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Film round-up: September 10, 2021

Reviews of Copilot, The Collini Case, Copshop, Respect and The War Below 

Copilot (15)
Directed by Anne Zohra Berrached 
★★★

SET in ’90s Germany, a Turkish medic meets and falls in love with a Lebanese student, they marry in secret and he becomes radicalised in a haunting love story with a truly deadly twist.

Co-written and directed by Anne Zohra Berrached (24 Weeks), their five-year relationship, told in chapters, is seen through the eyes of student Asli (Canan Kir). She adores the charismatic Saeed (Roger Azar) who, though studying dentistry, had a lifelong dream to become a pilot.

When, in year three, he joins the local mosque and becomes more extreme in his views — criticising the US and Asli’s habits and choices — their relationship becomes strained. After disappearing to Yemen for four months, Asli isn’t allowed to ask questions on his return. Instead, he reminds her that she promised to keep all his secrets before the imam who married them. 

The film explores her role in aiding and abetting his radicalisation, but it never explains how or why he chose that path given he came from a wealthy liberal family. As the film heads to the 9/11 terror attacks, 20 years ago now, it reaches an explosive conclusion. 

Maria Duarte 
In cinemas

The Collini Case (15)
Directed by Marco Kreuzpaintner
★★★★

LAW versus justice is on trial in this gripping German courtroom drama that examines how countless Nazi war criminals legally escaped punishment with the help of the 1968 Breher Law.

Based on Ferdinand von Schirach’s best-selling novel, it is inspired by one of the biggest legal scandals in German history. It follows young attorney Caspar Leinen (a phenomenal Elyas M’Barek), whose first major case is to defend 70-year-old Fabrizio Collini (a magnificent and compelling Franco Nero), accused of murdering the upstanding business tycoon Hans Meyer (Manfred Zapatka).

Set in four time periods, this slick, beautifully crafted and acted crime thriller directed by Marco Kreuzpaintner has more layers than an onion and will bring you to tears as it slowly reveals why an ordinary man would kill a respected figure — execution style.

The answer begs the question: who is the victim, who is the perpetrator and what is justice?

It is an absolutely riveting ride, full of intriguing twists, which shows how the law is blind.

Maria Duarte
In cinemas

Copshop (15)
Directed by Joe Carnahan 
★★★

THIS ’70s-style gritty action thriller sees a slippery con artist hide from a lethal assassin inside a small-town police station as they embark on an intricate game of cat and mouse.

Frank Grillo plays the grifter Teddy opposite Gerard Butler, who brings all his charm and charisma to assassin’s assassin, Bob. Meanwhile Alexis Louder portrays the cop who has to keep both men in check and from killing each other as the station becomes ground zero for a bloodbath and an OK Corral-style showdown.

Co-written and directed by Joe Carnahan (Boss Level), this is a tense action-packed ride, elevated by the fine performances from Grillo, Butler and in particular Louder, who gives them both a run for their money.

Maria Duarte 
In cinemas

Respect (12A)
Directed by Liesl Tommy
★★★

DESPITE a powerhouse turn from Dreamgirls barnstormer Jennifer Hudson, there’s something so tired and formulaic to Aretha Franklin biopic Respect that its title feels satirical, given its subject.

A fairly rote spin of the What’s Love Got To Do With It? wheel, Respect chronicles Franklin’s rise to stardom amid a tumultuous marriage to manager Ted (Marlon Wayans) and a turbulent relationship with her father, the always reliable Forest Whitaker.

A tremendous performer with obvious vocal talent, Hudson again proves better than the material she has to work with; Tracey Scott Wilson’s screenplay feeling as laboured as it’s possible to be in a movie that sports this soundtrack.

Wayans holds his own meanwhile, though struggles under the ever-present shadow of Laurence Fishburne’s Ike Turner in a film that sands the edges off its central theme of domestic abuse, as if adjusting reality for contemporary palates and a 12A rating.

With a stately presentation by first-time helmer Liesl Tommy, Respect is a serviceable film that arguably plays better if you’ve never seen the (admittedly, less lavish) ’93 Tina Turner effort. Sadly, it lacks the gravitas of the Queen of Soul, it lacks balls, it lacks… sing it with me!

Van Connor

The War Below (12A)
Directed by JP Watts
★★★

IF ANY university film course ever teaches a semester on how to write the boilerplate, underdog war movie, copies of JP Watts’s The War Below would serve well as a teaching aid.

The story of a mission to dig through the trenches and under “no man’s land,” there’s so much pomp and ceremony on display in this one, it’s a wonder poor Tim Goodman-Hill didn’t throw his back out.

Goodman-Hill — a dependable Poundland Branagh — is the most recognisable face you’ll find, alongside Peaky Blinders alumnus Sam Hazeldine as our salt-of-the-Earth lead, in a level of casting that suggests aim has been taken at a homegrown television audience as opposed to theatrical.

That’s a shame, as Watts makes a cracking enough little war movie shot to formula and with admirably conservative production design, but — the absence of Laurence Fox in a period war movie aside — there’s little to impress.

Van Connor

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