told optimistically and light heartedly is a likeable event that acts as one of the year's most notable feel-good experiences.
3 1/2 cans of tuna out of 5
It's likely that we'll never fully understand just what happened to famed writer/director Paul Schrader and his once highly promising career.
The writer of Raging Bull and Taxi Driver at one time seemed like a potential once in a generation type of voice, those films clearly attest to that, but since the glory days of the late 70's and 80's, Schrader has since disappeared into being a writer and a director of such forgettable oddities as The Walker and The Canyons, that now Schrader is but a ghost of his former self, especially after his previous film The Dying of the Light ended up being the garbage that it was.
Obviously not one to retire wondering, Schrader however has once more teamed up with his Dying of the Light leading man Nicolas Cage and recruited Willem Dafoe along for the ride with his bizarre yet somehow forgettable adaptation of Edward Bunker's book, Dog Eat Dog.
Starting out in a fashion that will likely have many brows raised and jaws hanging open, Dog Eat Dog is a real oddball type of a film with sprinklings of outlandish and over the top violence, reprehensible characters and a few select zingers that showcase Schrader still does have power with words when he sets his mind to it.
Set around a recently released trio criminals who answer to Nicolas Cage's slightly more intellectual Troy, this group which includes Dafoe's drug addled Mad Dog and Christopher Cook's heavy hitting lug Diesel find themselves over petty crime and looking to score big which ends up with a scenario where Paul Schrader's (please let us never see him act on screen again) Greek offers them a job of babynapping to make a big score.
It seems as though Cage loves a good babynapping (reliving his Raising Arizona days) but Dog Eat Dog doesn't ever really seem comfortable in what it is. Some form of Americanised version of a UK classic like Snatch or a poor man's Quentin Tarantino crime yarn, I'm not quite sure and while Dog Eat Dog has a few moments of genuine shock (an attack on a police women springs to mind and will likely be remembered along the same lines as Cage's famous "punching" scene in the Wicker Man remake) and a Willem Dafoe turn that deserved a much better movie, Schrader still seems to be shooting blanks in the story telling department where he used to be shooting heavy hitting bullets.
There may just be a life for Dog Eat Dog in the cult movie dominion and midnight screening madness and while this is a step up from the dire Dying of the Light, Dog Eat Dog is by no means the work we know Schrader is capable of delivering; at least once upon a time long ago.
2 jackets out of 5
A usually charismatic presence that gives his all no matter the cause, I truly can't recall a time when I've seen acting superstar Tom Cruise looking as bored and tired as he does here, in the sequel nobody asked for and one you wish you never went back for, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.
2012's Jack Reacher didn't exactly set the world on fire, but the big screen incarnation of Lee Child's continually popular creation was a fine thriller, with some above average set pieces and production values so there was quiet optimism that new director Ed Zwick (I demand to know what has happened to the man that gave us The Last Samurai and Blood Diamond?) and returning star Cruise could at least capture that mid-level success Christopher McQuarrie's film did but alas, it was not to be.
A terribly unexciting affair that sees Reacher spend more time with his potential teenage daughter and uninteresting potential love interest Major Turner (played devoid of charisma by Cobie Smulders) as they fight bland baddies and try to discover the what's what of a shady military murder, Zwick fails to capture any of the excitement of the Reacher brand and for a big budgeted thriller that could easily provide thrills and spills, this lacklustre experience is something not even Cruise on the best form of his life would've been able to save.
Feeling like a more downtrodden and less interesting version of his Mission Impossible loving Ethan Hunt, Cruise was a stoic if unmemorable Reacher in the series first instalment but here he has become nothing more than a passenger wandering through his own aimless journey and for perhaps the first time, Cruise the action guru feels slightly too old and hampered to be what we need him to be here and maybe a decade or so ago Cruise may've enlivened the sub-par material on offer here but at current face value, it's too much for the veteran to do and his upcoming films like this year's Mummy reboot will be needing much more from this movie maverick to succeed.
Final Say -
After a disappointing run at cinemas and lukewarm at best reviews, it seems as though we may in fact never be going back to this once potentially decent series and this lame, tired and genuinely unengaging Jack Reacher adventure will likely not even be a film those many dedicated fans of Lee Child's creation can enjoy.
1 1/2 salt shakers out of 5
His got some runs on the board when it comes to schmaltzy and sentimental dramas with the likes of The Pursuit of Happyness and to a lesser extent 7 Pounds, but continuing on with a worrying amount of recent misfires, Hollywood playmaker Will Smith finds himself a side character in David Frankel's misguided and trite Collateral Beauty.
Trying all at once to be both a feel good holiday period event, a heartbreaking tale of grief, loss and of course love as well as an awkward comedy. Beauty is one of those tonally off films that very early on suggests an uneasiness with its material and despite Frankel showcasing form in the past with films like Marley and Me and The Devil Wears Prada, he along with a seriously underdeveloped A-list cast get lost in a dire story of Will Smith's depressed marketing bigwig, that never once threatens to capture our hearts.
As Smith's Howard struggles to escape the black hole of depression after his young daughter passes away, his loving (more so money hungry) colleagues in the form of Edward Norton, Michael Pena and Kate Winslet recruit the help of a trio of actors played by Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly and Jacob Latimore to pretend to be Death, Love and Time to make Howard love life again and start making money for the company.
It's a truly odd story, one that may've worked had it been handled by someone in the form of Michel Gondry or Spike Jonze but produced here with the oversaturated cheese that Hollywood is known to produce, Frankel's film feels fake, forced and forgettable as well as a curious waste of Smith's time and name brand recognition.
Relegated to what feels like a bit player in a story that is supposed to be about him, Howard gives Smith one of his worst roles outside of After Earth and Winter's Tale as we're barely allowed time or insight into Howard's life or history of what made him such a stand-up guy in the first place.
We get ample looks at Howard making domino courses, riding his bike angrily around New York City and eventually conversations he has with a token love interest in the form of Naomie Harris's grief counsellor Madeline (whose role feels completely thrown into an already overcrowded support cast) but Howard's fly-in-fly-out nature in the film supposedly about him makes us care very little for what his going through despite the fact we know we clearly should.
Final Say -
There's nothing wrong with a little Hollywood heart-string pulling but Collateral Beauty is a deserved critical and commercial flop. With a wasted cast, a rather cringe worthy story and an ending that will likely have you rolling your eyes; Frankel's film ends up being another sad chapter in Will Smith's recent career output.
1 thrown skateboard out of 5
For those seeking a warts and all biopic of Jackie Kennedy, Pablo Larrain's Oscar nominated drama Jackie may not be the film you seek but this haunting and unique look at grief, celebrity and a nation defining moment in American history is a film worthy of your attention.
Featuring what is arguable a career best turn by Natalie Portman as the titular one-time first lady, a stunning score by Mica Levi and a noteworthy American debut by Chilean director Larrain, Jackie is a transfixing experience that offers both an intriguing look at the assassination of JFK and the immediate effect it had on both the White House and more importantly Jackie Kennedy's life as we are shown brief glimpses of the couples time in office and Jackie's life as she recounts the fateful day of her husbands death to Billy Crudup's news reporter.
The attention Larrain and his team pay to this time period and detail is impeccable as we follow Jackie along her way through the hallways and rooms of the White House or tragically in the Air Force One bathroom as Jackie cleans her blood splattered face or cradles her dead husband in her arms in the back seat of the presidential motorcade.
Throughout these scenes it's Portman that remains the focus; she's the driving force of the film as Robert merely appears briefly in key moments and Larrain's camera often lingers on his leading lady in close up or for extended periods of time and we as an audience end up feeling like a fly on the wall as Jackie goes about the heartbreaking task of telling her two young children about their dad's passing or plans for JFK's funeral procession.
It's all done and shown in an untypical yet effective manner, we feel Jackie's pain even if it's all very far from the usual Hollywood mode of biopics or similar politically tinged dramas. There are no big outlandish moments for Portman to attention grab and no over-dramatized awards baiting moments, while Larrain refrains from big set-pieces, instead focusing on the smaller scale moments with only a relatively misjudged extended White House tour showcase feeling like an overused plot device in a film that's otherwise plotted out at a neat pace.
A mostly fascinating experience featuring one of 2016's most fully formed central performances, Jackie is a must watch for political aficionado's or those that seek their drama with a healthy dose of intensity as Jackie ends up being a shining of the light on a terrible, yet history making time in the life of one of America's most impressive first ladies.
4 cello recitals out of 5