The Irishman (2019) Review

Watch this as soon as you can…

The Irishman is exactly what you would expect from a Scorsese film:  a darkly comic tone, amazing performances, an inviting cinematography and a great soundtrack. It is extremely watchable and, despite being three and a half hours long, the time flies past quickly. Inventive editing and good pacing help with this, as with any Scorsese film. Despite being a fantastic film, The Irishman is not Scorsese’s best, even if it does include many of the things that make his film great.

Three and a half hours never flew by so quickly. In particular, the first and final acts are extremely well paced. The film moves with control and purpose, sweeping you in along for the ride. The second act is a bit more boring, and one finds it harder to remain engaged, but this does not ruin the overall experience. It simply means that if Scorsese were forced to trim down The Irishman for a theatrical release, it would likely be some of the scenes in the middle section he would cut down. Yes, the film could have been a bit shorter, but this does not mean the film feels like a three and a half hour drag. If you need to pass the time for four hours, this film will do the trick.

What makes it so watchable is the performances. A lot has been reported about the budget of $150 million and the use of de-ageing technology, but you immediately forget about all that once the film starts. It is barely noticeable. Whilst this may be credited to the effectiveness of the technology, it has more to do with the compelling nature of the three lead performances. Robert De Niro plays Frank Sheeran, a hitman desensitised to murder and crime. He is cold, calm and quiet for much of the film, but the steady growth of regret feels organic and authentic due to this core performance. Pesci, coming out of retirement, offers a great performance too, playing a polite and quiet mob boss, but one with a sinister flicker in his eye. Al Pacino steals the show, though. One has to take a double take when he appears on screen. His performance is so three dimensional it is hard to believe it is a performance at all. All of them, despite capturing the cold darkness of the mob life, also execute the dark humour to perfection too. The performances make this film work as well as it does.

Of course, Scorsese’s direction is superb too. The transitions between scenes and the pacing keep the film feeling as brisk as it does. The cinematography was inviting. There are many memorable shots and pleasing camera movements. A lot of creativity with the camera too, as always, such as when the scene depicts screenshots/photographs of the characters. Like always, the soundtrack is expertly chosen. It enhances every scene and helps build tone, whilst also being pleasing to listen in its own right.

Unfortunately, all of this can be said of any Scorsese film. And many of his previous efforts have done all this to a higher standard, and in less time. Whilst this is a fantastic film in its own right, one many directors can only dream of making, The Irishman is not quite good enough to break the top tier of Martin Scorsese films.


Knives Out (2019) Review

Watch this as soon as you can…

Knives Out is absolutely brilliant. Directed by Rian Johnson (The Last Jedi), it is a homage to the murder mystery/whodunnit film, such as the adaptations of Agatha Christie, but updated for the modern day. Not based on any source material, the film is original, despite being very clearly influenced by an established genre. It knows the whodunnit genre inside out, and knows exactly what the audience knows too. Backed up by a stellar cast and consistently amusing writing, Knives Out is a must see. A pure delight.

The performances from everyone in this ensemble cast are superb. This helps make the characters fascinating. Daniel Craig plays Benoit Blanc: an amusingly overwritten character that is a joy to watch. The Deep South accent is deliberately cliched but pleasing to the ear. Chris Evans, fresh out of Avengers: Endgame, plays the asshole outsider who relishes in being the most hated one in the room. The rest of the cast play the family of the deceased very well. They all appear to be caring, but ultimately selfish, in their own ways. Every character is memorable and entirely unique in comparison to all the others. Watching them all interact within the confined space of the mansion (magnificently brought to life by the set designer, who gave the mansion a character of its own), is so much fun. You want to learn more about them as the mystery at the heart of this homage to the whodunnit genre unravels.

What also helps is the writing. There are some great lines here. The one about donuts is brilliant for being absolutely dumb and convoluted. The “twisted web” one sounds like it is taken straight from a pulp fiction novel, but it is delivered well and fits the tone. “CSI:KFC” hits the funny bone hard as well. The over the top tone of the dialogue, walking a fine line between dumb and brilliant, adds welcome sprinkles to an already well-written narrative. Expectations are subverted throughout. It is relentless. Most mystery films have a good five or ten minutes to allow the audience to digest what they have learned following a big twist. But the twists keep on coming regularly and until the very end. This film has a remarkably tight grasp on audience expectation and knowledge. It knows how to trick you into thinking you finally have all the answers, only to twist that on its head, and then twist it back again to what you originally thought. Even the “reveal” scene necessary to all whodunnits is not safe from the constant subversion of expectations.

Many of these twists and turns serve to help shape this film’s message. Ana de Armas plays a Brazilian nurse called Marta. At the centre of the story, Armas delivers one of the most compelling performances of the film. The entire film is about her treatment within the family. From the beginning, you know all you need to know: Marta was not allowed to go to the funeral, despite being closest to the deceased. She is not “real” family, even her supposedly closest friend tells her. Whether the family member is an outright racist, an internet troll, or someone pretending to be woke and caring about Marta’s struggles, they all hold her in contempt. Without giving too much away, there are layers upon layers of different character knowledge at play throughout the film. To get the most out of the film’s message, pay attention to Marta is treated as these revelations appear. Knives Out may be a lot of fun, with an exhausting amount of twists and turns, but it has a lot to say too.

Rian Johnson, for better or worse, is known for manipulating expectations. Think you know everything will happen before the film begins? You do not. With The Last Jedi, this received some backlash for apparent contradictions with the rest of the franchise lore of Star Wars. Knives Out has no such ties. You can enjoy these clever twists, subverted expectations, convincing red herrings and deceptive characters without worrying about whether hyperspace can really be used like that. Performances and writing blend together perfectly to create a satisfying and thrilling whodunnit. There is not a word to describe the fun and enjoyable nature of this film. Released in the UK on 27th November, look for your cinema’s next available showtime. Watch it as soon as you can!


Frozen II (2019) Review

Wait until you can stream it…

Another sequel snowed under the high quality of the original. The original Frozen was so memorable, in fact, that the sequel seems desperate to rehash elements, rather than remember to tell its own story. The songs and goofy humour have not melted away just yet, and the cast do not let the side down, but the snow feels a lot less fresh, turning into more of slush.

To be fair, the animation has improved over the last six years. The animation is a rainbow of creativity and magic. The animators have captured the beauty of autumn. A particularly impressive element of the CGI in this film: how water is rendered. The characters, particularly Elsa (Idina Menzel), have also been designed to the highest standard, and rendered so that the film looks crisp and well put together.

Most sequels can say that they look better than the original, though; like most sequels, Frozen II falls short in other regards.  Like the original, Robert Lopez return and Kristen Anderson-Lopez deliver the songs. However, there is no “Let It Go” to get stuck in your head this time. The songs are much more forgettable and far less catchy. It is not just the songs that have got worse. Despite Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee returning to direct, the narrative has lost its drive. The film meanders through its obligatory existence. Anna’s  desire to bring her sister home has been swapped for Elsa’s lethargic curiosity about her past. Whilst the fun and energetic humour has not disappeared, this is not enough to justify the existence of a sequel. Grasping to good story is essential. Alas, Buck and Lee let it go.

What makes this worse is the fact the original is rehashed so heavily. Olaf acts out a brief summary at one point. Elsa goes to a cave to literally rehear dialogue from the first film. There is another quest to go on too, as you would expect. Sequels are often worse than the original. If you are going to disappoint, though, at least deliver a more filling plot not so reliant on remembering the original.

Disney rarely releases theatrical sequels to their animated films. If you have ever wondered why most Disney classics have Direct to Video sequels, Frozen II is your answer. The humour and the songs are there, but the season for magic and wonder (and good plotting) has passed.

Retrospective Reviews: I, Daniel Blake (2016)

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I, Daniel Blake (2016) and Sorry We Missed You (2019) are often described as companion pieces. Not because they feature the same set of characters. Rather, they are both war cries for the forgotten and the neglected in Tory Britain, depicting a very impersona and careless benefits system. Yet, this film also depicts a lot of heart and humanity, making it a moving watch. Ken Loach’s 2016 film is a well-deserved Palme d’Or winner.

Another thing both films have in common is a thoughtful script from Paul Laverty. Telling the story of the detached (mis)treatment of a widower with heart problems deemed “fit to work” and unworthy of benefits he desperately needs, and a single mother starving in the fifth richest country in the world, the story and the dialogue is notable for its detail, adding to its authenticity. For example, the benefits system is “digital by default”, isolating Daniel (Dave Johns) who is “pencil by default”. It is another subtle way people in the North of England are made to feel like they do not fit into the world around them. The script (along with the excellent direction) captures a solemn tone of depression, whilst also depicting the admirable stoicism of the people suffering in this life. In this script, we get a lot of what is most moving about life in Tory Britain, as well as what is most tragicomic. You’ll often find yourself crying, unsure whether it is laughter or tears. Perhaps both.

Certainly one of the most moving sequences has to be the one in the food back. It is heart-breaking but respectful. Katie feels utterly humiliated and desperate, but the film never presents her in a condescending way. It tracks Katie in near silence, the camera distant but attentive, as this were a documentary, as she encounters what must be real people working at food banks, rather than actors. Their inclusion really adds to the scene regardless, as they are understanding and sympathetic as Katie breaks down, making it all the more moving. In this sequence, there is a real anger at the country Britain has become since 2010, and the system that has reduced Katie to this state. The sequence is crushingly authentic, moving one to tears and anger at the same time.  Katie is suffering in a Britain at its most cold. Its most blue, you might say.

This film is all the more powerful thanks to its wonderful lead performances. Hayley Squires captures the desperation of Katie perfectly. Dave Johns, a stand up comic, proves a brilliant choice for this drama. He is defiant and resilient, a caring father figure but an angry victim of an indifferent benefits system.

If you are an undecided voter in the UK, this is another film you need to see. Whilst it is a brilliant and moving film, it is a great shame that it exists. In another timeline, perhaps it still exists, but as a dystopian fantasy, rather than an accurate reflection of life in Tory Britain.

Retrospective Reviews: Sorry We Missed You (2019)

Watch this as soon as you can…

Ken Loach’s 2019 film is a moving drama that may influence how you vote in the next UK General Election, if you watch it this week. It is difficult to conceive of a film more reflective of the exploitation of zero hours contracts than Loach’s Sorry We Missed You.

Ricky is sold the lie that he can run his own business. Instead of earning wages, he gets “fees” instead. He does not work for the company. Rather, he works with them. Seems great when framed like that. His wife is a carer, and not doing great herself. This seems like a good opportunity for Ricky, until he signs up. This means he has no workers rights, and vulnerable to exploitation from the company, and lacking in protections and guarantees afforded to most workers. This is a new phenomenon that, along with austerity policies, will come to define the Tory decade in government.

And what a harsh decade it has been. Ken Loach has expertly chosen his settings to remind us of this. The film is set in Newcastle, not depicted on screen enough, making this film refreshing. But it is a Newcastle under an overcast sky for the most part. Throughout, the atmosphere is exhausting and bleak. There are many fades to black, emphasising the despondency of the characters.

From this backdrop, and the premise, comes an emotionally gut-punching film. It is well-acted, to the point, at only 100 minutes in length, and all too real. It is detailed- the research done beforehand was clearly thorough. But this is not just a documentary depicting facts and figures. It represents an economic development, accepted as progress and a new part of our lives, having a very cold and harsh impact on people’s lives. This attack on zero hours contract is even more compelling as a result. Without characters you really come to care for, backed up by raw performances with a sense of purity, it wouldn’t work. Zero hours contracts are not the golden opportunity we have all been led to believe, and this film is excellent at hammering this point home.

For those who do know what these conditions are like, surely it is another reason to vote Labour this coming Thursday. Get the Tories out, to make films like Sorry We Missed You a dystopian fantasy rather than a lucid reflection of reality.

Retrospective Reviews: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Watch this as soon as you can…

“This is not going to go the way you think,” says Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill),  early in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Apparently not a meta reference to the fan backlash against this movie, and the reason why The Rise of Skywalker is not receiving the same hype, this quote does encapsulate the film. For better or worse, this film takes the decades old saga in a new direction, forcing either love or hate in response. Hopefully Knives Out proves less divisive for Rian Johnson…

Of course, not everything has been changed. Rian Johnson’s film does not borrow so heavily from the past as The Force Awakens, but there are clear parallels between Episode VIII and the two direct sequels to A New Hope: The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Some parallels: the Resistance is on the defensive against an aggressive First Order, the protagonist is being trained by an old Jedi master, and characters have to choose between the light and dark side of the force. The music is familiarly grand and captivating, even if unsurprising. There are also the tense light-saber battles, creatively designed aliens, and dogfights in space one would expect from a Star Wars film.

However, Rian Johnson is much more comfortable with letting “the past die”. Big twists surrounding parentage do not replicate famous twists from the original trilogy. The big light-saber battle at the end involves characters on both sides of the force working together, leading to a memorable scene with on an impressively designed set and some thrilling choreography. Characters return, but not as they were before. For example, Luke is back, but his youthful, idealistic heroism is not. Hamill portrays Luke as damaged and disillusioned, sarcastic and bitter. It is his strongest, most layered and moving performance in the series.  These changes are still extremely controversial as fans debate whether the person who turned Darth Vader from the dark side would give up on Kylo Ren. People change. Time chips away at the spirit, so it is not too far fetched to believe Luke would lose his unwavering belief in good. Your enjoyment of this film will ultimately be determined by whether you can buy this change or not, though.

Other changes are harder to justify. There are changes to Star Wars lore, particularly with regards to the use of hyperspace. The way hyperspace is used does make for one of the most stunning shots in Star Wars history. It is truly jaw dropping and unforgettable, even two years on. However, stunning shots do not justify themselves in everyone’s view. Perhaps everyone could have been impressed if Johnson took the time to explain why hyperspace can now be used differently. You cannot fault the shot, but you can criticise Johnson for not explaining changes to established rules of the series. Spiderman can’t suddenly have a gun sticking out of his arm, right? It needs to be explained.

The Last Jedi will always be controversial. Many consider it an abomination. Others consider it the only rival to The Empire Strikes Back. Regardless of what you think, it is important to recognise the good and the bad for a balanced view. The Last Jedi brings back everything great about the series so far, and is not afraid to change things to offer fresh sources of excitement and drama. The Last Jedi could have done more to fit in with the established continuity. Perhaps more backstory for Luke to explain his drastic change, or an explanation for changes to the use of hyperspace. Change is good, but easier to digest when done slowly and with consideration.

Retrospective Reviews: Watchmen (2009)

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With the release of HBO’s Watchmen series, there is no better time to take a retrospective look at Zack Snyder’s Watchmen from 2009. Adapted from Alan Moore’s DC Vertigo graphic novel of the same name, there is a lot to like about this film. It is not your typical superhero story, with a bold opening, subversion of superhero tropes throughout, and an original style of cinematography to impress from start to finish. You may not be enjoying the HBO series, but do not let that dampen your enjoyment of this underrated gem.

One rarely feels the need to talk about the credits in a review of a movie, but you have to with Watchmen. It is a novel idea: the credits provide 3D snapshots of the relevant context leading up to the film’s main events, with the camera dollying through them. All of this plays out to the sound of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin'”, the first of many superb soundtrack choices. This is a brilliant choice for two reasons. One, the relevant context depicted is an alternative history, so history is changing. Two, it is a song about political change for the better, so there is a sad irony, a defeatism, to it being played as we watch this alternative history take such a dark route. It is a great way to get the audience up to speed without relying on exposition. Many DCEU fans hoped Snyder, the director of Watchmen and many of the DCEU films, would use this idea to world-build as an alternative to Marvel’s post-credit scenes, and it is easy to see why.

Off the back of a powerful, shocking opening, Watchmen hooks you from the start. It is one of the superhero genre’s greatest weaknesses that one always feels like “the superhero won’t die”, no matter what happens. Yet, Watchmen opens with the cold blooded murder of a superhero; a murder that serves as a springboard for the noir style story to come. Not only is The Comedian murdered, but he is murdered brutally, with some painful choreography during the fight, and he is murdered in his own home, in his dressing gown, when you would expect a superhero to be at their safest. The opening feels like a violation of everything we have come to expect about superhero films, making it one of the most memorable openings in the genre as a whole.

This subversion of the superhero genres continues throughout, particularly with The Comedian. Watchmen is R-Rated, ten years  before R-Rated superhero films were in vogue. It is easy to see why. After the brutal murder, we a flashback of The Comedian as he attempts to rape Silk Spectre. We also see him murder a Vietnamese woman pregnant with his child. Changing our perspective of the opening murder immediately, we have to wonder: this particular superhero had it coming, right? We also see him getting drunk and crying, using his old arch nemesis as a shoulder to cry on, changing our perspective of him again. The subversion does not just apply to The Comedian. Superhero characters get unmasked, they are depicted having sex, and even the ending takes an unexpected route. If you are getting tired of formulaic superhero films, Watchmen is the film for you.

Added to this is some impressive and creative cinematography. The first shot of Adrian is depicted through the small screen on a camera. The dolly zooms into the smiley face badge are memorable and suggest its symbolic significance. A giant Dr. Manhattan appears in an Apocalypse Now style shot of the Vietnam landscape, with the orange sky and helicopters serving as a backdrop. Another shot is fixed as it depicts Rorschach approaching a criminal, but we only see suggestive glimpses as the door between them and the camera keeps swinging open and closed. This may be a film adaptation of a graphic novel, but that does not mean it has to be any less creative in its telling of the story.

The new television series may be dividing fans, but at least fans have this visceral adaptation of the original work to admire. The cinematography is fun and imaginative. The superhero genre is subverted throughout. Even if you do not like the whole film, the opening, and even the credits, will arrest your attention. Who watches the Watchmen? The answer is you should.

The Good Liar (2019) Review

Wait until you can stream it…

The opening credits aptly summarises the film. The credits are typed on a loud typewriter. It sounds as tired as it is cliched. Yet, it looks good. The lighting is striped and slanted. It looks like a street lamp illuminating a wall on a dark street. It looks good, despite being quite boring and unexciting. (It is also seemingly irrelevant, as none of the main characters write, and both of them are tech savy enough to be using a dating app in the very next scene.)The Good Liar fits this description too. It is remarkably well polished, but there is very little to excite.

It goes without saying that the performances from the two leads are the film’s strongest assets. Ian McKellen, in particular, offers a splendid performance as Roy Courtnay. The way he changes from sweet to callus is as masterful and expertly controlled as one would expect. It is a joy to watch. Helen Mirren is also superb. Seeing these two masters of acting together for the first time is a good reason to come and see this film.

However, the rest of the film fails to maintain interest. Like the opening credits, it plods along slowly and without demanding attention, despite looking good. There are some creative shots, particularly depicting McKellen. The camera dollies in and out of his face at one point, and arcs around it in the next. The action in this film is well-choreographed, particularly the struggle for the gun, or the scene in the butchers. Scenes like this prove you do not need an bombastic score and fast paced editing to build tension (although, the score in this film is stimulating and memorable, as it should be in a thriller). With its two stars and interesting cinematography, you would think this film would work.

Yet, it does not. There are too many plots and twists for genuine interest to truly develop. The best demonstration of this, without spoiling the film, is the characterisation of Courtnay. One minute he is a violent gangster like figure. The next he is a sly con man. Whilst a good opportunity to demonstrate McKellen’s range, it feels like two characters rolled into one. Also, these plots depicting Courtnay as a violent criminal do not satisfactorily tie in with the main plot: the scam. This scam is then turned on its head by a twist. You do not see this twist coming, but is that because the story is well-told or because, by the end, you struggle to care?

This film is well-polished, with great performances and an appealing style about the cinematography. The score is thrilling too, and there is a good idea for a plot twist in there. Sadly, the rest of the film does not hold up. Perhaps a focus on the main plot would have helped make this film more enjoyable. It feels cluttered and plodding. The best liar of them all seems to be the marketer, for convincing the world this would be a memorable film.

Luce (2019) Review

Watch this as soon as you can…

Despite a seemingly low-stakes premise, this thriller is worth your time. It has thought provoking things to say about some key issues, and still finds the time to keep you invested with gripping twists and turns. Great performances and a memorable score, too, work to make this thriller well worth your time.

The performances are fantastic across the board. Kelvin Harrison Jr. offers the strongest and most layered one as Luce. He can never be placed nor figured out: is that genuine friendliness, or does one detect a hidden anger? This reflects the dual nature of his name: “Luce” meaning “light”, but also short for Lucifer. Is he being truthful or deceptive? One never truly knows, and this mystery keeps you hooked. Octavia Spencer plays his suspicious teacher, determined to get to the truth of Luce’s behaviour. Naomi Watts and Tim Roth play Luce’s two torn parents, struggling to work out whether they truly know their son or not. Every character feels alive and real, and we have performances from a high calibre cast of actors.

So strong are the performances, even the weakest lines of dialogue seem convincing. Regardless, the dialogue could have been much stronger. Based on a play by JC Lee of the same name, you would think the dialogue and the script would be the film’s strongest asset. Yet, many of the lines come across as overly theoretical and contrived. The characters are frequently making good points, but feel essayistic, and inorganic. Another problem is that the script wants to discuss important issues, such as institutional racism, sexual assault and mental health care, and can provoke a lot of thought on these subjects at moments, but the film does not discuss any of them with any depth. Perhaps the film would have benefited from focusing on one, and then have the characters talk about it in a more natural way.

Nevertheless, there is a lot to like here. The score is very effective at creating tension and raising the stakes. This film has been described as a thriller, but if you read a summary of the plot, you may wonder why. No one dies. The main characters are not at risk of a mental breakdown. There is nothing supernatural about the story. In comparison to other thrillers, the stakes will seem quite down to earth and realistic. Instead of finding a gun in a student locker, fireworks are found. Instead of lives, jobs and university places are on the line. Yet, the score keeps tension building. The performances, as said, are superb, and help keep you invested in them and the mystery of whether to believe Luce or Mrs. Wilson. The twists and turns provide a rollercoaster ride, despite the seemingly low-scale plot.

With an interesting mystery to solve and various twists along the way, this thriller is certain to grab your interest and hold it well, even when the dialogue does falter. Backed up by strong performances and a memorable score, Luce is definitely worth a watch.

The Aeronauts (2019) Review

Watch this as soon as you can…

The Aeronauts, from Amazon Studios, realises journeys into the sky are a double edged sword. There is a lot to stare at in wonder, but it is also a trip filled with risk. Both sides are captured to great effect, creating an entertaining film with a strong lead performance from Felicity Jones. It is just a great shame the story seems so desperate to ground itself for much of its run time. Its best moments are in the air, not down on Earth.

You would think a journey into the skies would be a mesmerising and stunning one, and this film does not disappoint. The cinematography captures the beauty of this journey into the air perfectly. Close ups of the sun shining on James (Eddie Redmayne) and establishing shots of the balloon in the air (it getting smaller and more distant each time) look superb. It makes one want to go up there, despite the danger Amelia (Felicity Jones) and James find themselves in.

The cinematography is more than up to the task of capturing the tumultuous and dangerous nature of the air. From the opening, the camera cuts between close ups of the two lead characters, Amelia and James, in distress and cuts to black. The effect is disorientating and chaotic, reminding one of many films where the ship finds themselves in the middle of a storm. Given the fact the title sounds very similar to the word “argonauts”, this is a very apt style to imitate. The perilous nature of the journey is effectively created throughout, with arc shots of the hot air balloon rising into dark clouds, and the Gravity-like shot of the camera spinning in free fall as Amelia falls off the balloon. A memorable score, soft and gentle in moments, constantly rising and swelling in intensity the next, adds much to a surprisingly action packed film. The journey into the air is a thrilling and entertaining one.

Further proof of the brutal nature of the journey can be found in the makeup and effects. The bruises look repulsively real, and when Amelia begins to freeze as the balloon rises further than ever before, she genuinely looks like she is suffering through a living death. The ice in her eyelashes and the changing colour of her skin are neat touches that add authenticity and realism to the drama.

It is such a shame, then, that the film spends so much time on the ground. Jack Thorne’s script is too reliant on flashbacks, as if Thorne did not trust us to maintain interest in a film set only in the confined space of a hot air balloon. The film follows a simple and overused present scene to flashback structure that detracts from the film. The scenes up in the air are when the film soars highest, and if the film spent more time up there, it would have benefited.

Nevertheless, Felicity Jones’ performance as Amelia keeps even the slower, boring moments interesting. She offers a great turn as Amelia, portraying her as a risk taker, but one with intelligence. She comes across as resourceful and smart, but also defiant and willing to have fun. She brings a lot of charisma to the film, making up for a bit of an underwhelming performance from Eddie Redmayne, who is playing the same awkward, brainy type he always seems to play. It is fine, but he brings nothing new nor exciting.

Whilst you do have to sit through the far less exciting flashbacks on the ground, the thrilling scenes in the sky more than make up for it. There is a sense of wonder and a sense of danger, carefully balanced throughout the sequences set in the sky. Holding both halves of the film together is a show-stealing performance from Felicity Jones. What could have been a boring historical drama is elevated to great heights by her performance and very effective cinematography. This is a film to see as soon as possible, before it floats away out of cinemas.