3 new films, Arrival, Nocturnal Animals and a new Storyville.



Arrival divid­ed crit­ics when it reached cin­e­mas this autumn, with some hail­ing it as a strong con­tender for film of the year and oth­ers won­der­ing what all the fuss was about. It’s a sci­fi film from Cana­di­an film­mak­er Denis Vil­leneuve in which Amy Adams is giv­en the task of try­ing to decode the alien lan­guage of the vis­i­tors who arrive here from out­er space.

It is just about worth see­ing, but only because of the sub­tle twist it has in its tail and the less you know about that the more pleas­ant­ly sur­prised you’ll be by it. But it’s a very con­ven­tion­al film. One to put your feet up to with a calm­ing cup of cocoa on a rainy winter’s eve.

Amy Adams in Nocturnal Animals.

Amy Adams in Noc­tur­nal Ani­mals.

Noc­tur­nal Ani­mals is the sec­ond film from Tom Ford after his impres­sive debut with A Sin­gle Man in 2009. The lat­ter, as well as being as exquis­ite­ly craft­ed as every­one assumed it would be, it being a Tom Ford film, was also a qui­et­ly mov­ing film with sig­nif­i­cant­ly more in the way of emo­tion­al depth than many had expected.

His lat­est offer­ing how­ev­er is exact­ly the sort of vapid exer­cise in sur­face style that every­one had feared would be the result first time around. Amy Adams stars again, this time as a priv­i­leged gallery own­er in LA whom we’re clear­ly meant to sym­pa­thise with. She gets sent a nov­el writ­ten by an ex and the film morphs into a neo noir tale of south­ern revenge.

Colin Firth in A Single Man.

Col­in Firth in A Sin­gle Man.

It all looks impec­ca­ble of course, but all Sea­mus McGar­vey’s sump­tu­ous pho­tog­ra­phy does is to fur­ther empha­sise how lit­tle there is here beneath the sur­face. Whether Noc­tur­nal Ani­mals is an aber­ra­tion, and the real Tom Ford is the man who brought us A Sin­gle Man, or whether in fact that film’s suc­cess had more to do with Col­in Firth and the source mate­r­i­al pro­vid­ed by the Christo­pher Ish­er­wood nov­el, only time will tell.

James Foley.

James Foley.

I promised myself that I would force myself to watch all and any Sto­ryville docs that were screened on BBC4, but I real­ly wasn’t look­ing for­ward to what I pre­sumed would be a dull but wor­thy film on James Foley, the Amer­i­can pho­to-jour­nal­ist exe­cut­ed by Daesh. Once again, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

p01q1kmxJim – The James Foley sto­ry was a riv­et­ing win­dow into what life was like for the nine­teen oth­er jour­nal­ists who were impris­oned with him in Syr­ia, and an incred­i­bly mov­ing cel­e­bra­tion of a life cut short. In a dig­ni­fied and mea­sured way it was absolute­ly devastating.

If you’re not famil­iar with the Sto­ryville strand, I reviewed it and three or four of its remark­able films ear­li­er here. And if you can, watch the James Foley Sto­ry. You can see the trail­er for Arri­val here and the trail­er for Noc­tur­nal Ani­mals here.

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Atom Egoyan’s unfairly overlooked film “The Captive”.

"The Captive"

The Cap­tive”

What­ev­er hap­pened to Cana­di­an film mak­er Atom Egoy­an? Dur­ing the 1990s, he proved him­self to be one of the most excit­ing direc­tors work­ing any­where in the world.

After Fam­i­ly View­ing (’87), Speak­ing Parts (’89) and the crim­i­nal­ly over­looked Cal­en­dar (’93) he won inter­na­tion­al acclaim with the bril­liant­ly intri­cate Exot­i­ca in 1994, which was one of the films of the decade.

He fol­lowed that up in 1997 with The Sweet Here­after which was almost as impres­sive. It won the Grand Jury prize at Cannes and saw Egoy­an nom­i­nat­ed for an Oscar for Best Direc­tor and Best Adapt­ed Screenplay.

Felicia’s Jour­ney was some­thing of a mis­step in 1999, but he seemed to be back on song again with Ararat in 2002.

So what has hap­pened since? Well, there was an attempt at a rel­a­tive­ly big bud­get film in ’05 with Where The Truth Lies, star­ing Col­in Firth and Kevin Bacon. Which was all right, if some­what pedestrian.

Then there was Ado­ra­tion in ’08, which felt strained and effort­ful. And, again, pedes­tri­an. The “erot­ic thriller” Chloe fol­lowed in ’09, and then in ’13 the unnec­es­sary and baf­fling­ly straight Devil’s Knot.

So The Cap­tive, which was screened last year at Cannes, is very much some­thing of a return to form. Eight years after their daugh­ter is abduct­ed, her par­ents Ryan Reynolds and Mireille Enos dis­cov­er evi­dence that she might still be alive.



All of Egoyan’s usu­al pre­oc­cu­pa­tions sur­face. That sense of insid­i­ous intru­sion that we all feel liv­ing in a world where every­one is being watched. And where the nature of an event and the search for truth is some­how warped when that event is seen cap­tured on a screen.

And how the same events appear in a dif­fer­ent light and present lay­ers of con­flict­ing truths, when they are viewed at one remove on a screen, as those view­ing the events are them­selves watched by us, on ours.

Some peo­ple have com­plained that the sto­ry stretch­es creduli­ty. And it cer­tain­ly would have been a pleas­ant sur­prise if the vil­lain hadn’t been so vis­i­bly las­civ­i­ous. The banal­i­ty of evil is much more inter­est­ing and much more cred­i­ble than the sight of man twid­dling his mous­tache with such the­atri­cal rel­ish. And cast­ing Rosario Daw­son as a social work­er was always going to be a stretch in any universe.

But the film nonethe­less main­tains a won­der­ful­ly taut sense of ten­sion through­out, and is I fear a much more real­is­tic and bet­ter researched por­tray­al of pae­dophile rings and their sophis­ti­cat­ed net­work of vir­tu­al war­rens than many would like to believe.

Rosario Dawson looking more exotica than social worker.

Rosario Daw­son look­ing more exot­i­ca than social worker.

It’s not hard to under­stand why it was so com­plete­ly over­looked at Cannes last year and after its release sub­se­quent­ly, giv­en how far from grace Egoy­an has fall­en of late. But don’t be fooled by that recent form. The Cap­tive is a tense, intri­cate­ly woven thriller that delves into the dark­est crevices of the human psy­che with verve and intelligence.

You can see the trail­er for The Cap­tive here. And for The Sweet Here­after here. The Exot­i­ca trail­er is quite sim­ply pants. So here’s a taster that some­one’s post­ed up as an alternative.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below and I shall keep you post­ed every month on all the very best and worst in film, tele­vi­sion and music.