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Operation Mincemeat

Director – John Madden – 2021 – UK – Cert. 12a – 127m

*****

The British WW2 deception involving a corpse and fake documents to make Germany think the Allies are landing in Greece rather than Sicily – out in cinemas on Friday, April 15th

At the height of World War II, the Allies plan a mass landing at Sicily. They want the Germans to think it’s going to happen in Greece to reduce Allied casualties. In a Whitehall Admiralty basement operates the Twenty Committee, so-called after its initials XX (or double-cross) and its work managing double or triple agents (this work of the committee isn’t really alluded to in the film although a British triple agent appears later on and plays a fairly important part in the plot, which will include some racy if subtly understated physical sexual activity). On the floors above are top brass Admiral John Godfrey (Jason Isaacs) and his assistant Ian Fleming (Johnny Flynn), the latter devouring novels and constantly bashing out prose on his typewriter in every spare moment.

The office in the basement itself is run with a rod of iron by the fearsome Hester Leggett (Penelope Wilton) while the Committee’s top man is Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth), a former Old Bailey lawyer whose friends believe to be in charge of naval supplies.… Read the rest

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The Battle At Lake Changjin II aka Water Gate Bridge (Zhang Jin Hu, 长津湖之水门桥)

Director – Tsui Hark – 2022 – China – Cert. 15 – 153m

**

Ill-considered sequel to box office barnstorming, Chinese war movie fails to match the emotional engagement and excitement of the original – out in cinemas on Friday, February 11th

After the exciting and energetic original, this sequel is a disappointment. It has the same expertise of CG special effects as its predecessor. However the cast is cut down, many of the memorable characters having died heroically in the first film, and there’s no attempt to replace them. Similarly, the spectacular locations are fewer in number because there’s no journey from home through different regions, so this has a smaller geographical palette to play with.

The cast of characters issue would be easy enough to fix within the war genre: members of a military unit die, others come to the fore to replace them in the vacuum created. But no, here all we get are People’s Volunteer Army (PVA) 7th Company commander Wu Qianli (Wu Jing) and his younger brother Wu Wanli (Jackson Lee) and no real attempt to further develop their relationship under fire. The two characters are just there, and the audience is expected to carry over their emotional investment from the first film without the second one providing any reason for doing so.… Read the rest

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The Battle At Lake Changjin (Zhang Jin Hu, 长津湖)

Directors – Chen Kaige, Dante Lam, Tsui Hark – 2021 – China – Cert. 15 – 176m

*****

Chinese war movie which has barnstormed the global box office does exactly what it says on the tin – out in cinemas on Friday, November 19th

There is a history of war films with a cast of thousands being directed by several (usually three) directors in an attempt to portray campaigns with huge military logistics on the screen. Probably the best known are The Longest Day (Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernard Wicki, 1962) about the World War Two Allied invasion of Normandy and Tora! Tora! Tora! (Richard Fleischer, Toshio Matsuda, Kinji Fukasaku, 1970) about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Both of those Western (and, as it happens, Twentieth Century Fox) movies presented both sides of the conflict by hiring directors from the different countries concerned.

The big difference between them and Chinese global box office phenomenon The Battle At Lake Changjin is that although the latter film deals with a conflict in which the Chinese are pitted against the Americans, all three directors are Chinese. Tsui (Zu Warriors, 1983; Once Upon A Time In China, 1991) at least has some working knowledge of America, having studied film in Texas.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Getting Away With Murder(s)

Director – David Nicholas Wilkinson – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 175m

*****

Most of the perpetrators of the Holocaust were never prosecuted: this documentary attempts to understand why not – out in cinemas on Friday, October 1st, the 75th anniversary of the end of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg

There’s something about the enormity of the issues involved here that makes this a very tough watch. (If it wasn’t, there would be something wrong. The Holocaust is not an easy issue to deal with. Films about it can consequently be tough to watch. And so they should be.) That combined with the near three-hour running time (this is not a complaint, honest) means it sat on my pending review pile for quite a while before I finally sat down and watched it.

I suspect Wilkinson is aware of this problem. As the film starts, he takes you (as it were) gently by the hand as he walks into Auschwitz and matter-of-factly discusses its horrors, helped by a man who works in the museum there and has probably helped numerous people before and since to come to terms with the implications of the place as they go round it.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Getting Away With Murder(s)

State-sanctioned killing

Getting Away With Murder(s)
Directed by David Nicholas Wilkinson
Certificate 15, 175 minutes
Released 1 October

The industrial extermination of the Holocaust included most infamously some six million Jews but also smaller numbers of other groups including Poles, gay men, the disabled and political dissidents, some 11 million people in all. It remains a stark reminder of the evil of which human beings at their worst are capable.

Getting Away With Murder(s) is a consistently compelling documentary which approaches this atrocity from an angle we’ve not really seen before: why were 99% of the perpetrators never held to account for their crimes?

The filmmaker David Wilkinson takes his camera to the sites of specific events, from the Auschwitz death camps… [read more]

Full review published in October 2021 issue of Reform.

See also my alternative review on this site.

Trailer:

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Wife Of A Spy (Supai no Tsuma, スパイの妻)

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2020 – Japan – 115m

****1/2

A Japanese businessman’s wife decides to help her husband after discovering he is passing inflammatory state secrets to the Americans – out on MUBI in the UK and Ireland on Wednesday, September 8th

1940, Kobe, Japan. British silk trader John Fitzgerald Drummond is arrested by the Kenpetai then released thanks in part to his friend and business associate Yusaku Fukuhara (Issey Takahashi from Shin Godzilla, Hideaki Anno, 2014; Kill Bill Vols 1 & 2, Quentin Tarantino, 2003 & 4; Whisper Of The Heart, Yoshifumi Kondo, 1995), who defends him against Officer Taiji Tsumori (Masahiro Higashide from Foreboding, 2017; Before We Vanish, 2017; Creepy, 2016 – all Kiyoshi Kurosawa), a childhood friend of Yusaku’s wife Satoko (Yu Aoi from Killing, Shinya Tsukamoto, 2018; Journey To The Shore, Kurosawa, 2015 and much else). (Europeans are systematically being arrested, with the exception of Axis power nationals Germans and Italians.)

As Fukuhara and his nephew Fumio Takeshita (Ryota Bando) travel abroad to Manchuria, Satako invites Taiji to her house for a whisky, but once there he berates her for the drink being Western- not Japanese-made and suggests she should wear traditional Japanese clothes rather than Western dresses.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Dunkirk

Director – Christopher Nolan – 2017 – UK – Cert. 12a – 106m

*****

Review originally published in DMovies.org. On Amazon Prime from Thursday, April 1st.

British filmmaker Christopher Nolan – now one of the highest-grossing film directors in history, with the Dark Knight trilogy under his belt – has created a complex and multilayered film that cleverly interweaves three separate narrative strands: 1) on land over a week a young soldier (Fionn Whitehead) after he arrives alone at Dunkirk beach and falls in with others (including the music superstar and heartthrob Harry Styles); 2) on sea over a day a small, requisitioned, civilian boat (crew: three) go to bring home trapped combatants; and 3) in the air over an hour three Spitfires fly a sortie.

Nolan is fascinated by time and runs these in parallel so that an incident partly revealed in one strand is later retold in another revealing more. There’s a constant sense of the clock ticking differently in the three time frames: mind-bending and exhilarating stuff.

Full review at DMovies.org.

On Amazon Prime from Thursday, April 1st.

Trailers:

Original UK theatrical release: Friday, July 21st 2017.

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

My Favorite War

Director – Ilze Burkovska Jacobsen – 2020 – Latvia, Norway – Cert. N/C 12+ – 77m

****

Autobiographical documentary employs cut-out animation to describe a childhood in Latvia when it was part of the Soviet UnionGlasgow Film Festival Thursday, February 25th to Sunday, February 28th

In World War Two. Latvia was caught between the Nazis and the Russians. After the Nazis capitulated, the country was absorbed into the Soviet Union. Ilze’s grandfather, a small farmer, was declared an Enemy of the State and sent to Siberia because he owned a small piece of land. Her Communist Party member father became a City Manager but he was killed in a car crash leaving her mother to bring up her and her brother alone.

At age three, Ilze’s parents risk everything by taking her to a forbidden beach a few miles from their home just so their young daughter can see the sea. This is the self-proclaimed “happiest country in the world” where party officials can queue jump and take the last pack of butter, where peace is paramount but shooting lessons are mandatory at school. As Ilze grows, she must keep quiet about all sorts of things or her mother will lose her job.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Capital In The 21st Century

Director – Justin Pemberton – 2019 – France, New Zealand – Cert. 12 – 103m

*****

An adaptation of Thomas Piketty’s controversial economic treatise Capital In The 21st Century – in cinemas from Friday, September 25th

The content of French economist Thomas Piketty’s eponymous book couldn’t be more relevant. Far from being dry economics, Piketty’s thesis begins that there has always been a minority of wealthy people whose wealth derives from nothing more than being born into wealth. They have done nothing to merit wealth. They do not own it because of any sort of achievement.

The industrial revolution, he argues, gave those with capital (financial assets) the means to substantially increase the amount of capital they own.

Throughout history, the rich have not looked after the whole of society but rather have merely defended their own interests, i.e. maintaining and if possible increasing their position of wealth. They have shown a disdain for the other 99% of people. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, society was broken into those two groups, wealthy and poor.

The rise of the middle class after World War One changed everything, with middle class people wanting their say in how things were run. Changes since the 1970s however threaten the power of the middle class and we may be seeing a return to a majority of very poor people beholden to a wealthy minority – unless we take the action necessary to prevent it.… Read the rest

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The Painted Bird (Nabarvené ptáče)

Director – Václav Marhoul – 2019 – Czech Republic – Cert. 18 – 169m

****1/2

An orphan boy meets a series of adults, a few kind but most cruel, travelling around Eastern Europe during World War Twoin cinemas and online at Amazon, BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema, IFI@HOME, Rio Cinema Online and Vimeo On Demand in the UK from Friday, September 11th

You’re really not quite sure where you are for the first hour of this mammoth Czech production stuffed with Hollywood stars speaking not a word in English. A boy (Petr Kotlár) whose name we won’t discover until the film’s final minutes flees through a wood before being caught by bullies who burn and kill his pet ferret.

That proves prophetic because soon afterwards at night, he discovers that his aunt, with whom he lives, has died upright in her chair. He is so startled that he knocks over an oil lamp and burns the house down. Now he’s an orphan at the mercy of the world, which is not a pleasant one being Eastern Europe at the time of the second world war. The rural people are primitive. Christianity is largely a matter of ritual and superstition; belief in vampires is so widespread that a local witch can claim the boy is a vampire and be believed.… Read the rest