Based on the highly awarded and sometimes controversial novel of the same name by author Lois Lowry. Published in 1993, the novel has echoes of famous dystopian novels from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. The story is set in a society that is at first presented as utopian, but which Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), a young boy who has been selected as the receptacle for past memories of the human race, discovers has a much darker side. The society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to “Sameness,” a plan that has also eradicated emotional depth from the community’s life. At the same time, other fundamental things have been lost. Many critics note that the mystic vitality of the book has not carried over into the film, in which the sheer improbability of the narrative development and sloppy linking of the complex thematic material undermine dramatic impact. Directed by Phillip Noyce, the film’s A-list cast announces this as a prestige production for young adults, with Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Alexander Skarsgard and Taylor Swift just some of the big names to feature. The film has considerable visual grace but it does not look deep enough into the source material to be really thought-provoking.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
The first movie, Sin City, back in 2005, was a revelation of how the moods and styles of a noir graphic novel could be transferred to the big screen. This second iteration, as sequels inevitably have to do, ups the ante and teases us with a powerful blend of sex, violence and general mayhem. Director Robert Rodriguez does not even seem particularly interested in creating something original, and has opted for a plot which cribs heavily from the first film, and stacks the film with a surfeit of warmed-over tough-guy talk that strives ineffectively for depth. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is an exercise in style, and it has that in spades, but it is too eager to put it all on show and bounces the audience from one bloody atrocity to the next, not giving the audience any time to drink in the dank, dark fumes of Sin City’s seedy streets. The cast is a powerhouse of well-known American names, with the likes of Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Eva Green, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Josh Brolin all taking their place in the lineup of characters who variously smash, pummel, decapitate, main, shoot or otherwise wreck self-destructive vengeance on each other. For fans, you probably wouldn’t want it any other way, but for the rest, the pointless mayhem, faux soul and the crudely manipulative sexuality get stale pretty quickly.
The second feature film by Australian director David Michod, The Rover is a worthy successor to the outstanding and terrifying Animal Kingdom, which launched him into the big time. From the clearly defined settings of the Melbourne criminal underworld, Michod has moved into a post-apocalyptic setting. Ten years after a global economic collapse, a hardened loner (Guy Pearce) pursues the men who stole his only possession, his car. Along the way, he captures a brother of the thief (Robert Pattinson), and they form an uneasy alliance in making a difficult and dangerous journey through a kind of Mad Max landscape somewhere in the Australian outback. In The Rover Patterinson well and truly puts his Twilight years behind him and gives a strong and nuanced performance, creating a powerful central pillar to the film. The story is not particularly lively, but with death and betrayal a constant presence in the background, it’s long on menace, with bursts of startling violence and consistently fascinating insights into a world of people with nothing to lose.