AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

Directors
Anthony Russo
Joe Russo

Starring
Chris Evans
Robert Downey Jr
Chris Hemsworth
Josh Brolin



After several cameos and teaser appearances, Thanos [Brolin] has finally enacted his grand plan to unite the mighty, universe altering, infinity stones, attach them to his gauntlet and restore balance to the universe by wiping out half of its populace. As the stones have been housed in various locations throughout the established Marvel plane, his dark quest means he will have to go through the Guardians Of The Galaxy, the Avengers and all their allies along the way. At its heart, this movie is actually comprised of a handful of simple set pieces and immense character jostling but the weight behind the legacy of the back catalogue of films is present and elevates the whole. And this is something that a lot of imitators have never been able to replicate: momentum. Like a train hurtling at increasing speeds, the longer it’s on its track, the more power and built up energy it accumulates, giving it more of an overwhelming appearance. Sticking with that analogy for a second, a train thundering through a station at high speeds is pretty impressive but one that doesn’t slow down and flies past with tonnes of haulage, rattling the nearby structures is a fearsome spectacle. And that’s very much what this feature is, more spectacle and experience than conventional narrative; which is both the best and worst aspect of its existence.

As with every review I pen, this will be more of a post-viewing analysis than a spoiler free tease; this is to ensure that I can justify, in detail, where a film succeeds or fails. Naturally, this film has been heavily marketed to ensure its secrets are kept but this review will cover a lot of content, so if you haven’t already seen this movie, for God’s sake stop reading. With that cautionary statement out of the way, I can say that this is a spectacularly bold release. As the film ended and the audience sat waiting for the single post-credit sequence, we watched the names plainly displayed on screen like an in memoriam segment. And once that final snippet was served up, everyone slowly filed out of the cinema in shock, reeling from the film’s funereal close. Again, no matter how good or bad the film was, the climax was extraordinarily bold.

Speaking of merits and faults, let’s get the biggest defects out of the way. Marvel has always had an issue with their scores and aside from a few standout pieces and themes, the majority has been disappointing, lacklustre or forgettable. Having created the Avengers theme – one of the more distinctly memorable and pleasing – Alan Silvestri returns but despite the vast library of character-related themes to play with, we have ended up with an acceptable score that regrettably lacks a lot of presence. Naturally it’s perfectly serviceable but after a while retreats from the fore to simply become big background brass and string elements that do little to spur on the emotional resonance. Another huge point of contention is the CGI. For the most part, it’s spectacular and thoroughly enjoyable but there were a few shots of snarling alien beasts, Thanos in his armour and floating heads on CGI bodies that didn’t work as well as they could and if these cracks are showing on the day of release, they will definitely age horribly. And that’s about it, the rest of the film follows some truly astoundingly competent direction and I fear that amidst all the forums of possible future developments and the specific fates of certain characters, not enough credit will be awarded to several background factors that have been working perfectly throughout these films; things like set design, costume, hair and make-up, cinematography, editing, all working harmoniously in the shadows.

Looking over the marketing for this release, a great deal of this film’s grand appeal was recreating and escalating something that was first successfully done in Avengers – crossover. Obviously I’m not stating this is the first franchise crossover but it is the payoff after literally a decade of world-building. Despite a few stumbles and course corrections, Marvel has never really fallen flat on its face and at this stage, no one else is coming close to the kind of industry spearheading that they are pioneering. Subsequently, it feels like they are trying to burn the engine out and simply run as hard and as fast as they can to see where the audience’s limit is but in doing so have created something that probably cannot be replicated. And I would posit this returning loyalty and desperation for “what comes next” is largely thanks to the characters themselves. Marvel has such an arsenal of characters and each of them have been portrayed in a way that will suit different audience demographics, meaning a crossover as intense as this will draw in every Marvel fan. And yet this film, in spite of the giant game of superhero bingo, doesn’t have a great deal of contained arcs. I say contained specifically because while certain character arcs are practically non-existent, their actions and stories in the previous standalone instalments serve as foundation for the conclusions presented here. To give an example, take Bruce Banner [Mark Ruffalo]. For too many boring legal and rights reasons, we won’t be getting a Hulk film any time soon and as such Marvel only has Banner’s appearances in other features to further his story. Interestingly, his actions in Thor Ragnarok and this film feel like the first two parts of a three act journey which will conclude in the next release. This is also visually interesting for viewers, as we don’t just see the Hulk smashing things (although there’s a fair amount of that at the start) and puts Banner in a position to take part in a fight in a unique and pleasing way. There is also the surprise appearance by the spectre of Johann “Red Skull” Schmidt, which I thoroughly enjoyed as part of a legacy closure, some seven years in the making but it generated so many questions that I doubt would have satisfying conclusions. Could this set up a return of the character? It’s unknown at this point and I think his presence was more a cameo for shock value purposes rather than a launching pad for something bigger or more detailed. And then we have Peter Dinklage as Eitri, the Dwarf King and master of a galactic weapons forge. Much like Red Skull, the role is a very small incidental one but something about it felt extraordinarily off. It’s very hard to quantify primarily because it’s such a weird performance. I totally get the casting but of all the ridiculous things these films have thrown at me, this one took me out of the film entirely and I stepped into the shoes of someone who doesn’t care about this franchise at all, muttering to myself, “this is stupid.” But I wouldn’t be surprised if Marvel is somehow aware of this because every time you get too close to realising it’s all nonsense, they undercut with humour and you’re back and under their mighty spell once more.

As stated previously, this film is more spectacle than story but it still manages to come out surprisingly well balanced. I have no doubt that because of the tone there will be several comparisons to things like The Empire Strikes Back but in truth, I feel the more accurate comparison would be The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, specifically, the third instalment. So much ground work has been laid and finally every character is brought together for one mighty, fatigue-inducing battle.. and yet somehow it works magnificently as a pairing of beloved characters and monumental developments. Throughout, there is a very clear impression of desperation, that this is the last battle which has genuine stakes and it is very rare for a film – even one bisected like this – to follow through with the implications. After all, the film was advertised on the threat that Thanos could wipe out half of the universe’s populace with the snap of his fingers, to not see such an act would rob the audience of something momentous but the fact they followed through was still surprising; but then, that’s what happened in the comics. Before I get onto the bulk of my thoughts about the film’s ending, I need to address something that has come up a lot recently: the concept of the half film. Several adaptations of hefty novels have, for creative or fiscal reasons, chosen to split the story into two separate features. This partition often ruins the natural flow and we end up with one entire feature of setup and one of pay-off but neither having that necessary balance. With these Marvel films emulating the on-going serial aspect of the source material, the never-ending story aspect kind of works in its favour and while this movie is most certainly a part one, the presence of a cliff-hanger does not make something half a movie. I will openly admit that there is no real story, just a series of bombastic events, yet Infinity War still retains its three act structure. In truth, if you shift the perspective and make Thanos the lead character, then the film has a complete arc and happy finale because of the victory attained.

As much as the ending is a temporary state, it is still a powerful one. To take a franchise of familiar faces and extremely well-known actors and almost dismissively remove them from existence is something that takes an exceptional amount of confidence and bravado. Up until this point, death in the MCU has never been felt thanks to reversals, resurrections, lack of development/connection (looking at you Quicksilver) and plot armour so to deal such a devastating blow, I wouldn’t be surprised if many audience members will feel simply unprepared. And I’m all too familiar with comic lore, I know that the bulk of the post-click deaths will be reversed but it genuinely doesn’t matter if these things are unwritten because, much like The Last Jedi, they are real in this moment and what is presented as real for the characters is presented as real for us. Now we will have another year of theories, speculation and discussion which is, at its heart, word of mouth marketing, generating twelve months of hype and expectation that ensure ticket sales and interest long before the elusive title of this follow-up are even released. Ultimately, these films were made for the internet age, they know people trawl through trailers, combing for details so they purposefully subvert the promotional material to both retain their secrets and sell you on the concept rather than the content. Things like Thor’s bloody eye in the Ragnarok trailer, the Hulk running with the group in the main pre-trailer title card charge, Spider-Man in the background of the Star Lord/Iron Man planning rather than Doctor Strange, just little amendments that either stem from reshoots or an active attempt to keep things secret. But if I was pressed, I would say I genuinely appreciate these tactics. With both the Star Wars and Marvel universes, Disney have taken to revealing so precious little, knowing that the rabid and obsessive fanbase will do all the marketing for them with minimal prompting. The only things they need to confirm are a handful of characters (mostly in new outfits), a tantalising tone, a title and a release date. That’s it. I mean, I went into this film with no idea how it would turn out and I left it with no idea what is coming next and that is so very, very exciting.


Release Date:
27th April 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
In the absence of much of a story, this is a film of moments. Among the countless quips and cool fight sequences there is seemingly something for everyone. Even at two and a half hours, screen time is so limited but a marvellous job has been done giving almost everyone both something to do and awarding them with a standout moment. Rather than pinpointing one, I would say it is a great exercise in highlighting the sort of Marvel fan/critic you are. With so much going on, the thing that stands out to you would more than likely dictate the kind of character and values you support or the kind of film you wanted to see. Admittedly, that is an incredibly broad statement but one that I believe fits.

Notable Characters:
Thanos. How could it be anyone else? After six years of setup and escalating promotion, which amounted to doing very little, we finally get an insight into the man pulling all the strings. I was genuinely anxious, fearful of a crushing anti-climax but Thanos is such a detailed and layered character, full of conflict and motivational drive that you can’t help but be taken in by it all. More than that, the performance is so painfully brilliant that at times, you are taken in by his twisted logic. This is truly the best kind of bad guy, the one who feels he is right in his actions and starts to coerce you into thinking the same thing. From a screenwriting angle, through Brolin’s performance and the extremely impressive visual effects work, he is a collaborative triumph. Thanos is a being addressing a very real problem with the worst possible solution; truly both a story and creation to represent our socio-political times.

Highlighted Quote:
“I’m not looking for forgiveness and I’m way past asking for permission”

In A Few Words:
“A triumphant release marred only by the smallest of complaints but Marvel are pushing further out into unchartered waters yet somehow thriving”

Total Score:

4/5

MARY AND THE WITCH’S FLOWER

Meari To Majo No Hana [メアリと魔女の花]

Director
Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Starring
Hana Sugisaki
Ryunosuke Kamiki
Yuki Amami
Fumiyo Kohinata



Set in the English countryside, young Mary Smith [Sugisaki] has moved in with her great Aunt Charlotte. Bored by her simple surroundings, Mary finds herself wondering the woods, having followed a pair of cats named Tib and Gib. Deep in the forest she comes across a small blue flower. Back at home she learns that the flower is called “fly by night” and is very rare; she also learns that the two cats belong to a precocious young boy in the village named Peter [Kamiki]. Unbeknownst to Mary, the picking of the flower generates a dense mist and again, she follows the cat into the woods, finding an old broomstick covered in vines. When the bud of the flower bursts in her hand, she absorbs the fluid and is imbued with magical powers and immediately transported to the fantastical Endor College, overseen by Headmistress Madam Mumblechook [Amami] and the outlandish Doctor Dee [Kohinata]. But with the college’s number one rule being “trespassers will be transformed” will she be discovered and suffer the consequences?

Separate from the merits of the film itself, Mary And The Witch’s Flower’s biggest point of note will be the fact it is the first film in Studio Ponoc’s future catalogue. With Ponoc being an offshoot of Studio Ghibli, avoiding any comparison between the two studios is nigh on impossible. I have no doubt that over the coming years Ponoc will forge its own identity but everything from the stylistic design and the music to the animators and chosen story, feels like a Ghibli release; and with so many veteran Ghibli creatives working on this release, the presence of this very recognisable aesthetic is hardly surprising. Having said that, this feature feels similar to Tales From Earthsea, Arrietty and When Marnie Was There in that it’s a very high quality feature but doesn’t feel as good as Ghibli’s upper tier releases. Yet I remain hopeful that standing will improve as soon as they release an original property rather than an adaptation.

Like all hand-drawn animation, in this age of cheap, plasticy computer generated imagery, there is a distinct nostalgia-infused beauty to the visuals. Admittedly, cinema magnifies flaws and quite a few scenes were presented with some rushed or elementary animation but even at its weakest moments, the craft involved feels imbued with more care and attention to detail than most mainstream releases. As with something like Porco Rosso or The Wind Rises, there is a dreamlike quality to the setting, a mixture of reality and expectation. Which isn’t exactly surprising given that producer Yoshiaki Nishimura stated the artists visited rural England for research but were encouraged to draw from what they remembered rather than direct references like photos, that way they would capture the personality and impression of the place. Adding to this dreamlike quality is the fantastic score, by Takatsugu Muramatsu, with its plinky elements and impressive use of a dulcimer to give an otherworldly ambience. Equally, the sound design is wonderful and immersive, creating atmospheric realm of magic and intrigue.

Before I get on to discussing the performances, I should highlight that I will be expressly referring to the original language recording. Having only sampled the dub version, it sounds over-boiled and grating, so I can only imagine it had a detrimental impact. In terms of delivery, personality and character, there isn’t a single weak component present; each main character is eccentric enough to be recognisable without slipping into over-the-top absurdity. And yet, in its simplicity, there is a slight hollowness to Mary and her adventure. Specifically that she doesn’t seem to have changed much at all; so much so that the final shot of the film could quite easily have been dubbed with a triumphant, “I learned.. NOTHING! Yay!” It’s not that Mary is a bad character, she merely lacks fleshing out in terms of consequence and proactivity. In fact, I would go further and say the films lacks dimensionality all over but I think that may be more the fault of the source material than this particular interpretation. On top of that, it would be easy enough to draw a comparison between Mary And The Witch’s Flower and something like Alice In Wonderland – a similarly dreamlike fantasy that doesn’t explore the lasting fallout of its bizarre adventure.

Aside from the main character, the supports hint at an interesting universe but only scratch the surface. In the most obvious example, Endor College is really only gleaned but additionally, there are so many random subplots that are alluded to but go nowhere. The film opens on a pending funeral for the town’s mayor. There doesn’t seem to be any significance or connection to the story and other than a line or two of dialogue and someone dressed in black, it bears no relevance to the story. We also have a lot of fog surrounding Peter’s mother. He seems highly motivated to return home to take care of her, even saying he would want magical powers and to grow older in order to take care of her but, again, no explanation as to why. There’s also the functionality of the school during and after the oversight of Doctor Dee and Madam Mumblechook, we see there are other teachers but anything peripheral to Mary’s actions are non-existent, to the degree that if I was to discover the other pupils at the school were an illusion, it would be entirely plausible.

While it may not be the most engaging or praiseworthy example of an animated adventure, it succeeds where other huge family targeted blockbusters fail. We are given a passionate female lead, the story never talks down to children, there are zero burp or fart jokes that feel the need to crop up for a cheap laugh and the narrative is clear and easy to follow. All in all, Mary And The Witch’s Flower is a perfectly commendable release but like a lot of things released in early 2018, with the talent involved, they were capable of much more.


Release Date:
4th May 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
**spoilers**
In one scene, we experience a semblance of humanising for the villains and suddenly the antagonist themes fell into doubt. As the story progresses, we learn that the flower that Mary discovered was stolen from the college decades ago and both Doctor Dee and Madam Mumblechook have been experimenting on animals. Obviously this is typical bad guy stuff and we immediately want to see them bested. But when it comes to experimenting on humans, we learn that their end goal is to further magical studies and gift everyone with magical powers. Suddenly their motives are seemingly quite noble, trying to establish a state of equality. I appreciate the methods are questionable but it’s a curious turn. Equally, in other fictional representations, magic is usually depicted as a natural source of power and one in harmony with nature. While there are elements of that present here, there seems to be a distinct presence of balance and the idea that the expansion (or abuse) of magic being in direct violation with nature – a theme usually reserved for the advancement of technology and industry over rustic living.

Notable Characters:
The first faculty member that Mary encounters is an anthropomorphic fox named Flanagan (voiced by Jiro Sato) who used to teach broomstick flying but is currently in charge of the grounds. Flanagan is as one dimensional as a lot of the story and other characters but remains a comic relief and welcome personality all the same; even if he was a bit of an oblivious, constantly occurring ex machina.

Highlighted Quote:
“You never know what kids are up to”

In A Few Words:
“A delightfully presented if simplistic fantasy story”

Total Score:

3/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #211

[08 April 2018]


Winning Team:
Batman Treasured
Genre – Bruce Wayne discovers the knights templar’s treasure and Nicolas Cage flips out as usual
We Don’t Want The Haribo
Genre – Comedy
A Noisy Place
Genre – Unwatchably annoying horro where the entire cast bang pots and scream constantly to ward off an alien attack
Four Skin Jobs
Genre – A Jewish comedy about four moyels

Runners Up:
Isle Of Lads (Lads Lads)
Genre – Horror


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. The Last Of The Mohicans is an adaptation of which book?
THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
2. Which sport is the central focus of Southpaw, starring Jake Gyllenhaal?
BOXING
3. Who composed score for Interstellar, The Lion King and Driving Miss Daisy?
HANS ZIMMER
4. Who played the lead role in Breakfast At Tiffany’s?
AUDREY HEPBURN
5. Which two Batman films featured Michael Keaton (one point per correct answer)
BATMAN / BATMAN RETURNS
6. What is the title of the sequel to An American Werewolf In London?
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS
7. What are the two subtitles of the fifth Pirates Of The Caribbean film? (one point per correct answer)
SALAZAR’S REVENGE / DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES
8. The 2014 film, ’71, starring Jack O’Connell is predominantly set in which country?
NORTHERN IRELAND
9. What is the name of Roger Rabbit’s wife in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
JESSICA RABBIT
10. What was the title of the Josh Trank directed film about students who gain superpowers, starring Dane DeHaan, Michael B Jordan and Alex Russell?
CHRONICLE


ROUND II: Filming [Two Word Title Special]
1. What is the title of the fourth Bourne film starring Matt Damon? Bourne Again? Becoming Bourne? Jason Bourne?
JASON BOURNE
2. Who directed Gone Girl? David Fincher? Tyler Perry? Ben Affleck?
3. How many team members make up Team America in the film of the same name? 5? 6? 7?
FIVE (Lisa, Joe, Sarah, Chris and Carson/Gary who are in the same post)
4. Why do the Russians (led by Iosef) attack John Wick in the film of the same name? John interfered with a gas station robbery? John refused to sell his car? John was sitting in their usual booth in a diner?
REFUSED TO SELL HIS CAR
5. What is the name of Fay Wray’s character in King Kong? Dawn Prescott? Ann Darrow? Eve Watts?
ANN DARROW
6. What was the title of the 1975 sequel to True Grit? Rooster Cogburn? Fortitude? Black For Death?
ROOSTER COGBURN
7. Which faction of The Others make up the group known as the Night Watch in the 2004 Russian film Nochnoi Dozor? The neutral judges? Forces of darkness? Forces of light?
FORCES OF LIGHT
8. In Rogue One, Jyn Erso meets up with her father on which system? Bothawui? Rodia? Eadu?
EADU
9. Who directed The Machinist? Terry George? Brad Anderson? Rob Bowman?
BRAD ANDERSON
10. Laura, whose son Simon goes missing in El Orfanato, wears a necklace with a St Anthony medal – the patron saint of lost items. True or False?
TRUE


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. What are the names of the two angels in Dogma, played by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon? (one point per correct answer)
BARTLEBY / LOKI
2. Which film starred Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts and Terence Howard?
ST VINCENT
3. Who directed American Sniper?
CLINT EASTWOOD
4. Quantico Virginia, Memphis Tennessee and the Baltimore State Hospital For The Criminally Insane are all locations in which film?
THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
5. What is the title of the 1982 Werner Herzog film about a rubber baron taking a steamship over land through the Amazon?
FITZCARRALDO
6. Who plays the lead antagonist, Carnegie in Book Of Eli?
GARY OLDMAN
7. In Titanic, according to Rose, how many years have passed since the sinking of the ship and Brock Lovett’s expedition?
84 YEARS
8. What did Taika Waititi direct in between What We Do In The Shadows and Thor Ragnarok?
HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE
9. The following quote is from which film, “We’re here to preserve democracy, not to practice it”?
CRIMSON TIDE
10. Which actor has played Lord Wessex, Johannes Vermeer and King George VI?
COLIN FIRTH


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Who directed Audition, Ichi The Killer and Ace Attorney? Takeshi Kitano? Takashi Miike? Hideaki Anno?
TAKASHI MIIKE
2. What is the title of the film in which Steve Martin plays a faith healer named Jonas Nightengale? Healed? Nightingale’s Song? Leap Of Faith?
LEAP OF FAITH
3. Which of the following didn’t appear in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In America? Peter Weller? James Woods? Joe Pesci?
PETER WELLER
4. A Most Violent Year is set in which decade? 1970s? 1980s? 1990s?
EIGHTIES
5. In Collateral Beauty, Will Smith’s character copes with the death of his daughter by writing letters to Time, Death and Love. Which one is played by Helen Mirren? Time? Death? Love?
DEATH
6. Who played the lead role in 2014’s Testament Of Youth? Alicia Vikander? Margot Robbie? Sally Hawkins?
ALICIA VIKANDER
7. The following quote is from which film, “For God’s sake, Chris, the whole world is watching. We can’t just let him die in front of a live audience”? The Truman Show? The Killing Fields? Network?
THE TRUMAN SHOW
8. What did Tim Burton direct in between Frankenweenie and Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children? Alice Through The Looking Glass? Big Eyes? Lullaby?
BIG EYES
9. Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton play brothers in which film? Last Man Standing? Warrior? Pride?
WARRIOR
10. Reign Of Fire was filmed in the Wicklow mountains in Ireland on the condition that the production in no way damaged the landscape. True or False?
TRUE


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Congo / Love Actually / Dave / The Exorcism Of Emily Rose
Poster: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows
Actor: Laura Linney


A QUIET PLACE

If They Hear You, They Hunt You

Director
John Krasinksi

Starring
Millicent Simmonds
Emily Blunt
John Krasinksi
Noah Jupe



Set three months after a cataclysmic event, we learn in the opening prologue that the Earth has been overrun by creatures that are drawn to moderately loud sounds, which have gone on to wipe out the majority of the population. After the opening establishing events, we skip forward a year and a half and follow the daily existence of Lee [Krasinksi], Evelyn [Blunt], Regan [Simmonds] and Marcus Abbott [Jupe]; a family surviving in this dangerous environment. Part of the reason they have lasted this long is the strict rules they live by – completely overhauling their way of life to avoid making excessive noise – and the fact that Regan herself is deaf, meaning the family are able to communicate with sign language. Despite their resourcefulness, they will be put to the test as Evelyn is heavily pregnant and a crying baby would put all of their lives in danger.

Anyone who regularly frequents this site will see a distinct pattern surrounding reviews for horror titles; specifically that there don’t tend to be many. That’s because I don’t enjoy horror. There are some genuinely standout titles that greatly appeal to me but genre’s formulaic nature and excessive use of loud jump scares make them lazy, painful affairs to endure. Having said that, there has been a bit of a new-wave presenting itself within the genre, films that tend to ebb away from cheap scare tactics and excessive schlocky violence, favouring smart tense premises and endearing and likable characters. That’s why films like The Witch, Get Out, 10 Cloverfield Lane and It Follows do well with a certain crowd but are then torn down for not “being real horrors” when, in actuality, they refrain from conforming to the regular tropes and draw a heavier emphasis on the central premise, story and character design. And A Quiet Place is a perfect addition to these titles, with a very simple but instantly recognisable premise that taps into a fundamentally animalistic fear of helplessness and no longer being the top of the food chain. On top of that, we have the absolutely wonderful world building and production design; from the sets to all the rituals and routines which have been methodically thought out and help outline an adjusted dystopian world not to dissimilar to our own.

In addition to all the pleasing visual and thematic elements, this film really shines when it comes to sound. And this is one of those films that doesn’t simply use one gimmick but employs a variety of methods and inventive fixes to really immerse you and create a terrifying environment. Cinematically speaking, we are often treated to the most powerful speakers and sound systems which mask the general bustle and noise of a collected audience but when you are forced to sit in the near-silence of this film, you become more aware of yourself and those around you. That creates another level of discomfort above and beyond what is present in the film itself and that is why this is exceptional horror; the kind that burrows into your mind and unwrites the logic that tells you that you are safe and this is a work of fiction. Of course, that isn’t meant to be a slight against the use of sound, as it is frankly masterful. The way we experience the world through Regan’s eyes/ears, the unseen threat just off-screen, the concept of one natural sound outweighing another (e.g. screaming into a waterfall) and Marco Beltrami’s perfect, incredibly unsettling score – all of these components create a unique world that perpetuates an unease that runs from start to finish.

All of these technical components are of course moot if the acting is sub-par. Thankfully, the family presented carry this film magnificently and although one could argue so little actually happens, the fear on their faces sells so much and generates a sustained tension and a perfectly paced experience. When listing my cast, it occurred to me that I really wasn’t sure who the main character is. I can almost certainly rule out Marcus, just because of screen-time but between Regan, Evelyn and Lee, there is a jostling for which will be the most proactive individual and subsequently this highlights a few interesting things about the cast. For those who don’t know, Emily Blunt and John Krasinski are married, so what we have here is a real couple dynamic (especially as these actors have two children together); on top of that, Millicent Simmonds is, for lack of a better phrase, actually deaf which brings an obvious realism to the performance. And yet one could argue these things are not requisite to making a good film, that just because an on-screen couple are together in real-life, doesn’t mean they will be able to escape performing. The difference is experience and relatability. In terms of writing and direction, Krasinski has brought a lot of very personal emotionality that plays on the mind of a parent. I’m not saying it’s impossible for someone to empathise and assume what it would be like but there is a priceless insight which is utilised. Equally, with Simmonds, having someone who experiences the world differently, offers the opportunity to incorporate developments into the film that maximise the concept of what it is like to live without sound. Coupled with a strong story and amazing production, phenomenal performances are what tip this over the edge into truly great cinema. The only flaws I can find are elements of mimicry and familiarity with other suspenseful releases and a couple of gender presentation issues that don’t get fully addressed but outside of that, it’s a completely relentless, emotional, simple piece that is extremely enjoyable and wholly commendable.


Release Date:
6th April 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
One of the early examples of the exquisite sound design is during one of the progressive moves forward, leaping the events ahead and opening with Regan sleeping on a sandy floor. Either in her dreams or a stylistic choice, we hear the sounds of nature and are given the impression she is laying calmly on a beach. It’s only when she abruptly wakes and the dull hum that signals her “point of view” as a deaf person replaces the familiar sounds. The moment itself is so simple but it is a sublime example of the messages, situations and perspectives that cinema can convey.

Notable Characters:
I really have to commend Krasinksi, partly because he has done an astounding job acting but also because his direction is spot-on. More so than that, he made one particular casting choice that really pleased me. Too often film and television rely on able-bodied actors to play individuals with disabilities and it shuts out an entire group of people who can bring so much to that performance from a perspective point alone. And while this may sound like hyperbole, it is, in essence, not far off men playing women on stage during the 1600s or white people in black-face. I don’t doubt someone could have given a credible performance in the role of Regan but having someone who can accurately draw on things that someone who is imitating that existence may not have considered, should be championed as often as possible. And I really shouldn’t be saying things like that in this day and age, it should be the norm.

Highlighted Quote:
“Who are we if we can’t protect them? Who are we?”

In A Few Words:
“A fantastically tense and marvellously acted feature from start to finish”

Total Score:

5/5