Reviews written by registered user
Hawkensian

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106 reviews in total 
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The biggest piece of Oscar bait to ever win Best Picture,, 27 July 2017
5/10

This is a vanilla piece of cinema - classic Oscar-bait. Every character is a blue- blooded bore apart from Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a zealous Scotsman who refuses to race on a Sunday. This, believe it or not, is the central conflict of this bland British classic, the dramatic peak.

Many will enter Chariots of Fire expecting dramatic, slow motion running to that iconic score by Vangelis, and that is what they will get in the opening five minutes. However, they'll have to go through about 100 minutes of dinners, sermons and received pronunciation until Harold's Olympic sprint, which finally breathes some life into the film by skilfully wracking your nerves.

Even if the slack narrative was tightened up, the importance or interest of this story is dubious at best. Where's the drama, where's the sacrifice? There is none.

4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Little more than a mix tape with dull characters and clichés attached to it, 15 July 2017
5/10

I read an early tweet that described Baby Driver as 'a mix-tape with a film attached to it' and that proved to be an accurate comment. The tweeter may have thought this was a good thing, but I certainly don't.

Yes, there are some good tracks and the action sequences are elaborate and frenetic (a little too frenetic, actually), but the characters are dull, unlikeable and bear very little relation to the real world. I simply did not believe in them, especially Darling, the sassy, kick ass stock character that only a fool would consider to be a strong female character.

Then there's Baby, whose laconic, boyish demeanour makes him a rather uninspiring protagonist. His romance with Debbie, a cute little waitress, is yawn-inducingly clichéd, too.

If you want a stylish heist film that isn't so bloody try-hard, then watch Drive. It's an exercise of style over substance much like this film, but it has suspense, atmosphere and characters that could actually exist rather than blaring music, mind-numbing action and flat, hateful comic book characters.

Logan (2017)
9 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Hack, slash, stab, repeat., 2 April 2017
6/10

Logan certainly delivers in terms of hacking, slashing and stabbing, but the wounded bear routine of the titular character wears pretty thin. Logan is the antihero stock character very much in the brooding, world weary style of John Rambo. The zenith of the cliché occurs when Logan remarks that familiar tortured line: 'Everyone I care about gets hurt'. Jackman does transcend the limitations of his character with moments of raw emotion, but these are few and far between.

The rest of the performances are fine, passable; although I would have liked to see Richard E. Grant chew some scenery. If you're going to cast a British baddie, let him go full blown Gary Oldman - what this bleak spectacle sorely needs is some charisma.

Alas, the bland characterisation isn't saved by the narrative, which follows a monotonous cat-and-mouse formula that's bereft of any suspense. A viewing of 'No Country For Old Men', a preeminent cat-and-mouse film, will remind you just how tiresomely loud and noisy 'Logan' is.

What we have then is a dumb and decidedly average action film with a filter stripped right from Johnny Cash's 'Hurt' video and a litany of brutal yet repetitive fight scenes.

An educational experience rather than an entertaining one,, 22 January 2017
6/10

'Bicycle Thieves' is a sometimes poignant film about the plight of the 'little man' who has no contacts, no influence, no money, no nothing'.

I must admit that the extremely high esteem in which it is held leaves me slightly at a loss. Its themes of wealth and class are clear but they rarely evoked much emotion within me for Antonio - our protagonist and victim of the titular bicycle thieves - is rather dull. The one and only exception to this is when he gleefully indulges at a local restaurant with his son Bruno. Alas, the pleasure it brings them is fleeting.

I felt a modicum of indignation here and a degree of pathos there, but ultimately, 'Bicycle Thieves' did not compel me. Certainly not compared to the gritty kitchen sink fare of the British New Wave some years later. Rather, I appreciated it as a cinematic artefact; an educational experience rather than an entertaining one.

1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
The weak, lazy third act undoes around 70 minutes of unnerving slow burn ambiance, 26 June 2016
6/10

The Neon Demon is the new film from Nicolas Winding Refn, the Danish auteur best known for his blood-spattered fetishisation of Ryan Gosling. The film's not released until 8 July, but I was fortunate enough to attend a preview screening and Q&A with Refn, or NWF as he's now calling himself, at Manchester's HOME cinema.

Let's begin by saying that it is a marked improvement on his last work Only God Forgives, the Bangkok-set misfire which strew terrible characters, terrible dialogue and dull Oedipal metaphors over 90 tedious minutes.

For The Neon Demon, Refn has left Thailand and taken us back to Los Angeles, the sprawling city that Newton Thomas Sigel photographed so beautifully in Drive. Sigel hasn't returned but Natasha Braier, his Argentine replacement known for her work on The Road, provides similarly dazzling visuals, from sweeping shots of the dusky Los Angeles basin to surreal and sparkling strobe-lit sequences.

Composer Cliff Martinez supports Braier's sterling work in his third collaboration with Refn. He has produced a goosefleshingly brilliant medley of industrial electronica that sends its heavy, menacing baselines thudding through your body. Indeed, Martinez has probably outperformed his director for the second time in a row.

At the centre of this audio-visual spectacle is Jesse (Elle Fanning), a wholesome young girl whose angelic, virginal beauty sends her hurtling to the top of the modelling industry, much to the catty chagrin of Gigi (Bella Heathcote) and Sarah (Abbey Lee).

Gigi has been cut, sliced and hammered into shape by LA's most esteemed surgeons, and she'll proudly tell anyone who listens. Heathcote's outrageously defined jawline delivers much of her performance, but she also effectively creates an artificial wide- eyed façade that barely masks a desperate insecurity and venomous jealousy.

Rather than being artificial, Australian supermodel Abbey Lee is often just plain wooden as Sarah, the more overtly bitchy of the pair. Lee's dollish face has an emotional vacuity that's appropriate for the character, but her line delivery is regularly stilted. However, she does shine in a scene where she breaks down in front of Jesse, asking what it's like to have that 'thing' that gets you noticed. Lee's steady improvement is a reflection of Refn's preference to shoot chronologically.

Gigi and Sarah are the primary antagonists of a toxic industry that wants to sink its teeth into young Jesse and suck all the life out of her. It is only Ruby (Jena Malone), a make-up artist, who appears to have Jesse's best interest at heart. But even Ruby's intentions are dubious, as there are disconcerting sexual overtones to her friendliness.

Perhaps the greatest danger of all is Hank (Keanu Reeves), the thuggish sexual predator who runs the dodgy motel Jesse's staying in. Sleaze sweats from every pore of Reeves's gruff face as he leers and intimidates Jesse and Dean (Karl Glusman), an amateur and affable young photographer who Jesse has firmly friend-zoned.

All of these thoroughly malevolent individuals cast a menacing shadow over young Jesse. If she isn't sabotaged Showgirls-style at work, she might be shanked to the sound of Bernard Herrmann's strings in the motel shower. Despite this, it does not feel like a horror film, it's really a warped social commentary, a bit like Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars, only without the humour and scathing satire.

The Neon Demon becomes more of a horror film in the final 20 minutes or so, which is when everything falls apart. After about 90 minutes of preamble, Refn undoes the slow-burn tension with a lazy denouement that indulges his crude metaphors of the beauty industry's 'cannibalism'.

Fanning has said that the ending was created and improvised on set, and it really does show. Instead of remaining ground in reality, which the film generally does up until this point, Refn takes the easy route by falling back on viscera of the comically supernatural variety. Some Refn fans will sneer at such criticism and hark on about the grand symbolic value, but not only is the fashion industry an easy target for derision, but the metaphors are flat, too.

This is the problem with Refn – he's prone to pseudo-intellectualism. For example, during the Q&A session he said that the main reason for making the film was to live out his fantasy of being a young girl, concluding with total certainty that 'there is a 16- year-old girl in all of us'. Speak for yourself, Nick. He continued to delve into his strange brand of pop-psychology, dubbing himself as a 'sadist' in his profession but a 'masochist' in his home, because his wife and two daughters outnumber him. This is a pretentious and somewhat incestuous way of saying his wife wears the trousers.

He also spoke about directing Jena Malone in the film's most sexually explicit scene, asking her to spit there and rub that. Some would say he was blurring the lines between film director and porn director, between Ron Howard and Ron Jeremy, but Refn said that 'it was all okay, because we found her character together.' This is such guff, Nick – you were getting off on it! After all, Refn has confessed in the past that he's a 'pornographer' who makes films based on what excites him.

Perhaps the most interesting thing Refn said during the Q&A was that he considers Richard E. Grant to be a 'c*nt', which after seeing Withnail and I, is something I think I can agree with.

Thematically and metaphorically speaking, The Neon Demon is about as shallow as the industry it critiques. But Fanning's endearing lead performance, Natasha Braier's stunning camera-work and the ambiance of Cliff Martinez's score make it a film worth watching on the big screen, especially in Cinema One at the brilliant Manchester HOME.

3/5

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Green Room (2015)
3 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Green Room is light on story but excruciatingly heavy on blood spattered, genre-leading survival thrills,, 23 May 2016
7/10

Director Jeremy Saulnier knows a thing or two about set pieces. Head shots, too. The harrowing events of Green Room occur in just several rooms, yet Saulnier's stripped- down script and direction creates a veritable white-knuckle ride of desperate reversals of fortune and shocking explosions of violence.

The victims of all this nastiness are The Ain't Rights, a struggling Punk band comprising Pat (Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reece (Joe Cole) and Tiger (Callum Turner). After stealing some petrol for their battered old camper van, they head to Seaside, Oregon, where a local DJ arranges a gig for them at a 'right-wing' venue, an offer which the destitute band cannot afford to decline.

When they arrive at the club – which is in an ominously remote corner of the Pacific Northwest – the shaven heads, tattoos and sketchy, leering glances make it clear that the crowd is not merely right-wing but positively fascist. It is at this moment that a feeling of palpable danger and isolation starts to germinate, a feeling that comes to brutal fruition when Pat is witness to a murder in the club's green room.

In a hail of panic and confusion, the band and Amber (Imogen Poots) are locked in the room under the guard of Big Justin (Eric Edelstein) and his fully loaded Smith & Wesson .500, which he explains has cartridges so large that only five can fit into the cylinder. What ensues is a savagely intense siege that affords both its protagonists and the viewer very few luxuries.

After the first few instances of jarring violence, I feared that the film was going to be ninety minutes of audience punishment in the style of The Loved Ones or Wolf Creek. Thankfully, the fortunes of our besieged protagonists do improve, albeit in a wayward and unpredictable manner. It is all the better for it too – the twists and turns of the band's seemingly insurmountable predicament had me in a choke hold until the very end.

What makes Green Room so engaging is its relatability; it is much like Deliverance in this respect. Both films thrust normal people with little experience of violence into a lethal situation, causing the viewer to wonder 'what would I do?', 'where would I be in this group's dynamic?'.

Similarly, the protagonists of both films have no one to turn to, no outsider that they can fully trust. With his smooth diction and measured disposition, Darcy (a very interestingly cast Patrick Stewart) initially appears to be a mature voice of reason amongst a pack of rabidly aggressive young men. Alas, such hopes do not last as the contrary becomes quickly evident. It is only Gabe, played by Saulnier's childhood friend Macon Blair, who appears to be someone the band can work with. Blair channels much of his performance through an anguished gaze that reveals shades of anxiety, doubt and shame. It seems that Gabe has fallen prey to Darcy's steely manipulation.

This is about as dynamic as the characterisation gets, because although Green Room features fine performances across the board, it is a film that's driven by genre-leading survival thrills rather than plot and characters. If you choose to go and see it – prepare yourself!

75%

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High-Rise (2015)
87 out of 134 people found the following review useful:
High-Rise's allegory of class divide gets lost in a dull montage of blood, sweat and blue paint, 17 April 2016
5/10

Ben Wheatley is one of the most exciting British directors working today. His two best films are Kill List, a deeply disturbing horror/thriller about a tormented contract killer, and Sightseers, a black comedy about a troubled couple on their parochial, psychopathic honeymoon.

Key to these films' success are strong characters with interesting dynamics. Kill List begins almost like a domestic kitchen-sink drama centred on the failing relationship between Jay (Neil Maskell) and Shel (MyAnna Burning), but it subsequently evolves, or rather devolves, into something dark, dank and horrible in a most unpredictable manner. Sightseers may be most commonly remembered for its scenes of outlandish violence, such as when Chris (Steve Oram) deliberately runs over a litterer in a fit of righteous anger. However, underneath the comic outbursts of gore is the poignant relationship between Chris and Tina (Alice Lowe), an oddball pair with a past of loneliness and insecurity.

Having proved himself as a director of visceral horror and emotional substance, Ben Wheatley is the natural choice to direct J.G. Ballard's High-Rise, a Goldingesque tale of violent class war exploding within a brutalist tower block. The fragility of civilisation, and the primitive savagery that lurks beneath it, is a darkly fascinating subject that has made for excellent films and books, such as Threads, a devastating vision of post- apocalyptic Britain, and William Golding's Lord of the Flies, which needs no introduction.

High-Rise does not brush shoulders with such works, for its allegory of class divide gets lost in a dull montage of blood, sweat and blue paint. Oh, and dancing air hostesses, for reasons that are, to put it politely, enigmatic.

The focal characters – Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston), a measured, middle class doctor; Charlotte Melville (Sienna Miller), a sultry woman who serves as Laing's gateway in to upper floors' high culture; Richard Wilder (Luke Evans), a pugnaciously aspirational documentary maker; and Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons), the patrician architect who designed the building – are introduced well enough, but ultimately do not receive sufficient development.

As the lead and perhaps most relatable character, we are in the body of Laing when he traverses the tower's social scene, which he admits to 'not being very good at'. Some may find him steely, but Laing has an affable reserve and high emotional intelligence. He isn't particularly interested in the petty one-upmanship that comes with climbing the social ladder, but he manages to deftly negotiate it anyway through his insouciant reserve that maintains peoples' interest and disarms any potential enemies. Hiddleston, one of Britain's hottest exports, is well cast here, he delivers the best performance of the film.

However, after a competent introduction to society in the high rise, Laing and the others get lost in an incoherent narrative that favours aesthetics and absurdity over credible character interplay. It begins three months ahead of the main events, showing a blood spattered Laing roasting a dog's leg over a fire surrounded by dirt and detritus. After the introductory period of around thirty minutes, the film then charts what led to this repellent spectacle with a disjointed series of set pieces that give little sense of progression.

Electrical problems are plaguing the building and resentment is brewing between the upper and lower floors, but the descent into nihilism just… happens. Dogs are being drowned, Laing's painting his apartment (and himself) like a total madman and the whole building becomes a rubbish-strewn nightmare – but there's no tension, no crescendo, no credibility and, curiously, no one who considers leaving! The worsening relations should have been more gradual and given much greater depth and meaning by the characters, their dialogue and their relationships. Instead, the main character covers himself in paint to communicate his increasingly aberrant state of mind, which appears to be an obvious metaphor for tribal decorations.

High-Rise fails as a film about primal savagery and particularly as a film about class. In Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, I cringed as Jasmine and her husband Hal, arrogant members of New York high society, barely contained their raging superiority complexes as they awkwardly condescended to Ginger (Jasmine's sister) and Augie, a decidedly blue collar couple who wonder at Hal and Jasmine's luxurious home. No such realist interplay is to be found in High-Rise, because its characters are thinly drawn and it isn't rooted in reality, which is very much to its detriment.

Towards the film's end, there are moments in which Royal and his minions discuss the politics and future of the tower, with Royal remarking that the lower floors should be 'Balkanised', meaning that they should be fragmented and pitted against each other in a manner reminiscent of the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s. I liked the use of that phrase, there should have been a lot more of this in the script, more overt political manoeuvring rather than surrealist claptrap and brutalist 70s chic.

Alas, Wheatley's High-Rise is more concerned with aesthetics and the 1970s, which means there's more in the way of shag-pile carpets, dodgy hair and the colour brown than developed characters, coherent narrative structure and sociopolitical substance.

58%

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0 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
The Hateful Eight suffers from an overly long running time, comparably forgettable characters and the weight of expectation, but it eventually comes to life,, 3 February 2016
7/10

It's easy to determine the worst film of Tarantino's career, it's Death Proof. That one's firmly at the bottom of the totem pole. Some way up to around the middle of the pole are both volumes of Kill Bill, which had fun action but were utterly lightweight. Deciding which film occupies the top of the monument is quite difficult, as I like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained for a variety of different reasons. These four films are a showcase of the wit, cine-literacy, explosive conflict and idiosyncrasies that have made Tarantino perhaps the most popular director of the past twenty years.

On the surface, The Hateful Eight has the earmarks of a Tarantino film. It has dialogue in abundance, squibby gunfights, incessant use of the word n*gger and a hollering Samuel L. Jackson, but Quentin Tarantino's eighth film is a decidedly mediocre entry into his much loved oeuvres.

The immediate problem is pacing. Unlike some, I seldom found the pacing of Inglourious Basterds or Django Unchained to be a problem, but The Hateful Eight, which has been politely labelled a slow burner by some critics, burns too slowly. It takes a whole half hour of gruff, uneventful drawl before we reach Minnie's Haberdashery, in which the remainder of the film's 187 minutes takes place.

Once we're in the cabin, the aggressively cautious John Ruth (Kurt Russell) demands the identity of everyone. There's Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson), a bounty hunter who is fine but doesn't depart from familiar Sam Jackson territory; Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), the goofy, ebullient Sheriff of nearby Redrock; Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Ruth's foul-mouthed bounty who's on the receiving end of multiple elbows and fists; Oswaldo Mobrey (Tim Roth), a stereotypical Victorian gentleman and hangman; Bob (Demian Bichir), a mumbling Mexican; General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), a cantankerous bastard who fought in the Civil War and Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), a completely disposable stock character.

It is unlikely that any of these characters will leave much of an impression on the viewer, they are Tarantino's most unremarkable and thinly drawn in quite some time. You will not find another Vincent Vega, Jules Winnfield or Colonel Hans Landa here. One would think that a film with this title would have eight very unpleasant characters, and I suppose it does, but I didn't hate them because I didn't care. There is a flashback scene in which they are genuinely hateful, but its placement towards the end of the three hour running time blunted its power, all of the narrative baggage that preceded it was distracting and dispiriting.

Like he did in Kill Bill vol. 1, Tarantino could've made up for the weak characters with some great set pieces. His career has been punctuated with long scenes of iconic humour and dialogue as well as biting tension, suspense and unpredictability. These elements are sometimes present within the cramped four walls of Minnie's Haberdashery, especially when the mystery begins to unravel. Compare this to Inglourious Basterds, however, and you'll be swiftly reminded that The Hateful Eight lacks the energy, excitement and intrigue that we expect. There's nothing that matches the opening interrogation between Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) and the French farmer or Michael Fassbender's excruciating altercation in the basement bar.

Perhaps most damaging of all is that the dialogue and humour also suffers by comparison. There's no golden watch sequence, no 'I just shot Marvin in the face' moment. There's nothing that approaches the loquacious flair of Reservoir Dogs and particularly Pulp Fiction. The Hateful Eight's most memorable set piece is an ill-judged exchange between Samuel Jackson and Bruce Dern, in which there is a cutaway scene featuring fellatio. It's crude, unimaginative and below the standard of a two- time Oscar winner for best original screenplay.

All of this would have been avoided if Tarantino had just given the screenplay to Tracy Letts, who wrote the wonderfully twisted Killer Joe. Letts is a Pulizer prize-winning playwright who knows how to ignite all manner of drama within a cramped domestic setting; he also knows how to write an outrageous scene of fellatio. Letts would have stripped it down and added a bit of spice, or probably a whole ghost chili, knowing him.

The tone of this review has been largely negative, but I didn't hate or even dislike the film. The Hateful Eight is just something of a misfire, a weak ending to Quentin's so- called historical trilogy. It suffers from a slow start, but the crescendo that builds following the interval reaches a climax that lifts the film up, albeit not to the height of his previous efforts.

73%

Eden Lake (2008)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Eden Lake is 90 minutes of cruelty with genre tropes that obscure any intelligent commentary., 24 January 2016
5/10

With an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and claims that it is 'thought provoking', one would expect Eden Lake to be cut above Hostel, Saw and other torture films that appear comparable. While it may be superior to a certain degree, it remains a decidedly shallow film that is too constrained by the tropes of its horror genre framework to be taken seriously.

The film follows Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and Steve (Michael Fassbender), a young couple who retreat to the Midlands countryside for a romantic break. As the couple drive north of London, there is an ominous radio discussion about the state of education and the perceived animosity brewing between the young and the old, assembling its themes of 'Broken Britain' in a manner that is perhaps slightly obvious.

After several disconcerting encounters with some obnoxious locals, the pair set up camp on the sandy banks of a flooded quarry. Their tranquility is soon interrupted by a chavvy young horde of Daily Mail proportions, led by the psychopathically aggressive Brett (Jack O'Connell). The conflict begins with general boorish behaviour and a wayward Rottweiler, and feeling the weight of his masculine responsibilities, Steve approaches the group and politely asks them to behave themselves. His reasonability is spurned and the couple are soon fighting for their lives in what is effectively their attackers' back yard.

Many barbarous things have happened when the aggressive and the controlling have attracted the meek and the impressionable. The first example that springs to mind is the 1993 abduction and murder of toddler James Bulger by two ten-year- olds, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables. The pair's twisted crescendo of rebellion began with truancy and shoplifting, which led to the idea of abducting a child and pushing it into the path of an oncoming car, which finally led to James's abduction from the Bootle Strand shopping centre and his brutally protracted murder on train tracks by Anfield Park. The two boys enabled and normalised each other's behaviour, and the roles of ringleader and minion became quite clear in police interviews.

Once arrested and interrogated by officers, Jon Venables was wrought with intense fear and remorse. He confessed to the killing, but was unable to tell the part of the story that he ominously called 'the worst bit'. Conversely, Robert Thompson, described as 'street wise way above the age of ten', was hostile, dishonest and unrepentant. Thompson and Venables had a typical dynamic that became horribly toxic over a day's truancy; it could inspire darkly compelling material for either print or cinema, providing it was created with intelligence and sensitivity.

Eden Lake could have been this film. It could have been a bleak social commentary in the vein of A Short Film About Killing and Boy A; a mature and intelligent insight into senseless violence and the nihilistic, ignorant, vulnerable people who commonly commit it. Instead, the viewer gets a tropey horror film that focuses on neither the group nor the couple in a meaningful way. The film's main concern is brutality, such as showing us what it looks like when a Stanley knife is forcibly entered into someone's mouth.

Despite Eden Lake's themes of class and age divide being highly superficial, political commentators have made the film fit their agendas. Owen Jones, one of The Guardian's most prominent PC enthusiasts, wrote the following in his book Chavs: 'Here was a film arguing that the middle classes could no longer live alongside the quasi-bestial lower orders.' Like many who are preoccupied with ideology and prone to knee jerk reactions, Jones mistakenly believes that the portrayal of one group of teenagers is supposed to be representative of an entire social group comprising millions of people.

With good performances and uncompromising brutality, Eden Lake grips and shakes its audience quite effectively. However, it is mere viscera rather than political commentary, sharing more in common with The Last House on the Left than A Clockwork Orange.

50%

Gone Girl (2014)
0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Gone Girl is a dark, suspenseful and brilliantly twisty thriller with a sharp satirical edge, 20 February 2015
9/10

I saw Gone Girl back during its theatrical release and I had so many good things to say about it that it became a hard article to write – it's easier to severely criticise something than to steep it in praise. The film really felt like an event, the widespread advertising had roused the interest of many people I knew. The trailer had certainly roused mine, it was an 18 certificate domestic thriller that really compelled me to wonder 'Did Nick Dunne kill his wife?' - I was sure that David Fincher would answer the mystery with his trademark style and vigour.

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' haunting track 'What Have We Done To Each Other?' filled the huge and completely empty auditorium as I walked into it, immediately creating the film's rivetingly dark, aberrant tone. The instrumental continued during the film's opening, which I expected to be another of Fincher's elaborate introduction sequences, but was actually far more understated. Dunne's suburban Missouri neighbourhood is captured in a slick, foreboding manner by cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, who has collaborated with Fincher on Fight Club, The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The film's first hour is riddled with a very ominous ambiguity. With his insouciant, equable manner, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) appears to be a likable protagonist who is taking his shocking situation perhaps too much in his stride. As new details emerge from the case, however, we begin to wonder whether Nick's nonchalance is a manifestation of a callous, sociopathic mind.

There's not much more I can really say about either character or narrative development, as the film has a great twist. It is perhaps a spoiler to even say that, so I will stop. I was pleased to find that the film is just as good second time round, especially if you're watching it with someone who hasn't seen it, you can experience the film's twists and turns vicariously.

In addition to its excellent plotting is a sharp satirical edge; Gone Girl's satire on the media is far more cutting and resonant than anything in the dull, self-satisfied and heavy-handed Network (1976). Ellen Abbott (Missi Pyle) - the brassy, brash presenter of a Fox News inspired current affairs programme - doesn't wonder about Nick's curiously relaxed behaviour, she declares with absolute certainty that Dunne is a sociopath who has murdered his wife. Abbott obnoxiously raises her voice as she shamelessly peddles bias and hatred to masses of people, inviting 'experts' to falsely corroborate her toxic claims. As the film progresses we see the extent of Abbott and her programme's fickleness and yellow journalism.

As the media circus that literally surrounds Nick gets increasingly hysterical and dangerous, the threat of mob violence seems only moments away until Nick recruits Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry), an affable and brilliant lawyer. Bolt's relish for challenging situations and unwavering confidence is very comforting for both Nick's and the audience's nerves - Perry gives a great performance as the amusing, quick-witted executive.

To support Cronenweth's attractive photography and the wide, cinematic 2.35:1 format is the aforementioned excellent score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The score is a collection of electronic ambient music that ranges from the peaceful with Sugarstorm and Like Home to the dark and disturbing with What Have We Done To Each Other? and Consummation, which is a sound straight from hell.

Reznor and Ross are very adroit at creating music that perfectly fits and enhances each scene. Reznor gave an interesting insight into the collaborative methods between Ross, Fincher and himself in an interview with Hit Fix –

"We made the decision to make music we felt belonged in that world, not for scenes, not for characters. We absorbed the script, we thought about the space it was in, the feelings involved, then spent a few weeks composing music from an impressionistic point of view, subconsciously almost, to run by David to ask 'Hey, does it feel like it's in the right world?''

This approach was 'right on the money', inspiring Fincher which in turn further inspired Ross and Reznor.

The Academy is routinely criticised for omitting quality films from their nominations and commending works that don't deserve it. I think this year's greatest insult is a Best Picture nod for the comparatively insipid American Sniper over this delightfully warped psychological thriller. They nominated Rosamund Pike for Best Actress at least, but I can't discuss her show-stealing performance here.

93%

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