BELATED ROUND-UP: SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, BABY DRIVER, DUNKIRK


War For The Planet Of The Apes

Or as I like to call it, The Great EscAPE.

Seemingly continuing the trend of blockbusters being really good in 2017, War For The Planet Of The Apes has gone down a storm with both critics and audiences. In some ways it’s not hard to see why: the film is an intelligent and emotional study of human nature told with incredible patience and intensity and the sensibility of a western; it’s hard to miss the parallel with The Searchers, as Caesar and his trusted band of apes sett off into the wilderness on horseback to seek revenge. It’s clear Matt Reeves is a director who’s passionate about mature storytelling and exploring the most raw layers of his characters; traits which can only bode well for The Batman

Unfortunately, though, I just wasn’t won over. While yes, parts of it are certainly interesting and thrilling, the rest of the film feels very long and treacly and drawn-out, with about an hour and a half in the middle without much really happening at all. There’s a really great film in here somewhere, but it lacked the explosive awe of its predecessors.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆


Spider-Man: Homecoming

When it was announced that Spider-Man would be receiving yet another reboot after the Andrew Garfield attempts for Sony failed to ignite either the box office or people’s enthusiasm (I still think they’re fun movies), there was one huge, collective sigh. Probably the most well-trodden origin story in the superhero genre, were we really going to be made to sit through another iteration of how Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man? Were Marvel going to effectively waste a film by giving us something we’ve seen so many times recently? Well, as was kind of expected after his brief cameo in Civil War, this is where Spider-Man: Homecoming leaps over its first hurdle. This isn’t how Peter Parker became Spider-Man; this is how Peter Parker deals with being Spider-Man; the pressure, responsibility and effort of being a 15-year-old superhero trying to balance saving lives with old-fashioned growing up and pining after girls at his school.

It’s with this focus, then, this personal and very human struggle, where the film really finds its feet. It’s also a typically fun marvel movie that swings around its relatively limited set-pieces with confidence, and boasts some genuinely good writing – like the rare sight of a believable villain. Vulture (an excellent Michael Keaton) is a bad guy who isn’t, for once, just after mindless world domination. We can actually relate to him.

It’ll take something special to beat Raimi’s first two films, so infused in nostalgia as they are, but Homecoming gives it a good bash.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


Baby Driver

Well, this is just the most fun I’ve had in the cinema all year. Everything about Baby Driver is just cool. Edgar Wright’s latest is like La La Land meets Fast & Furious; a full-throttle adrenaline shot with pitch perfect comedy and pitch perfect-er music woven so cleverly into the plot that it’s as much of a character as everyone else.

It helps that our lead couple – Ansel Elgort and Lily James – are so magnetic and cute together. We’re genuinely desperate for them to just head west on 20 in a car they can’t afford with a plan they don’t have.

And if you don’t believe me, just try watching the opening scene without falling in love with this film.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Dunkirk

Dunkirk is a big film that’s at its most powerful in its intimate moments. On a sensory level it’s almost like nothing we’ve ever seen; the growl of approaching bombers or the whistle and rattle of unexpected enemy fire are utterly heart-shattering – and I didn’t even see it on an IMAX screen. But it’s the melancholic expressions of dejected soldiers, the acceptance of a pilot watching his burning plane on an enemy-laden beach, the relief in a captain’s eyes as he sees help arriving, which become the moments to stay with us.

It’s a hugely impressive and sobering war film constructed in such a precise way, so typical of its director, so as to place us in a situation rather than emotionally follow a group of particular characters – yet it is still emotional on a very deep level. Like Interstellar – and most of Nolan’s films – I’ll need to see it more than once to fully absorb it. There are a lot of subtleties and nuances going on throughout the film which can’t be fully appreciated in one sitting.

Of course, what can be appreciated is Hans Zimmer’s phenomenal score. You don’t even need to see the film – it’s just brilliant.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆