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Film Round-up: February 8

The 15.17 to Paris (15)
Directed by Clint Eastwood
4*

 

THE CENTRAL storyline of Clint Eastwood's latest is unalloyed Hollywood. Three young US friends travelling through Europe are sparked into action on a train heading for Paris when an armed terrorist threatens to massacre the helpless passengers.

 

In this case, however, real life surpasses Hollywood hokum.

 

In 2015, childhood friends Anthony Sadler, former national guardsman Alek Skarlatos and ex- airman Spencer Stone did just that.

 

Armed with Dorothy Blyskal’s screenplay, Eastwood delivers a riveting thriller that, uniquely, has its three real-life heroes playing themselves.

 

It's an audacious move, but, with Eastwood as their mentor, the trio convincingly pull it off without any of the usual irritation created by professional actors dedicated to showing off. They add a unique potency to a stand-alone thriller.

 

It combines engaging storytelling that charts the trio’s lives as they bond as youngsters in Sacramento, then follows them through their European holiday as typical tourists taking selfies against historical backgrounds and having a hell of a time in Venice and Berlin before becoming unique and unexpected heroes.

 

Eastwood has said that he's made a “conscious choice” to tell heroic stories because “some feats are exceptional and beneficial to society and it’s nice when you can tell a story like that.”

 

That’s why The 15.17 to Paris is well worth catching.

 

Alan Frank

 

Loveless (15)
Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev
4*

 

RUSSIAN director Andrey Zvyagintsev uses a family in crisis to provide a damning critique of life in modern-day Russia in this follow-up to his critically acclaimed and Oscar-nominated Leviathan.

 

It's set in Moscow in the autumn of 2012, where Boris (Aleksey Rozin) and Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) are undergoing a bitter, toxic divorce during which their 12-year-old son (an impressive Matvey Novikov) disappears after one of their most vitriolic and venomous arguments.

 

The pair, who already have new partners, are forced to team up in the search for their missing son with the help of a search-and-rescue organisation.

 

The powerful performances from Rozin and Spivak provide one of the most realistic portrayals of a divorcing couple in meltdown as they deliver deadly psychological blows to each other.

 

Zvyagintsev paints a bleak, thought-provoking picture of self-interest, spiritual bankruptcy and moral detachment that will stay with you long after the end credits have rolled.

 

MD

 

Tad The Lost Explorer and The Secret of King Midas (U)
Directed by Enrique Gato and David Alonso
3*

 

“MY INDIE hat!” cries the eponymous human hero Tad when he sets out to fight the villains hunting for the legendary King Midas’s necklace which would give them the power to rule the world.

 

So, naturally, I congratulated myself on realising that this action-packed animated adventure with its human hero and his unlikely cohorts — the merry Mummy of Paititi, Belzoni the parrot and his dog Jeff — was essentially a riff on Indiana Jones.

 

So much for subtext. In fact, directors Enrique Gato and David Alonso are simply cashing in shrewdly on the worldwide success of their 2012 animated hit Las Aventuras de Tadeo Jones.

 

Here we get construction worker-turned-hero Tad/Tadeo as an animated version of Indiana Jones — at times rather more animated than his human inspiration Harrison Ford — whizzing from Las Vegas to Spain to Turkey to foil the Bad Guys and save his beloved archaeologist girlfriend Sara.

 

Most youngsters should enjoy the noisy, fast-moving and splendidly silly proceedings while accompanying adults can congratulate themselves on recognising echoes of The Italian Job in a lunatic sequence of a cab being pursued through a Spanish city.

 

An appealing family film that’s fast enough to prevent tedium from setting in.

 

AF

 

The Mercy (12A)
Directed by James Marsh
3*

 

THIS compelling tale is based on the true story of amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst's ill-fated round-the-world solo voyage in 1968. “You are a story of derring-do waiting to be told,” Crowhurst's press agent, played sublimely by David Thewliss, tells him.

 

The reality is somewhat different as we see the dreamer Crowhurst (Colin Firth, in a powerhouse performance) veering from optimistic denial and stiff-upper-lip resolution to going slowly insane on his boat at sea.

 

The stakes were pretty high as Crowhurst put up his business and his home as collateral in exchange for the money to finance his vessel and a place in the non-stop round-the-world race and director James Marsh delivers a gripping and captivating drama, in which he juxtaposes Crowhurst's happy family life with his wife (a sterling Rachel Weisz) and four children with their agonising wait for him to return and the hardships he was confronted with in a boat that wasn't altogether seaworthy.

 

Although Crowhurst documented his journey on tape for the BBC, what really happened to him remains a mystery, but this film sheds some light on this man's extraordinary story.

 

MD

 

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