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Film round-up: January 23, 2019

MARIA DUARTE and ALAN FRANK review On Her Shoulders, The Mule, Destroyer, Second Act and Love Sonia

The Mule (15)
Directed by Clint Eastwood
★★★★★

BROKE, alone and facing foreclosure, 90-year-old American horticulturist Earl Stone becomes a highly successful drug courier for a major Mexican cartel in Clint Eastwood’s The Mule, in which he also plays the protagonist.

 

He’s superb as Stone, who’s racked by conscience over the family he abandoned, in a film adaptation based on a magazine article about a nonagenarian drug mule for the Sinaloa cartel.

 

It’s well served by Nick Schenk’s sensitive screenplay and Eastwood’s brilliant direction, which gives a fascinating story compelling power and, in a sequence when Stone attempts to reconcile with the family he abandoned, persuasive emotional truth.

 

Dianne Wiest scores as Stone’s ex-wife, ditto Laurence Fishburne and Bradley Cooper as the lawman in pursuit.

 

But it’s Eastwood who’s impossible to forget in proving that his unique talents on both sides of the camera have matured perfectly.

 

Alan Frank

 

On Her Shoulders (12A)
Directed by Alexandria Bombach
★★★★

NOTHING can really prepare you for the heinous and heat-breaking ordeal Nobel Peace Prize-winner Nadia Murad underwent as a sex slave at the hands of Islamic State (Isis), which she still experiences every time she retells her harrowing story to journalists, politicians and diplomats in her fight for justice for her Yazidi people.

 

Alexandria Bombach’s painfully moving documentary shows how the 23-year-old Murad who, in 2014 survived the genocide of the Yazidis in northern Iraq and the rape and torture by her Isis captors, has been suddenly thrust onto the international stage to become the face and voice of her people.

 

Bombach was given intimate access into Murad’s daily life and provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at her human rights activist work. She delivers emotionally draining addresses to the UN, visits refugee camps in Greece, has a succession of one-to-one meetings with government officials and endless interviews with journalists who seem to want to dwell on the details of her rape and torture.

 

The film exposes the disparity between the toll that the work takes on her and her determination to bring the Isis perpetrators to justice and for the half-a-million Yazidi refugees who are left to be able to go back home.

 

Seeing the look of pain and exhaustion on her face as states that she feels worthless until she has achieved freedom for all her people is heart-wrenching.

 

Though the film doesn’t contextualise the Yazidi genocide, it does paint an extraordinary picture of this awe-inspiring young woman survivor and her fight for the world to recognise her people’s plight and to take action.

 

Maria Duarte

Destroyer (15)
Directed by Karyn Kusama
★★★

NICOLE KIDMAN delivers her grittiest and most uncompromising performance to date in this gripping crime drama about the perils of police officers going deep under cover.

 

The film opens with Kidman as a drunk and washed-up detective attending a murder scene of a unknown victim. As she sticks her fingers up at the cops and walks away you start learning about her past and how she became an alcoholic hooked on drugs plus having to deal with a bad mother.

 

Her past life bursts into her dark present through sunlit flashbacks in which she’s partnered up with FBI officer Chris (an impressive Sebastian Stan) to infiltrate a criminal gang led by Silas (Toby Kebbell), who she is now hunting down.

 

Through its unconventional structure the film explores the blurring of the ethical lines as undercover cops are forced to do whatever it takes to blend in, in this case with a drugs gang.

 

It is a fascinating crime drama, ending with a killer twist.

 

MD

 

Second Act (12A)
Directed by Peter Segal
★★★

BATTLING ageism, sexism and elitism, Jennifer Lopez stars in this formulaic but surprisingly fun comedy about reinventing yourself.

 

She plays Maya who, having turned 43, is overlooked for promotion at a superstore despite her 15 years of service — six of them as assistant manager — in favour of a man with a college degree. “I wish we lived in a world where street smarts equal book smarts,” she bemoans to her best friend Joan (Leah Rimini on top comic form).

 

So when she then lands a dream job at an elite Manhattan firm due to — unbeknown to her — an overembellished CV and bogus Facebook page courtesy of her godson, she has to fake it until she makes it.

 

You can see all the twists and turns coming a mile off but it is J-Lo’s on screen magnetism and her ability to deliver a soulful comedic performance plus her fabulous double act with Rimini that keeps you invested in this predictable comedy .

 

MD

 

Love Sonia (18)
Directed by Tabrez Noorani
★★★★

A YOUNG Indian village girl is dragged into the dark and harrowing world of the international sex slave trade in a bid to find and save her sister in the second film out this week touching on this harrowing subject.

 

Inspired by true events, this drama investigates how far the tentacles of this abominable trade extends globally through the eyes of its young heroine Sonia (a haunting Mrunal Thakur). When her father sells her supposedly more beautiful sister Preeti (Riya Sisodiya) to pay off a massive debt to save the family farm, Sonia heads to Mumbai in search of her.

 

She ends up in a brothel where she is kept untouched as her virginity is a lucrative bargaining chip for her pimp owner but she is expected to perform oral sex on punters.

 

It is a difficult film to watch as Sonia is raped time and time again by old rich white men, some from as far afield as Los Angeles, who pay top dollar for a young virgin. Those trying to save her and other girls like her are fighting a hard and losing battle.

 

It’s a film which highlights a global problem that needs to be addressed urgently and wiped out. And it is one that will haunt you well after the end credits have rolled.

 

MD

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