Out on Friday 15 January
Leo battles a bear (and nature). Brie experiences life on the inside. Rockys back with a punch. Yes, heres this weeks new releases. Click on for our reviews of The Revenant, Room, Creed, Breakdown, Ip Man 3, Dragon Blade and Patience, Patience, You'll Go To Paradise!. For the best movie reviews, subscribe to Total Film.
Revenge is in the creators hands, real-life frontiersman Hugh Glass is told midway through Alejandro G. Irritus extraordinary wilderness drama. Its this feeling of vengeance that boils inside Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) throughout much of this two-and-a-half-hour epic and little wonder. Mauled by a bear, left for dead by his men and witness to the murder of his own son, Glass bleak and bloody survival in this harsh 1820s terrain is motivated by one reason alone: to even the score. That bare outline doesnt even begin to capture the sheer wild ambition, beauty and savagery on show in The Revenant. Far more challenging than even Irritus bravura Oscar-winner Birdman, this is his Fitzcarraldo or his Apocalypse Now man versus the elements, both on screen and off. Stories have already spread about the legendarily arduous shoot endured by cast and crew in the Canadian wilderness. Whatever hardships they went through were worth it. In the first five minutes, Irritu and his Birdman cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki will leave you agog with a scene of arrow-whizzing, tomahawk-wielding carnage as Glass and his fellow fur trappers, led by the resourceful Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), are set upon by a gang of Native Americans. As a group of 40-odd men is whittled down to just 10, Lubezkis camerawork ensures youre just as captivated by incidental details as you are by the action: the sun glinting through trees, birds circling, plumes of smoke rising. By the 25-minute mark, youll be literally slack-jawed for one of the most stunning scenes ever committed to film, as Glass is attacked by a grizzly bear protecting its two young. Is it CGI? Is it real footage? However it was done, the result astonishes as Glass is tossed around, clawed, bitten and even sat on, the bears paw squashing his head into the dirt. Like so much of this remarkably visceral film, youll live every moment with him every scream and anguished howl. While Henry is able to sew up Glass wounds, it becomes clear that the group wont be able to carry him to safety through the harsh, mountainous landscape. The proper thing to do would be to finish him off quick, says Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), interested only in self-preservation. Volunteering to stay with Glass, Fitzgerald is joined by youngster Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) and Glass half-Native American son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), who refuses to leave his fathers side. Soon enough, Fitzgerald is leading the escape back to civilisation, leaving Glass to die. This, of course, he refuses to do, flaunting survival skills that would put Bear Grylls to shame (not least hauling himself out of a shallow grave). Co-written by Irritu and Mark L. Smith (who penned Joe Dantes The Hole), the story is adapted from Michael Punkes 2002 novel itself inspired by the myth that built up around Glass after his grizzly attack. If the film has a documentary-like realism to it, Irritu seasons it with frequent digressions, flashbacks, hallucinations and dreams, as Glass drifts in and out of consciousness, conjuring images of his son and wife (who at one point appears floating above him like a ghost). Glass isnt the only man left on the mountain, though; in a parallel story, a Native American is leading his tribe in search for his missing daughter Powaqa (Melaw Nakehko). French-speaking fur trappers, rivals to the Captain Henry-led gang, are also in the mix. But to say more about their involvement would give away elements of the final blood-soaked act whichll leave you feeling especially battered and bruised. If youre imagining The Revenant is a film chock-full of gratuitous violence, though, nothing could be further from the truth. True, some moments are stomach-churning not least Glass cutting out the innards of a dead horse and using it as a makeshift sleeping bag (think Luke Skywalker on Hoth with his Tauntaun). But Irritu, pacing the film to perfection, never forgets that even in the most extreme circumstances there can be levity Glass and a Pawnee Indian, for example, catching snow on their tongues. With Lubezkis photography at once capturing the magnificence and cruelty of Mother Nature, like the moment Glass stands by to watch a bison stampede, youll be left in a state of shock and awe. Will The Revenant repeat Irritus triple-Oscar swoop for Birdman? Will Lubezki gain his third consecutive golden statue? Will DiCaprio, in full-blooded form, finally shake off that Academy curse? On this evidence, its impossible to see how they could not. THE VERDICT: Astounding. With a director, DoP and cast at the top of their game, The Revenant is a filmmaking triumph. You cannot afford to miss experiencing this on the big screen. Director: Alejandro G. Irritu Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson, Paul Anderson, Lukas Haas Theatrical release: 15 January 2016 James Mottram
You dont have to be claustrophobic to be unsettled by Lenny Abrahamsons latest, a tale of love, hope and survival that confines a significant part of its action to an airless, locked outhouse. Said shed has been the home of Ma (Brie Larson) for seven years, the length of time she has been held captive by a man we know only by the demonic moniker Old Nick (Sean Bridgers). The last five of those years have been spent raising Jack (Jacob Tremblay), a little boy for whom this single room represents the world in its entirety. Jack, to state the horrifically obvious, is Old Nicks son a child born of rape who may be Mas only chance of salvation. Recent scandals involving the likes of Josef Fritzl, Ariel Castro and Aravindan Comrade Bala Balakrishnan have shown that Rooms plot, if outlandish, is anything but fanciful. Yet Abrahamsons film adapted by Emma Donoghue from her own best-selling novel is no lurid exploitationer but a thoughtful, at times poetic meditation on how one endures and makes bearable a nightmarish dilemma. Ma, a bit like Roberto Benigni in Life Is Beautiful, artfully shields her five-year-old from the ghastliness of their shared plight, filling his days instead with fun, games and exercise. Jack, for his part, gives Ma a reason to go on living a life she would have happily put an end to were he not there to be cared for. Room, then, is a story of mutual dependency under the bleakest conditions conceivable. But because its told from Jacks perspective, its rarely explicitly bleak. Never having seen or known anything else, Room is no cell for Jack but a playground of possibilities: one in which Lamp and Bath and Stove are friends as much as implements, and Ma is an omnipresent, ever-adoring constant. Jack, in short, is not one to complain, even when the heat is capriciously turned off or when hes obliged to hide in Wardrobe to facilitate Old Nicks frequent visitations encounters that we, like him, do not see but only hear taking place from behind a shuttered partition. Indeed, there are times Donoghue provocatively asks if such an upbringing might even be preferable to the over-stimulated, expectation-burdened childhood that is generally considered normal. Abrahamson, like Jack, makes the best of his lot too, deploying imagination, creativity and a host of ingenious angles to make Room as cinematic as possible. (You wonder if he wanted to set himself a challenge comparable to the one he gave Michael Fassbender in Frank, a film that asked the actor to give a performance from within a papier-mch head.) Assisted by production designer Ethan Tobman, the What Richard Did director makes Ma and Jacks living quarters a mutable space whose four walls abound with revealing little details. At no point, though, are we ever allowed to forget this is, in essence, a cage: a grubby, mouldy interior every bit as inviting as the one Maggie Smith inhabited in The Lady In The Van. Dame Maggie, of course, could get out of her van when she wanted to and see the world outside. Thats a prospect denied to Ma and Jack until Rooms midway point, where it stops being a study of incarceration and becomes a thriller about a jailbreak. To disclose more would be a disservice, to both the movie and the reader. Suffice to say that what follows turns Room on its head, not least by introducing Bries parents (Joan Allen and William H. Macy) into a yarn that had previously seemed destined to remain a grippingly minimalist three-hander. Larson, so good in 2013s Short Term 12, is even better here in a role that requires her to be victim, rock and lioness, often at the same time. (The fact that Mas actual name is Joy presents the intriguing prospect that two of this seasons likely Best Actress nominees Jennifer Lawrence being the other will be recognised for playing like-titled heroines.) It has been a breakthrough year for the 26-year-old Sacramentan, whose appearance here comes hot on the heels of playing Amy Schumers sister in Trainwreck another mum, incidentally, who feels compelled at one stage to defend her boys legitimacy to a coldly unwelcoming grandfather. As terrific as she is, though, its Tremblay who emerges as the films trump card, the adorable youngster proving both charming and heartbreaking as he charts Jacks painful passage from innocence to experience. Room is a film about entrapment. Yet its also one about liberation, about letting go of ones fears and moving on from trauma. At one point Jack asks to be shorn of the locks he has been cultivating since infancy. Its a revelatory, transformative moment in a film you wont find nearly so easy to say goodbye to. THE VERDICT: A prize-winning page-turner becomes a moving, harrowing and redemptive drama about the ties that bind a mother to her child. Be warned: one box of tissues may not be enough. Director: Lenny Abrahamson Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers, Joan Allen, William H. Macy Theatrical release: 15 January 2016 Neil Smith
Its nine years since the Italian Stallion hung up his gloves in Rocky Balboa, part six of Sylvester Stallones now four-decade-long boxing saga. Thankfully, in Ryan Cooglers Creed, a smartly engineered spin-off, he doesnt put them back on. Stallone leaves the punching to Michael B. Jordan, star of Cooglers Sundance-winning 2013 debut Fruitvale Station. Instead, Sly slips into Burgess Meredith mode, becoming mentor rather than fighter. Its a clever conceit, heightened by the hook that Jordans character, Adonis Johnson, is the illegitimate offspring of Rockys one-time (OK, two-time) rival, Apollo Creed. Born after Creed died fighting Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, Adonis never knew his father though, as we see from the opening scene, set in 1998 Los Angeles in a juvenile detention centre, hes inherited the champs cast-iron punch. After Creeds widow Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad, the third actress to play this role in the franchise) comes looking for Adonis, saving him from a life of ignominy, the story cuts to the present. Adonis is a model citizen by day; but by night, hes nipping down to Mexico for backroom brawls. Despite a promotion in his office job, he quits heading to Philly to seek out his fathers one-time nemesis, Rocky, and plunder his ringside wisdom. Stallones character doesnt even come into Creed until the 20-minute mark; when we meet him, hes clearing tables at his restaurant, Adrians. And, despite a mild curiosity when he discovers Adonis family roots, he has no wish to head back to the gym. In the meantime, Adonis has other issues like Bianca (Tessa Thompson), a downtown R&B singer who doesnt take long to move from noisy downstairs neighbour to potential love interest. Adonis gradually wears Rocky down; the old prizefighters interest is piqued by the smell of the canvas. And an opponent duly arises in the shape of British light-heavyweight champion, Pretty Ricky Conlon (real-life cruiserweight boxer Tony Bellew). A Scouser, Conlon wants one more fight before a prison sentence is set to curtail his career and his manager Tommy Holiday (The Hobbits Graham McTavish) convinces Balboa to set up the fight. This may all sound rather so-so not least because it leaves Rocky behind the ropes, rather than on them but nothing could be further from the truth. Coogler and his co-writer Aaron Covington show complete control in their scripting, carefully nodding towards Rocky staples without ever breaking out the Philadelphia cheese. A visit to the side-by-side graves of his late wife Adrian and brother-in-law Paulie, for example, is touching (yo, Adrian, he says, softly) rather than maudlin. Perhaps even more daring, Creed shows Rocky as vulnerable and ailing. Hes no longer the indestructible boxer who punches slabs of frozen beef for fun but a man whose health is beginning to fail him. Without going into spoilery detail, Stallone has never been better as Rocky than he is in these scenes; theres nothing more crushing than watching a legend look fallible and human. As for Jordan, he may not have caught fire as Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four but he rips up the screen as Adonis Creed. In peak physical condition yes, he even does one-handed press-ups he looks the part in those obligatory training montages. Better still, Jordan is fully able to handle the emotional scenes: the need to stand up and be counted, the search for a surrogate father in the absence of your biological one. In a first for the series, the action shifts to England for the climactic bout, which takes place in a boxing ring housed inside Everton FCs Goodison Park. It certainly makes a change from, say, Madison Square Garden, though Brit viewers may find it slightly surreal watching a sea of Toffees fans (plus one lone Liverpool FC supporter in his red replica strip). Still, with the help of Bellew and fellow boxer Andre Ward (who briefly features), Creeds fight scenes are impeccably crafted. Put up against Antoine Fuquas recent Southpaw, theyre just as bruising, as Rocky rouses his charge with the maxim: One step, one punch, one round at a time. Backed by a fantastic score from Ludwig Gransson OK, not quite on the level of Bill Contis classic Rocky soundtrack these moments will leave you breathless. Yet what really registers is the poignancy behind the body blows. Coogler has crafted a film that doesnt adhere to the usual fanfare required for a Hollywood ending. Instead, its the relationship between Rocky and Adonis that we really invest in, rather than who wins or loses. Harking back to the franchises glory days, its a movie hardcore Rocky fans will love. THE VERDICT: Coogler and Jordan re-ignite their Fruitvale chemistry while Stallone delivers a knockout performance. Surprisingly effective, punchy and powerful, this Rocky rocks. Director: Ryan Coogler Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Tony Bellew, Phylicia Rashad Theatrical release: 15 January 2016 James Mottram
Ex-Eastenders ard man Craig Fairbrass is Alfie Jennings, ganglands top hitman and torturer, who finds himself on the wrong side of the firm when he starts having embarrassing flashbacks in a kebab shop. Country-gent kingpin Albert (Game Of Thrones James Cosmo) doesnt want a triggerman with a fickle finger, so he orders his gang of thumb-headed goons to try and take him and his whole family out. The debut feature of British director Jonnie Malachi, its a sadistic, shallow little revenger whose only saving grace is a handful of half-decent performances. Director: Jonnie Malachi Starring: Craig Fairbrass, James Cosmo, Emmett J Scanlan, Mem Ferda, Tamer Hassan Theatrical release: 15 January 2016 Paul Bradshaw
PATIENCE, PATIENCE, YOULL GO TO PARADISE!
A group of middle-Aged Belgian Muslim women of north African descent form a friendship attending a French writing class in this gently heartwarming doc. Director Hadja Lahbibs understated, fly-on-the-wall approach candidly captures the women bonding, laughing and occasionally broaching bigger political topics. Despite a lack of dramatic incident, its uplifting to see the women defying the restrictive idiom of the films title and embarking on an adventure that takes them as far as the bright lights of New York. Director: Hadja Lahbib Theatrical release: 15 January 2016 Stephen Puddicombe
IP MAN 3
Donnie Yen returns for a third (and reportedly final) time as Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man, in an uneven mix of fancy fist-work and run-of-the-mill plotting. This time around, Master Ip springs into action against a gang of property crooks trying to take over his sons school, overseen by the crassly stunt-cast mike Tyson who, despite obvious workarounds, is a misstep in an otherwise excellently choreographed movie. Despite fast-paced fights living up to expectations, this concluding instalment needed to have the same impact as its heros one-inch punch, but falls frustratingly short. Director: Wilson Yip Starring: Donnie Yan, Mike Tyson Theatrical release: 15 January 2016 Matt Looker
If Daniel Lees period action epic proves anything, its that even a film with a shock-haired Adrien Brody out-hamming Eddie Redmayne in Jupiter Ascending can drag. Botched promise abounds, starting with the wasted potential of John Cusacks Roman and Jackie Chans Chinese guard uniting against Brodys evil Tiberius. Cusacks twitchy energies are suppressed into stolidity; Chans action/comic talents are underused. If you want crotch-stabbing violence and gratuitous spectacle, youve got it. But the haul along the Silk Road is long, and often comically self-serious. Director: Daniel Lee Starring: Adrien Brody, Jackie Chan, John Cusack Theatrical release: 15 January 2016 Kevin Harley