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Cinema Film round-up: December 5, 2021

The Star's critics Van Conner and Maria Duarte review C’mon C’mon, Silent Night, Encounter, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City and There Is No Evil

C’mon C’mon (15)
Directed by Mike Mills
★★★★

WC FIELDS’ infamous saying, “never work with children or animals,” has been proved right once more in this compelling virtual two-hander between Joaquin Phoenix and his captivating young English co-star, Woody Norman. 

The pair play an uncle and nephew who form a tenuous but transformative relationship when Johnny (Phoenix) agrees to look after Jesse (Norman), who is nine, to help out his estranged sister (Gaby Hoffmann).

Shot in black and white, writer-director Mike Mills delivers a haunting ode to the tricky relationship between adults and children as this middle-aged man learns how to take care of a child for the very first time.

Norman, who initially I mistook for being from the US, plays an annoyingly precocious yet whip- smart and perceptive kid who runs rings around his uncle.

Norman is an extraordinary talent who steals every scene he shares with Phoenix, who valiantly holds his own as this out-of-his-depth bachelor and radio journalist, who drags Jesse across the country as he interviews young people about their dreams and hopes for the future. 

Phoenix and Norman are a delight to watch in this gem of a slow-burning drama. 

Maria Duarte 

In cinemas December 3

 

Silent Night (15)
Directed by Camille Griffin
★★★

FOR a comedy-horror written and made well before the Covid-19 pandemic, this apocalyptic tale is frighteningly on the nose.

Starring Keira Knightley, Mattew Goode and Lily-Rose Depp, it centres on a group of obnoxious upper-class friends and their odious children, who are planning to spend their last-ever Christmas together before the arrival of a killer gas storm.

They adopt a stiff upper lip — cracking open bottle after bottle of prosecco while dancing the night away.

Writer-director Camille Griffin’s fascinating yet truly disturbing debut feature is a metaphorical exploration of the moral and emotional values of the British privileged classes as seen through the eyes of a child, Art, played superbly by Griffin’s own son, Roman Griffin Davis (JoJo Rabbit). He believes in care for all and so questions the government’s competence and its “Exit strategy” (a play on Brexit) for everyone (except the homeless and immigrants) to die painlessly.

It is a harrowing Christmas film which asks just how far you would go to protect your loved ones. 

MD 

In cinemas December 3

 

Encounter (15)
Directed by Michael Pearce
★★★★★

 

FANS of Jeff Nichols’s Midnight Special will be in their element with this intriguing sci-fi drama thriller from Beast director Michael Pearce. 

Encounter stars national treasure Riz Ahmed as paranoid marine Malik Khan, who, finding himself the only man alive not infected with an emerging alien parasite, sets out to rescue his estranged sons.

Part Invasion of the Body Snatchers; part Jacob’s Ladder, director and co-writer Pearce revisits elements of his acclaimed Michael Shannon-led calling card with an intriguing follow up that sports winning chemistry between Ahmed and on-screen sons Lucian-River Chauhan and Aditya Geddada.

Able to wring bonafide suspense and intrigue from arguably a pretty worn concept, Pearce finds something of his own Perfect World within this captivating fugitive chase tale — a pulse-pounding thriller with genuine dramatic heft that’ll doubtless prove a gem for Bezos’s streamer.

Van Connor

In cinemas and on Amazon Prime
 

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City (15)
Directed by Johannes Roberts
★★

THE inevitable reboot to arguably the only successful video game movie franchise, Resident Evil — the series that spawned six movies and exactly one sequence you can remember — is back. 

This time, with a twist: they’re giving up the shlock Matrix-esque action of the Anderson era for the foreboding dread and atmosphere of the video games, under new director Johannes Roberts.

Roberts — who previously helmed 2016’s studio chiller The Other Side of the Door — brings his take on the series back to the style and tone of its source material. 

Gone is Alice, swapped out for Kaya Scodelario’s Claire Redfield, in a new adaptation of the hit zombie series that now comes replete with murk and even a social commentary. 

Roberts proves absolutely the right director for it, but it’s on the page he’s found lacking, and, besides a riotous Donal Logue, he is sadly done no favours by a lifeless cast.

VC

In cinemas

 

There Is No Evil (15)
Directed by Mohammad Rasoulof
★★★★★

 

A SHARPER cut from the same cloth as Jafar Panahi’s Taxi Tehran, fellow filmmaking exile Mohammad Rasoulof takes a similarly voyeuristic return to his homeland with the intriguing capital-punishment drama, There Is No Evil.

An anthology of tales set within, around and in exploration of the use of state-sanctioned murder in Iran, Rasoulof envelopes the viewer in a series of perspectives, each trapped within their respective day-to-day lives. 

Feeling throughout like a guerilla filmmaking drama with bonafide cinematic clout; There Is No Evil mines for the empathy and even kinship created between us and those ultimately tasked with committing horrifying acts that’ll repeatedly rock you to your core.

The performances are raw, the tone never feels narratively driven, and yet its keynote comes through loud and clear — a stellar anthology that serves its political leanings alongside some enthralling and even shocking drama.

VC

In cinemas

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