Movie reviews

THERE is an inherent problem with origin stories.

Movie reviews

Because the main protagonists will live on to battle in the episodes we’ve already seen, there’s a certain lack of drama when we know their deaths will not be an issue. It’s testament, then, to director Matthew Vaughn’s (Kick Ass, Stardust) skill that this is not an issue in X-Men: First Class (12A).

A straightforward prequel it may be, but Vaughn moves the proceedings with such a kinetic pace that it’s easy to get caught up in the fun. Poland, 1944, and Erik Lehnsherr’s (future talent Bill Milner, Son of Rambow) unique talent to bend metal to his will is spotted by Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), a Nazi scientist who subjects the boy to terrible experiments. Erik grows up (into Michael Fassbender) and sets about hunting down Shaw who has now the backing of a small band of mutants, among them January Jones’ telepath Emma Frost/White Queen. Meanwhile, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has been using his own telepathic powers to woo ladies in college, but puts that aside when he is approached by a CIA Agent (Rose Byrne) to help track Shaw down as she suspects he is pushing Russia and America towards World War III.

Vaughn manages to pull off that very tricky thing: appeasing the fanboys — there is the handing out of names, the donning of suits, and the action sequences dotted throughout are of a giddy fashion — while making it accessible to newbies — time is spent getting to know the characters and those unfamiliar with the franchise won’t feel lost.

THOSE tired with cute, hooray-for-everything romantic movies with climactic declarations of undying love at train stations or falling over in front of hot guys in the snow should relish Last Night (12A) — a love story for adults in these cynical times. Married only three years, New York couple Joanna (Keira Knightley) and Michael (Sam Worthington) are beginning to feel the itch.

After witnessing their cosy chat on the balcony at a party, Joanna suspects that Michael is having an affair with colleague Laura (Eva Mendes) and when quizzed later Michael’s answers aren’t altogether convincing. Matters are made worse when Michael takes off to Philadelphia on a business trip with Laura while Joanna runs into ex-boyfriend Alex (Guillaume Canet) who invites her to dinner. Over the course of the night, Michael and Joanna will make the hardest decision of their lives. Written and directed by newcomer Massy Tadjedin, Last Night is a slow-burner.

If one were cruel it could be described as nothing but a 90-minute conversation, typical of a pretentious European drama, but this is an engrossing exploration on what exactly it means to be unfaithful (if you want to cheat but don’t, are you still cheating? Is infidelity purely physical?).

Mendes brings gravitas to a role where all she’s asked to do is sit there and smoulder, but Worthington seems unsure how to play Michael. Knightley and Canet, however, exhibit lashings of sexual chemistry.

AYRTON SENNA drove faster than most men on the planet, and he was an unusually charismatic and attractive Formula 1 driver who won the World Championship three times, but what makes Senna (12A) a superb documentary is director Asif Kapadia’s ability to tease out the human aspects that made Senna such a figure of devotion to millions of fans.

Chief among these was a healthy disrespect for the ‘politics’ of the sport, which is unsurprising, given that Senna came to prominence when Frenchman Alain Prost reigned supreme, and Formula 1 was dominated by French bureaucrats. More interesting, perhaps, is Senna’s rather poignant references to ‘pure driving’ when queried in archive footage on his favourite memories of his career. Senna harks back to go-kart racing, when the ability to drive faster than your opponents was all that mattered.

Given that Senna’s time at the top coincided with the revolution in design that made computerised cars more important than their drivers, the film takes on a wistful air as it celebrates the man who was arguably the last bone fide maverick to conquer the world of Formula 1.

Even those who have zero interest in cars or Formula 1 will find this hard to resist.

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