July was a pretty memorable month for cinema. As usual, the summer blockbuster season continued with some big budget studio releases but there were also some smaller releases that are up there with some of the best of 2018 so far.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado
Despite there being no Blunt, Deakins or Villeneuve on board, I still had relatively high hopes for this film. Mainly because screenwriter Taylor Sheridan was still involved but also because I felt there was more to explore in this universe/saga/story.
Sadly, this film clearly misses most of the elements that made ‘Sicario’ so intense and enticing, despite Brolin and Del Toro reprising their roles and carrying the plot’s only thread of moral weight.
Although the technical elements of the film holding up to a good standard, ‘Day of the Soldado’ is a hollow, meaningless film with very little for the audience to invest in emotionally.
Rating - 6/10
Leave No Trace
A thought-provoking and moving film that explores the themes of isolation, separation & family in a simple & beautiful way. With two quiet, graceful central performances, Leave No Trace always feels real.
It’s quietly mesmerising and deeply affecting in the way it allows the story to develop through the two central characters. The dialogue is sparse and the audience is left to read between the lines a lot, creating a sense of authenticity.
There’s very little exposition, but the story is told through the characters and their experiences. Writer & Director Debra Granik shows again her gift for this kind of patient storytelling.
It also features the best performance from a rabbit I’ve seen since Monty Python & The Holy Grail. 🐇
Rating - 8/10
The Incredibles 2
The Incredibles 2 directly follows on from its predecessor in both setting and tone. We meet the family seconds after the ending of the first film; the audience are instantly transported back to the 1960s, the golden age of the superhero.
Whilst it takes a while to fully get going and the overall pace is slower than the first film, it is still a fun and entertaining watch and Michael Giachinno’s score is super (pun intended).
Pixar don’t usually make action films, but when they do, they’re still better than most.
Rating - 7.5/10
Not for the faint hearted (which Paul Schrader film is!?), First Reformed is a difficult but worthwhile watch. Full of brutal honesty, dark humour and existential angst, with a brilliant central performance from Ethan Hawke, who looks like he aged a decade during filming.
First Reformed echoes Mother! in the way it conveys the Biblical themes of forgiveness, judgement and man’s relationship with the environment.
Rating - 8.5/10
Absurd and superlative in every way, but tongue in cheek and fun with smatterings of irony. Everything I’ve come to expect from a Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson film, really, in a good way, mostly.
Mission: Impossible FALLOUT
In an age of CGI-fuelled blockbusters filled with either A) Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson or B) one of the Avengers, it’s refreshing to see a film full of brilliant set pieces pulled off with practical effects, ingenious camera work and editing and ballsy stunts in interesting real-life locations. Not to mention some bold twists on a well-known franchise.
As far as non-stop, tension-filled, character driven action films go, Mission Impossible: FALLOUT is right up there.
Rating - 9/10