FILM | REVIEWS
BIOPIC MR JONES (15) 116min ●●●●●
A story of a reporter who has since slipped through the cracks, veteran Polish director Agnieszka Holland (Europa Europa, In Darkness) trains her lens on Welsh journalist Gareth Jones. Holland recounts Jones’ journey to Soviet Ukraine in the early 1930s, where he witnessed the horrors of the artificial famine known as the Holodomor. After his career as private secretary to David Lloyd George
(Kenneth Cranham) is cut short, Jones (James Norton) travels to Moscow, following a tip-off from a contact who is later killed. Jones is left to pick up the trail, and he soon encounters New York Times bureau chief Walter Duranty (Peter Sarsgaard), who’s more interested in hosting erotic parties than doing any serious work. When Jones escapes Moscow and heads to the Ukraine, Holland really lets rip. Horrifying scenes greet him: cadavers piled high; children starving. Stalin’s regime was selling the region’s grain production then turning a blind eye to the genocidal consequences.
For those who don’t know the story, it’s an eye-opener; for those that do, it’s a painful reminder. With an excellent Norton bagging his best movie role to date, this is an angry and rewarding drama from a formidable filmmaker. (James Mottram) ■ General release from Fri 7 Feb.
SATIRE GREED (15) 104min ●●●●●
SATIRE PARASITE (15) 132min ●●●●●
The view from the cramped basement apartment where Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) lives with his wife (Jang Hye-jin) and grown-up children is grim. The family make ends meet via home- based schemes – folding pizza boxes and leaching off the wifi from a nearby cafe. So when an opportunity arises for their son (Choi Woo-sik) to tutor the daughter of a wealthy family, the clan leap on the chance to improve their lives.
South Korean director Bong Joon-ho moves away from the genre tropes of Okja and Snowpiercer to deliver a darkly hilarious, multi Oscar-nominated satire that riffs on economic hardship and capitalism. From the outset, it catches you off-guard with pithy humour and tender interactions. The twists and turns come at breakneck speed as the two families’ fates become dangerously intertwined.
Bong guides the viewer through a labyrinth of complex social issues via the setting of an eye-catching modern mansion and a clutch of compellingly written characters. He showcases his skills with gracefully choreographed long shots that capture calamitous violence, expertly balancing farce with devastating human drama.
At times, it’s like watching a home-invasion horror, with stealthily polite and manipulative aggressors who don’t really mean any harm. There’s no significant judgment passed on either family – it’s the widening class divide that’s the enemy. To say more would spoil the surprises, but the film unfolds like a warped blend of Jordan Peele’s Us and Hirokazu Kore- eda’s Shoplifters in its blazingly brutal, smart and heartfelt messaging. Questioning whether we can exist harmoniously in a society that values commodities more than human life, the answer comes in the form of a tragic and bloody denouement. (Katherine McLaughlin) ■ General release from Fri 7 Feb.
SCIENCE FICTION COLOR OUT OF SPACE (TBC) 111min ●●●●●
Chaotic, creepy and undeniably entertaining, Color Out of Space is a cacophony of sound and vision. In updating the 1927 HP Lovecraft short story, writer-director Richard Stanley creates moments of effective tension and genuine horror, interspersed with deliberately outlandish sequences that the narrative struggles to contain. Nathan Gardner (Nicolas Cage, adopting his trademark gonzo style) has relocated to small-town Massachusetts with wife Theresa (Joely Richardson) and their children. The family is under strain and shaken again by the arrival of a colourful meteor, which ushers in a series of strange events.
‘I don’t want them at my party,’ whines fashion tycoon Sir Richard ‘Greedy’ McCreadie (Steve Coogan) when he finds Syrian refugees camped out on a Mykonos beach, by the amphitheatre he has had built for his lavish 60th birthday bash. Michael Winterbottom’s pointed satire is part Greek tragedy and part takedown of the super-rich.
Coogan turns in a performance of typical gusto playing an obnoxious arsehole, transparently based on Philip Green. David Mitchell is McCreadie’s biographer, who goes behind the scenes of a wealthy clan, with the film inserting snippets of parliamentary testimony and flashbacks to dodgy deals. McCreadie’s monstrous family include his financially savvy ex (Isla Fisher), son (Asa Butterfield) and mother (Shirley Henderson, under prosthetics for much of the duration).
This is a bombastic return for Stanley, whose last narrative feature was 1992’s Dust Devil, and As a comedy, it’s enjoyable but never feels smart enough to
he has crammed it with every possible genre trope, from alien invasion to body horror. Ultimately, it is a film to be experienced, rather than studied, and is crying out for a tighter edit. And while it may be the story of a family losing their minds, and each other, Stanley eschews pathos to focus on gore and guffaws. Yet cinematographer Steve Annis and composer Colin Stetson create an impressive intensity, as well as an otherworldly beauty, and the effects are quite something to behold. (Nikki Baughan) ■ Limited release and on demand from Fri 28 Feb. be truly scathing, while too few of its characters are well- drawn. Winterbottom is clearly seething at the state of the nation but takes aim at an excess of targets: reality TV, tax evasion, sweatshops and the migration crisis. The material is undoubtedly enraging but, in its imperfect execution, Greed feels like an opportunity missed. (Katherine McLaughlin) ■ General release from Fri 21 Feb.
68 THE LIST 1 Feb–31 Mar 2020