Spectre  (2015)    65/100

Rating :   65/100                                                                     148 Min        12A

‘Spectre’ couldn’t really be more of a film for our times if it tried. Its shortcomings are frequently noticeable and include such cardinal sins as elements which are boring, flat, cheesy, stupid, and with numerous hammy moments for essentially all the characters. Although expectations were always going to be too high after Bond’s last outing, the wonderful ‘Skyfall‘, became the most successful British film of all time, I can nevertheless see Bond fans being fairly divided over this one.

This was aimed as the crowning jewel in the Daniel Craig (the actor currently playing Bond) era of films, linking the threads of the stories from ‘Casino Royale’ (06), ‘Quantum of Solace’ (08) and ‘Skyfall’ (12) with Bond’s traditional evil arch-enemy Spectre – the sinister organisation that dominated the early films, beginning with the first one in 1962, ‘Dr No.’ (SPECTRE was previously an acronym standing for ‘Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion’), before intellectual property rights issues eventually seen it nosedive into a chimney, if memory serves. Here, there seems to be a reference put in to what must be every single Bond film prior to Spectre’s release, and it kind of feels like when your favourite TV series has a ‘recap’ episode and you feel cheated because you’ve already seen everything in it before.

It all takes a step backward from where the modern films had been correctly heading, with stunts becoming much less believable than before, well executed technically but nobody in their right mind would attempt them in the first place, as Bond shows shades of his ‘too cocky for his own good’ persona of the past, replete with cheesy terrible lines and a hard-on for wafer-thin female characters – in fact, it feels like someone was sitting with a checklist of what should be included in the ‘typical’ Bond film and they just went through it, there’s no real heart to the film, whereas in Skyfall we felt Bond was a real person, fighting real enemies in a reasonably believable manner, with real tension and consequences.

Sam Mendes has returned as director, alas no Roger Deakins as cinematographer this time (Hoyte van Hoytema as his replacement does a god job though), and there was initial praise for giving Monica Bellucci a role, for casting someone a little older than your average Bond girl – but she’s barely in it! You don’t cast Monica Bellucci and then give her a couple of brief moments onscreen during which she essentially just gets banged by the protagonist – indeed, she is expecting assassins to come for her at any second so Bond dutifully takes her clothes off and beds her, next scene she is sitting atop the bed wearing sexy lingerie, as if she thought ‘even though I’m waiting to be killed at any moment, let me change into this sexy outfit I’ve been wanting to show off for ages before you go’, and then Bond tells her not to worry as he’s contacting Felix Leiter for her, who will presumably also take some time in being able to offer her any form of protection.

This ungrounded feeling to the writing continues throughout: we see a bad guy growing a conscience because women and children are involved although we can infer from what we already know that this cannot possibly be a sudden realisation but rather a blasé convenience, ‘The Dark Knight’ (08) references abound with bad guys talking about ‘aggressive expansion’ and something the villains do at the end which seems completely out of the blue as if several scenes are missing as in many other parts of the film, and, most terrible of all, the main villain Franz Oberhauser (played by Christoph Waltz) has been scrubbed and battered with an unhealthy amount of soap-opera, someone that should be terrifying and brilliant, or at least believable, comes across as anything but that, with Waltz miscast in a role that needed a much more intricate and daring treatment to work.

Having said that, the same plot ingredients, including Oberhauser, done in different ways could have worked out, but they needed a much smarter, involving and less self-referential final product. Mendes has his ‘Touch of Evil’ (58) moment with the opening scene all filmed in one continuous shot until the action begins (also likely inspired by last year’s best picture winner ‘Birdman‘) and this section of the film works really well, with the music memorably setting the tone amongst the wonderful backdrop of the ‘Day of the Dead’ festival in Mexico City, and it’s likely this will be the scene most remembered, although stylistically it’s not the only highlight and certainly a fight later on aboard a train also stands out for its bleak and uncompromising brutality.

The movie works far better on IMAX than on a standard screen (IMAX doesn’t always make a big difference) and after three sittings and an initial disappointment it does become easier to appreciate it and also to enjoy the numerous wonderful visuals that Mendes and Hoytema have dotted the film with (there’s even a location very reminiscent of the PC game ‘Riven’ for those familiar with it). Writing this just over a week after the terror attacks on Paris and Beirut (I notice the BBC have barely bothered to report on the latter incidentally) it’s impossible not to see numerous correlations between many of the plot elements and recent events – global intelligence agencies quickly announced they are going to work more closely together and share information, for example, just as they do in the film, indeed you do have to question a strategy from fundamentalists trying to retain physical territory in the Middle East that effectively unites the entire world against them, and notwithstanding the plot of Spectre one hopes that this united spirit will ultimately be a great and defining thing for the twenty-first century, although, ironically, this idea also brings us back to the plot of the film.

Just as 9/11 inspired a more gritty Bond with ‘Casino Royale’, so too will the plot for Bond 25 reflect recent events, and with both Britain and France announcing a recruitment drive for the intelligence services the world really is looking for more real-life Bonds, as well as heroism from the public in situations where help simply isn’t going to arrive on time – such as that displayed by Adel Termos, who sprung on a suicide bomber during the Beirut attacks resulting in an early detonation and preventing the scores or perhaps even hundreds of deaths that would have arisen if the bomber had been allowed to reach his intended target. Watching ‘Spectre’ display its wonderful locations from around the globe: Mexico City, Austria, London, Morocco, Rome, and pondering the reality now that everyone is united against a common enemy – life and creation vs pointless death, one is suddenly struck by just how romantic and hopeful a concept that truly is.

Dave Bautista plays henchman villain Mr Hinx, with Léa Seydoux as primary Bond girl Madeleine Swann in a role that, despite Seydoux having a lot of onscreen presence and being one of the best things in the movie, remains rather in servitude of Bond and his desires. Interestingly, all the best Bond movies for me had, well, good writing generally, but real female characters that were original and existed in their own right rather than as thinly veiled pieces of apparel for the protagonist – for anyone not familiar with the films I’d recommend, in order of their release, ‘Dr No.’, ‘From Russia with Love’, ‘Goldfinger’, ‘Thunderball’, ‘On Her Majesties Secret Service’, ‘Live and Let Die’, ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’, ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, ‘Goldeneye’ (slight nostalgia for the N64 game on this one), ‘Casino Royale’ and ‘Skyfall’, although some of the others had their moments too.

Curiously, the plot for ‘Spectre’ is also remarkably similar to a certain other big release from earlier this year, it often happens in the industry for one reason or another, although confidential emails relating to ‘Spectre’ were put into the public domain during the Sony hack, did any of them contain plot details? Hmm …

The theme song ‘Writing’s on the Wall’ from Sam Smith kind of sums up the film – you can see what it could have been and what the aim was, but the execution is off in too many important places. ‘Spectre’ works well as an homage to the franchise and as a culturally relevant piece of filmmaking, but as a stand-alone, artful, involving, believable and clever action film in the vein of Skyfall … not so much.

Spectre2

Crimson Peak  (2015)    58/100

Rating :   58/100                                                                     119 Min        15

Visually rich and well acted but lacking in almost every other department, Guillermo del Toro’s latest after ‘Pacific Rim‘ is a fairly traditional take on the horror genre with a 19th century haunted house mystery, except pointless gore predominates where there ought to be suspense and, critically, the entire premise is undermined by poor writing from the very offset. Mia Wasikowska plays Edith Cushing, the virginal, one presumes, young beauty about to come to the attention of one Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) and the cardinal sin of the screenplay is that it lets us know these two are up to no good all the way through, with nothing about their ultimate purpose proving to be very interesting nor surprising.

The sets and costumes are impressive enough, and as with the director’s other work he has overly committed to the aesthetic, albeit successfully, whilst not paying nearly enough attention to the storytelling (he was joined by Matthew Robbins for the screenplay). Everything simply plods along delivering nothing we haven’t seen before, apart from perhaps ghosts with all their flesh still on but minus the skin, simply for ‘shock’ value, all dancing around the loose thread of the siblings trying to mine the grounds around their crumbling English manor for the lucrative minerals in the earth surrounding it, and travelling to the States in the beginning to petition Edith’s business magnate father for investment. Fans of both horror and del Toro are likely to be disappointed, although the latter probably won’t completely hate it at least.

The Walk  (2015)    72/100

Rating :   72/100                                                                     123 Min        PG

Robert Zemeckis takes us on another technological cinematic leap by recreating the Twin Towers in New York City, as he dramatises the story of Frenchman Philippe Petit’s 1974 attempt to put a high-wire between the buildings and walk along it unaided at a height of some 412m. One imagines it may have been the challenges involved that peaked the director’s interest, having embraced technical frontiers before with the likes of ‘Back to the Future’ (85), ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ (88), ‘The Polar Express’ (04) and ‘Beowulf‘, but the story in itself wonderfully captures the human spirit for adventure and the desire to challenge oneself in spite of the odds, and indeed the naysayers.

The events have already been famously filmed of course as part of the Oscar winning documentary ‘Man on Wire’ (08), and to be honest I wasn’t convinced dramatising it was necessary. Initially, these thoughts were echoed throughout the first half of the movie, which plays out as a dreamy fairytale; whimsical, loose, cheesy and not really leading anyplace worthwhile – all with a disembodied Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) occasionally interjecting his own backstory from no less than astride the top of the statue of liberty, itself of course a gift from France.

Here is where a major pitfall, ahem, of the film lies – trying to walk the narrative tightrope between an appropriate homage to the Twin Towers via Petit’s endeavours without becoming jingoistic, and it doesn’t always succeed – perhaps most tellingly when the plot completely omits a major event in the story, which in effect there wasn’t really any need to bring up, but they actually go so far as to fudge central character reactions to mask the truth, ironically bringing attention to the fault. I won’t ruin what it is that’s missing, but suffice to say it’s been done in a typically Hollywood way and obliterated one of the most interesting moments and talking points of ‘Man on Wire’.

Had they not done this, then I would have loved to give the movie a higher grade as when it finally gets going, the high-wire scenes are fantastically breathtaking, with Zemeckis very much pulling off a coup-de-grace to completely salvage the film. Based on my recollection of the documentary, Gordon-Levitt similarly gives a memorably enthusiastic and believable imitation of Petit, although in such instances I think you really have to be French in order to tell if his accent sounds authentic (he studied French literature at university, and was aided by the French cast so it seems likely), or more like someone’s taking the piss. A real shame they played games with the truth but a strong Oscar contender nonetheless. With Charlotte Le Bon and Ben Kingsley in support.

Sicario  (2015)    72/100

Rating :   72/100                                                                     121 Min        15

Emily Blunt flees to Mexico after insulting the Republican presidential candidates in the States – not really (Blunt did recently commit this faux pas after becoming a U.S. citizen but has not, as yet, had to flee south of the border) rather she plays F.B.I. agent Kate Macer who is recruited by other intelligence officials to facilitate further strikes against the major Mexican drug cartels that had begun to make heavy inroads into her locale of Arizona. Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, of ‘Prisoners‘ fame, directs and Taylor Sheridan pens his screenwriting debut (he is better known for acting in TV series ‘Veronica Mars’ and ‘Sons of Anarchy’) to create a tense and beautifully shot thriller, with a level of realism on a par with ‘The Counsellor‘.

Villeneuve is one of the hottest rising stars behind the camera in Hollywood and here many of the early sections work really well, feeling immersive, real and exciting – but he’s not quite there yet, the good work begins to peter out a little as the movie goes on, largely due to a change in dynamic with the character interplay, a shift in focus away from the central character, Macer, may have helped allay that but as it is the film is still successful. In support are Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro and Daniel Kaluuya – the acting is unwavering throughout and as with ‘Prisoners’ you do think there may be Oscar calls involved, although it’s a bit early to say for sure.

Sometimes if you follow up a really good film, that probably deserved a mention, with another solid one then that’s when the Academy pays attention (kind of like Michael Fassbender missing out for ‘Shame’ {11} and then getting nominated the year after for ‘12 Years a Slave‘, and indeed he’ll almost certainly get another nod this year too). Blunt is the strongest candidate for awards glory and she is long overdue more recognition. Her role may indeed come to be packaged as a strong female one, but in reality she’s really playing an overly headstrong character out of her depth, it’s not a particularly great endorsement of feminism even though it may end up being championed as just that. Cinematographer Roger Deakins also adds a great deal of expertise that allows many of the desert shots, both aerial and of the horizon, to really stand out, rounding off a grittily memorable film.

Solace  (2015)    71/100

Rating :   71/100                                                                     101 Min        15

A movie dealing with a psychic who helps the F.B.I. solve crimes and which is, surprisingly, not total rubbish. It sounds like ‘Species’ (95) but the film very quickly just posits the fact that John Clancy (Anthony Hopkins) has far-reaching mental gifts and you basically think ‘OK great’, partly because it’s Hopkins playing him and as always he is brilliant to watch. Clancy has retired after family tragedy, but agents Merriweather (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the disbelieving Cowles (Abbie Cornish) request his services to trap a particularly skilled serial killer.

It’s a thriller that’s eminently easy to watch and its better moments are very reminiscent of ‘Se7en’ (95), indeed the initial script was intended as a sequel, and although it’s not really in the same league as that seminal film it does tick a number of the same boxes. From director Afonso Poyart and writers Sean Bailey and Ted Griffin and with some solid support from Colin Farrell, the film keeps the audience engaged throughout with a fairly eloquent delivery of what prove to be quite interesting core ideas.

Everest  (2015)    96/100

Rating :   96/100                      Treasure Chest                       121 Min        12A

This is an absolute powerhouse of a movie that thunderously announces the start of the awards season, boldly dominating IMAX theatres a week before its theatrical release and, having now watched it twice on IMAX and once on a normal 3D screen, this is definitely one film where the larger format makes a big difference. In fact, even if for some reason you weren’t taken with the story, the visuals of Everest and its surroundings alone make it worth going to see (sections were filmed on the mountain itself, others in the Italian Alps, and then variously at Cinecitta and Pinewood studios).

It’s often the mark of a great film when the more you watch it, the more you actually appreciate and enjoy it – I’ve answered some of my initial criticisms and uncertainties and not only is this easily the best film I’ve seen this year, I actually just wanted to go and watch it again immediately after the credits rolled for my third time (I’d even recommend sitting through them, there are no extra scenes but it’s fascinating to see all the various people and departments involved, and indeed how few stunt performers there were given the nature of the film, and the score from Dario Marianelli {‘Pride and Prejudice’ 05, ‘Atonement’ 07, ‘Anna Karenina’ 12} plays out the film and the credits perfectly – indeed, it’s definitely one of the main highlights throughout, setting exactly the right stirring tone for both drama and adventure).

The story details the events of one particular ascent of Everest in 1996 and as always with this kind of film, it works best if you know absolutely nothing about it going in so I’ll just summarise what the opening credits relate – namely that in the nineties professional climbers, beginning with high profile mountaineer Rob Hall and his company Adventure Consultants, started to organise trips to the summit of Everest as a business, and that between the beginning of organised and successful commercial operations and Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s first ascent in 1953, one in four climbers died whilst trying to defeat the mountain. Indeed, the film makes sure to run through the various horrible things that can happen to you humans whilst you try, mostly due to the area being in the ‘Death Zone’, an altitude where the air is too thin to survive for long without a mixture of serious training and artificial aid.

The film is remarkably successful in several key areas, and as always those of principal importance concern the writing which here addresses all of the pitfalls screenwriters Simon Beaufoy (‘Slumdog Millionaire’ 08, ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ 11, ‘The Hunger Games : Catching Fire‘) and William Nicholson (‘Shadowlands’ 93, ‘Gladiator’ 2000) must have been very aware of – they make us care about each of the characters, for example, and artfully deal with the unavoidable ‘what on Earth made you go up there in the first place?’, and although moments like these are in many ways obvious concessions for the benefit of the audience they, asides from the occasional incidence of someone randomly writing squiggles on a board in the background, have been handled really well.

Even though they’re mostly all together, we get to know and appreciate each character through a series of vignettes which are knitted together to form the story – each not only has us guessing what might ultimately happen, but most of them can also be read into in a number of different ways and the writers have been very careful to apply an even handed approach to events with regards to what occurs, leaving plenty of room for discussion afterward and, crucially, making the drama feel very, very human, and it all does an impressive job too of actually making us feel like we’re there, like what we’re witnessing is as we’d experience it if we were on the same, or perhaps any, climbing trip, rather than something stylised or augmented for cinema.

Anyone who’s ever engaged in any kind of outdoor activity may well know that feeling you have when everything is going well and then all of a sudden you realise you might be in a spot of trouble, and as Jason Clarke (playing Rob Hall) says near the beginning of the movie you can’t compromise on safety. When you’re in charge of something and have to make the big calls you’ve got to be brutal and unwavering with them each time (whenever you feel that cold sensation of ‘it’ll probably be fine …’ then you know you’re in a bad spot and should put an end to it right away), and essentially hope that people realise it’s for their own good – in my experience that’s usually a bit of wishful thinking but you’ve got to be ready and prepared for it nonetheless and like all the best films of this type Everest really brings this concept into focus, as well as the audacity and vulnerability of attempting to embrace the natural world on its own terms.

The editing by Mick Audsley and direction from Baltasar Kormákur work perfectly with the writing, as for much of the first half the views are scenic and mostly relaxing and it’s not until the film really gets going that the dramatic, vertigo inducing shots come into play – and although not every moment has the impact that you wish it had, the balance between scaring the audience and not making them vomit is finely achieved, cue moments of ‘is the camera going to carry on moving so we’re looking straight down … yup it is eeeeeeee’, and indeed when you’re filming, panning and rotational shots are some of the easiest to mess up as you always have to move slower than you think you do otherwise it just becomes a blur for the viewer. Sinfully absent, however, are any outstanding shots of the night sky – from Everest the view on a clear night of the Heavens and the Milky Way must be truly a sight to behold and it’s really surprising it doesn’t feature here, and indeed there are two scenes that are shot in the same manner with a static camera, and I can’t help but wish they’d done a more traditional shot for one of them, although they may have been accused of sensationalism that way, or being too cheesy or perhaps even disrespectful to the story.

The acting is universally great from an impressive lineup of stars: the aforementioned Clarke, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emily Watson, John Hawkes, Martin Henderson, Sam Worthington, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly and non other than the inimitable Keira Knightley. Both Brolin and Clarke are really impressive but especially so with regards to Brolin – the way he’s brought the subtleties of his role to life is one of the biggest and most effective anchors for the entire movie. I love the fact that Keira is in a film about the coveted pinnacle of the physical world as I kind of draw numerous parallels between them and, all obvious jokes aside, here, although her role is very much a supporting one, she is absolutely fantastic in it with a nigh on perfect Kiwi accent, and although there is one line I wish they hadn’t given her character as it sounds like something Elizabeth Swann would say and I wasn’t initially convinced by some of the direction for her scenes (tight frames on her face may suggest playing to her looks over tension etc.) but each and every time it’s her performance that really gets the audience going in a very audible way, so I have to concede the director was right on the money there.

Even Sam Worthington who very much exhibits his familiar ‘I am ON and ready for a FIGHT’ style actually sees it work really well for the film and for me this is currently deserving of an Oscars sweep next year, although it’s very early days yet. I’d love to see Clarke, Brolin, Kormákur, Nicholson, Beaufoy, Watson, Marianelli, cinematographer Salvatore Totino and, indeed, Keira nominated as although her screen time is really small, if the film manages to gain any traction with the Academy then we might see a repeat of what happened with 1976’s ‘Network’, which was a fantastic film that deservedly won a raft of Oscars but also landed Beatrice Straight one for best supporting actress and whom I think still holds the record for shortest screen time, at circa five minutes, for a win in the category and yet provided moments of emotional connection for the audience in a memorable way, and Keira’s scenes here along with her delivery have that same emotive quality and are certainly statuette worthy, but it will only stand a chance of happening if the film itself makes it to the finishing line.

Unusually, I’m not researching anything about this film; partly because, although I may live to rue this, I trust them with the details of the story in this scenario, and also because I don’t want the illusion to be shattered just yet by finding out things like my favourite moments were actually shot in a cosy studio somewhere etc. I’m also looking forward to watching it several more times and getting stuck into the extra material that’s bound to be on the DVD – I remember watching the bonus features for ‘Vertical Limit’ (2000) which wasn’t a particularly great film but after the featurettes and seeing what they went through to film it I had a great deal more respect for the filmmakers, in particular with things like Scott Glenn climbing up the ice with picks and no safety equipment, if memory serves.

There’s something about being able to watch a film detailing people climbing Everest and realistically taking you there with them all from the comfort of your chair in the theatre, something that goes to the very heart of one of cinema’s greatest strengths.

A fantastic film that will stay with you for a very long time.

Legend  (2015)    55/100

Rating :   55/100                                                                     131 Min        18

Tom Hardy plays both Ronnie and Reggie Kray, the infamous London gangsters who terrorised the city throughout the fifties and sixties, in a film that is about as unreal a historical depiction as you can imagine. The whole movie has a strong comic vibe to it, feeling primarily like an excuse for Hardy to show off artistically, and indeed it works better in this sense than in any other – partly because laughs were written into it but unfortunately also because there are numerous moments when it just feels a bit silly watching Hardy beat-up on himself. ‘The Double‘ was much more successful in putting the same actor onscreen as multiple characters – here Ronnie is depicted as a schizophrenic lunatic with a love for anarchy and violence, with Reggie as the more respectable and intelligent but an equal in terms of his propensity for bloodied destruction.

Emily Browning is a highlight as Frances Shea, Reggie’s lover, and Hardy skilfully creates numerous indelible moments but writer and director Brian Helgeland (here adapting the works of the man the Krays’ hired to immortalise them in print – John Pearson) takes the conspicuous easy road too frequently – often the face of one Kray is in shot whilst the back of the other is in the foreground etc., and indeed, despite several gory, brutal and menacing scenes, he has managed to more or less write out the entirety of the Krays’ criminal misdeeds, they’ve become ‘Ronnie and Reggie’ from down the pub and the only people we see suffering are those personally involved with them rather than the innumerable innocents concerned – all leaving the whole thing feeling about as realistic as an episode of ‘Eastenders’.

Maze Runner : The Scorch Trials  (2015)    61/100

Rating :   61/100                                                                     131 Min        12A

The sequel to last year’s first instalment, ‘The Maze Runner‘, and based on the second novel in the series by James Dashner (published in 2010) this follows in much the same vein as before – again with really good special effects and an impressive production overall, but still with an overall weakness that taints everything. Looking at the still above you can see a sort of cleanliness that covers everything, with actors that never look like they’re more than two seconds fresh from a scrub in their trailer and everything decidedly aimed at a younger audience that they presumably assume is going to care less about any sense of realism. The end result is Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) running away from the latest thing trying to kill him and his friends for the majority of the film, mouth agape in the same sort of nullified perpetual shock, all in a sterilised but otherwise well realised world.

Following on from part one, the survivors of the maze are taken to a fortified sanctuary that is currently under siege from unknown forces. It’s a time for everyone to regroup and recuperate but with Thomas’s memories only partially returned the past is as murky as the future, and they must ask where they, their rescuers, and the latter’s assailants all stand in their blighted and overtly dystopian new world. The overarching story is actually petty good and full of promise – and visually it is often done justice, but the characters never interact realistically with each other, nor their environment – cue lots of moments of ‘we really should be as stealthy as possible here, la la la la la, what’s your favourite colour?’, and equally unforgivable scenes where scarce weapons are just carelessly discarded. Too loose and too whitewashed for a ‘safe’, although not totally unsatisfactory, final product. New support from the likes of Aidan Gillen, Barry Pepper, Alan Tudyk, Lili Taylor, Rosa Salazar and Giancarlo Esposito.

The Transporter Refueled  (2015)    53/100

Rating :   53/100                                                                       96 Min        15

The Transporter hasn’t actually been refuelled, rather he’s been replaced, Jason Statham no longer appearing in the lead role after having done so for the first three films in the action franchise that begun with ‘The Transporter’ in 2002. Ed Skrein takes on the reigns as central character Frank Martin, with Ray Stevenson playing his father who gets kidnapped by several hot women (not that he minds too much – concerns about venereal diseases are apparently non-existent in the Transporter universe), that have escaped a criminal gang’s prostitution ring and are now out for vengeance – forcing the transporter to offer his elite and discreet delivery services for free, but also entangling him in the girls’ troubles. Skrein isn’t bad in the role, and it delivers fairly sleek, easy to watch action from start to finish in sunny locales like Nice, France, but there’s unfortunately just no real point to any of it, with tensionless drama and continuous resolutions that are either too easy or just plain daft.

No Escape  (2015)    51/100

Rating :   51/100                                                                     103 Min        15

Fairly ill-conceived thriller set in a fictitious country, one which also borders Vietnam and has a major river crossing that border, which kind of makes it Cambodia really (they also create a fake flag which seems to be an amalgam of one from the north of South America crossed with Bhutan’s for some reason). Owen Wilson, who is actually one of the film’s saving graces, takes his entire family to live with him in a foreign land he knows nothing about, all because his position within a large water company (which he apparently also doesn’t know much about) demands it of him.

Unfortunately, there is a military insurrection against evil Westerners the very next day and armed militia wander around the streets ethnically cleansing the entire city of white people, and anyone else who gets in their way. Lake Bell plays the wife and my goodness is her performance annoying in this, as neither she nor her admittedly cute but slow witted daughters click that their life is in danger and they are going to have to make a significant effort to survive. Initially, when the blood splattered shit hits the fan, things look set to deliver a really intense thriller, but it’s quickly ruined – firstly by adding traditional crummy music telling us to be excited where before there’d been more of a realist approach, and then secondly the basics of the story just become thicker and thicker slices of well matured action movie cheese. They even camp out on a lit, open-air roof that can be seen from all directions at one point. Mince. With Pierce Brosnan in support.