list.co.uk/ﬁlm REVIEWS | FILM
BIOPIC – POLITICS THE REPORT (15) 120min ●●●●●
BIOPIC – RACING LE MANS ’66 (TBC) 152min ●●●●● COMEDY HORROR LITTLE MONSTERS (15) 94min ●●●●●
In this damning but flat political drama from writer-director Scott Z Burns, Adam Driver plays Daniel Jones, a former US Senate investigator and the lead author of a report on the CIA’s torture programme in the wake of 9/11, commissioned by Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening). Jones faced stonewalling, obfuscation and the threat of legal action as the agency attempted to prevent the report’s publication, despite its findings corroborating their own. Those findings? That torture – repackaged as ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ – produced no actionable intelligence. Grainy flashbacks to the events detailed in the documents recreate the dehumanising treatment of detainees. They’re the weakest element. Dialogue between CIA agents and the Air Force psychologists who devised the programme is almost laughably expository. Dry in its first half, the film injects much-needed humour into later scenes, with Driver in particular making use of his fine comic timing. Bening, however, has little to work with, and the attention to story over character results in a fact-focused retelling that’s intellectually interesting and thrilling in its condemnation, yet devoid of tension, drama and emotion. (Sophie Willard) ■ Selected release from Fri 15 Nov.
Titled Ford v Ferrari in America, that’s a more to- the-point description of James Mangold’s latest. This is the story of how the American car giant took on the sleek, Italian racing phenomenon. As auto magnate Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) says, surveying the car factories that provided the bulk of US WWII bombers, ‘this isn’t the first time Ford has gone to war in Europe.’
As jingoistic as that sounds, it’s really the story of how two outliers, British-born mechanic/driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) and maverick American car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), teamed up with Ford in an attempt to beat Ferrari at Le Mans, the French endurance race, dominated by Ferrari from 1958. Obsession and daring are big themes, as these petrol-heads tinker with and test-run a Ford- built car, with Miles racing the tracks to prove his worth to the Ford top brass.
Co-written by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth and Jason Keller, the script doesn’t always purr: scenes with Miles and wife Mollie (Caitriona Balfe) are uneven and misplaced. But Mangold directs the races with a thrilling energy and the one-two punch of the finale caps off an effective and emotional story – one about dreamers who risked it all. (James Mottram) ■ General release from Fri 15 Nov.
After giving one of the year’s most memorable performances in identity horror Us, Lupita Nyong’o puts in another superb turn in Little Monsters. She is far and away the best thing in Abe Forsythe’s blood-spattered Australian comedy which still offers an entertaining take on the zombie movie. Nyong’o is sunny primary school teacher Miss
Caroline, who leads a school trip to the local farm with several young kids and accompanying adult Dave (Alexander England). Unfortunately, the farm is located next to a US Army Base, where biological testing has resulted in a zombie outbreak. Cue bloody mayhem.
Writer-director Forsythe mines the off-kilter humour for all it’s worth and the idea that Miss Caroline must not only keep the children safe but also protect them from the reality of the situation is neat. If Nyong’o stops the premise running out of steam, England is charming enough as Dave. And Josh Gad is appealingly awful as a hateful children’s entertainer struggling with his own monstrous demons. While Little Monsters lays the humour on thick, it doesn’t scrimp on the horror: a death at the hands of a zombie glove puppet is perhaps the most ludicrously grotesque thing you’ll see this year. (Nikki Baughan) ■ General release from Fri 15 Nov.
DRAMA MARRIAGE STORY (TBC) 136min ●●●●●
Drawing on its creator’s own and observed experience, Marriage Story gets stuck into the difficult business of divorce. Playing Nicole and Charlie, Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver invest their emotional disintegration with raw authenticity, while Noah Baumbach combines Woody Allen-style irreverence with the no- holds-barred naturalism of John Cassavetes.
Beginning, seemingly, in the throes of blissful adoration, with
a montage of things they love about one another, we hit earth with a bump when it’s revealed these lists have been compiled for a meeting to discuss the couple’s separation. Nicole is a former film actress who turned to the stage to please theatre director Charlie. The pair squabble over their son before finding themselves swept up in a brutal system, with their misery mined for profit by cutthroat legal professionals.
The look of the film is crisp, clean and, as the situation sours, appropriately cool. It can also be hilarious and devastating, discreet and confrontational as it deals with the chaos of family and the chill of loneliness and throws in heartbreaking moments of tenderness and residual affection. There are even a couple of musical numbers.
But it’s all about the performances. Johansson remains sympathetic as she hides behind her attack-dog lawyer, her face crumpling in shows of private pain. Casually critical, Charlie should be less likeable but the affable Driver poignantly captures Charlie’s disbelief when his family slips from his grasp. Baumbach knows he’s got gold here and, as emotions are unleashed and the arguing gets ugly, he lets several key sequences unfold at length; the effect is astonishing. It’s an actor’s dream. (Emma Simmonds) ■ Selected release from Fri 15 Nov and on Netflix from Fri 6 Dec.
1 Nov 2019–31 Jan 2020 THE LIST 93