Thinking of going to the cinema this week? Declan Burke reviews Patriots Day, A Cure for Wellness and George Best: All By Himself.
Mark Wahlberg stars in Patriots Day (15A), playing Boston policeman Tommy Saunders, who is on duty at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013 when two bombs explode.
A beat cop with extensive local knowledge of the downtown Boston area, Saunders finds himself integral to the manhunt launched by the FBI when the Tsarnaev brothers, Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze) and Dzhokar (Alex Wolff), are identified as the terrorists responsible for the atrocity.
Wahlberg also starred in Deepwater Horizon, which was also directed by Peter Berg, and Patriots Day follows the same formula in dramatising a recent historical event and rendering it a gripping tale, despite the audience being fully aware of the tragedy and its consequences.
Saunders is the central character, but this is very much an ensemble piece, with John Goodman playing Commissioner Ed Davis, Kevin Bacon an FBI agent, Michelle Monaghan playing Tommy Saunders’ wife Carol, and JK Simmons as police sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese.
The rapid pace of developments and Berg’s cross-cutting between multiple perspectives (including those of the Tsarnaev brothers) means that few of the characters are fully realised, although our fleeting glimpses of the main players only adds verisimilitude to the movie’s superbly detailed recreation of the chaotic confusion that followed the attack.
The grim tone is leavened by regular flashes of abrasive Boston humour, as the wounded city becomes something of a character in its own right, and while the tension of the latter stages is somewhat undermined by the audience’s foreknowledge of events, Patriots Day nevertheless packs a hefty emotional punch.
Despatched to a Swiss spa as A Cure for Wellness (16s) opens, brash young financier Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) has one mission: bring his company’s ailing CEO Pembroke (Harry Groener) back to New York to sign off on a crucial deal.
Confined to bed after breaking his leg, Lockhart quickly realises that something isn’t quite right about the sanatorium, and that its director, Volmer (Jason Isaacs), appears to have a sinister hold over his well-to-do patients.
And exactly who is the wan waif who prowls the sanatorium’s battlements?
Written by Justin Haythe and directed by Gore Verbinski, A Cure for Wellness is a full-blooded gothic tale that pays homage to classic 1930s horrors.
The sanatorium is perched high on a mountain crag; its ancient equipment wouldn’t be out of place in a Hammer House of Horror laboratory; and the historical backstory involves a demented baron experimenting upon unsuspecting villagers in a God-defying bid to impregnate his sister.
It all sounds like a heavy-handed parody, but Verbinski evokes Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island in creating a superior psychological horror, one in which the audience is rarely sure as to how reliable Lockhart is as a guide.
Are the crutches Lockhart uses to as he hobbles around the sanatorium suggestive of a damaged mind, or is Volmer deliberately creating scenarios designed to force Lockhart to question his own sanity?
Visually inventive even as it excavates some of cinema’s oldest tropes, A Cure for Wellness is a tautly crafted thriller that eventually climaxes in full-throttle lunacy.
There’s no mention of his dalliance with Cork Celtic, sadly, but George Best: All By Himself (12A) is otherwise a comprehensive documentary of football’s greatest maverick talent.
Daniel Gordon’s film, written by Peter Ettedgui, uses footage of Best’s on-field exploits that most football fans will be familiar with, taking us from the young Best’s first Manchester United trial to the fabulous night of the 1968 European Cup, when the impish Best almost single-handedly destroyed Benfica in extra-time.
What is most striking, however, is the rarely-seen footage, which includes straight-to-camera interviews with George’s mother Anne, along with candid appraisals of his personality by his first wife Angie and his second wife Alex.
As a story, George Best: All By Himself doesn’t stray too far from the conventional narrative, which is that Best was cursed by being too good, too devilishly handsome, at a time when Beatlemania was gripping Britain and the nation was putting its working-class heroes on pedestals; unable to cope with the pressure of navigating uncharted waters, Best turned to alcohol, and his slow decline into self-inflicted tragedy began.
It’s fair to say that even the most casual of George Best’s admirers will discover little that’s new in Daniel Gordon’s film; that said, it’s virtually impossible to resist the hypnotic charm of Best’s charismatic magnetism, on or off the pitch, and it’s worth seeing on the big screen those all-too-familiar scenes of the impossibly graceful will-o’-the-wisp as he glides again across the green sward and into football legend.
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