I’m going to start a little arty this week as I’ve found a film that really moved me, a remarkable piece of work of Scandinavian origin that makes Scum look like Oliver! It’s a film that reminds me that if you look hard enough, or far back enough, that every country has its demons. And it’s something I’ve not been able to stop thinking about. So it’s only right I share the word. Welcome to Cinemascape!
King of Devil’s Island (12A)
A sombre, compelling and distressingly factual portrait of unchecked authority and man’s inhumanity to man, or rather man’s inhumanity to boy, this award-winning Norwegian thriller combines the rebellious spirit of Cool Hand Luke, the forbidding locations of Papillon and the plot of The Last Castle to tremendous effect. Though plainly reminiscent of all these previous movies, and many more besides, King of Devil’s Island has a feel, a mind and a heart of its own, and speaking of hearts, prepare for yours to break.
In the words of Gavin and Stacey’s Welsh contingent, I won’t lie to you. What initially drew me to the movie is its Swedish star, Stellan Skarsgard, who I’ve long admired, and been a fan of ever since Thor. As the dispassionate warden of a remote island prison for troublesome boys, Skarsgard allows all manners of abuse and cruelty to be wreaked upon the poor wretched lads he holds captive. Engaging in an increasingly bitter war of wills with a rightly defiant teen (Benjamin Helstad), a conflict that cannot help but escalate beyond all control, his grimly fascinating story, and that of the boys and their keepers, will keep you on tenterhooks throughout.
Sensitively made by and played with great intelligence and humanity, emotionally scored, crisply shot and profoundly moving, King of Devil’s Island is the best thing I’ve seen since Avengers Assemble, so all in all, a good year for Skarsgard so far.
From Jennifer Westfeldt, the co-writer and star of 2001’s Kissing Jessica Stein and the long-term life partner of Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, comes this mildly amusing and copiously wordy Woody Allen-wannabe, once again written by and starring Westfeldt, who this time tries her hand at directing too. Just like Woody. Only, not so much.
The tale of two reasonably attractive, urbane and smartly cynical best friends, one played by Jen and the other by the vaguely weasely Adam Scott, who attempt to have and raise a child without all that love and relationship nonsense getting in the way, it’s an easy watch with a handful of laughs and a plot so predictable, you’ll see every development coming from a mile away. As you can Westfeldt’s cheeks, that like a squirrel’s, appear full of nuts.
What the movie aims for is indie sophistication. What it hits is bog-standard romcomery. Which is fine, so long as you don’t expect too much, and can handle a mawkish third act that forgets it’s supposed to be funny. Top marks for the splendid gimmick casting though, as the four main supporting stars were all in Bridesmaids: Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Kristen Wiig and… wait for it… Jon Hamm.
Also at the Cinema…
A dark, dysfunctional romance with a comedic edge, Dark Horse (15) comes from indie king Todd Solondz, the story of a stocky toy collector (Jordan Gelber) who lives at home with his folks and falls for an over-medicated thirtysomething girl (Selma Blair). Even if I wasn’t a fat toy collector myself, I reckon I still would have loved it. Plus it doesn’t hurt that the movie co-stars Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow… A thoughtful drama with a wicked sense of humour and the lovely Emily Blunt, Your Sister’s Sister (15) tells a romantic and blissfully awkward tale of friends, family and everything in between.
From French Connection director William Friedkin comes a taut and twisty hitman thriller with a savage sense of humour, Killer Joe (18), the tale of a troubled lad who puts a hit on his evil mother to collect on her insurance. As the trigger man of the title, Matthew McConaughey has never been better and is ably supported by the likes of Emile Hirsch and Thomas Haden Church… Finally this week, a passable urban Britflick that sees Noel Clarke and a few other familiar faces trapped in a building with a homicidal alien, Storage 24 (15) is a lot like Attack the Block, only without the jokes.