Movie reviews: Fury, The Book of Life, Love, Rosie

Fury (15A) stars Brad Pitt as Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier, the commander of a US Army Sherman tank operating in Nazi Germany during the last months of the Third Reich’s last stand. 

Having fought from North Africa, Italy and France, Wardaddy leads a veteran crew that includes ‘Bible’ Swan (Shia LaBeouf) and ‘Gordo’ Garcia (Michael Peña), but the close-knit team is disrupted by the arrival of rookie Norman (Logan Lerman), a hapless clerk thrust into the front-line as the American forces sustain massive losses. What follows is a battle for Norman’s soul, as the young man struggles to retain a sense of civilised morality — and, for that matter, his sanity — in the midst of butchery, depravity and war without rules.

Written and directed by David Ayer, Fury is reminiscent at times of Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan in terms of its episodic odyssey, as harrowing scenes of violence are interspersed with moments of quiet introspection — indeed, some of the scenes here directly mirror some of those in Saving Private Ryan, such as the one in which Wardaddy’s men capture a German soldier in the wake of a vicious fire-fight, and the Alamo-style finale. While Fury lacks the epic arc of Saving Private Ryan, it is nonetheless a powerful and sobering drama about men who are both brutal and brutalised, their vulnerability emphasised rather than diminished by the claustrophobic nature of their prison-like tank as it rumbles ever onwards through the devastated landscape.

Pitt, LaBeouf and Lerman all contribute strongly to Ayer’s bleak but persuasive take on the idea that war is hell, which is undermined only by its belated yielding to sentimental fantasy in its final scenes.

It’s not very often a children’s animated feature will offer a rendition of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ courtesy of a bullfighting guitarist hero, but The Book of Life (G) is no ordinary animated movie. Friends since childhood, the guitarist Manolo (voiced by Diego Luna) and soldier-hero Joaquin (Channing Tatum) grow up to become love rivals for their life-long friend Maria (Zoe Saldana).

Matters become rather complicated when La Meurte (Kate del Castillo) and Xilaba (Ron Perlman), the spirits who oversee the Land of the Remembered and the Land of the Forgotten, respectively, take a wager on which man will eventually marry Maria. Set in Mexico and written and directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez, The Book of Life trips merrily back and forth between the worlds of the living and the dead as the filmmakers treat us to one of the most original and eye-popping animated spectacles in many years.

A story-within-a-story narrative gives us outrageously caricatured characters (they all appear to be composed of blocks, like artists’ wooden models) and a humorously knowing take on heroic derring-do, all of it fabulously illustrated according to Mexican mythology and folk-tales (the descent into the Land of the Remembered is particularly impressive, as is Manolo’s final bull-fight).

Imaginatively rendered and chock-a-block with incident and reversals of fortune, it’s a superb reinvention of the animated feature.

While the story might sound complicated and challenging for younger viewers, blending as it does a love story, a descent into the underworld, and one man’s heroic attempt to fulfil his destiny, my two six-year-old accomplices were as enthralled as they were thrilled.

The latest adaptation of a Cecilia Ahern novel to hit the big screen, Love, Rosie (15A) stars Lily Collins as Rosie, who has been friends with Alex (Sam Claflin) since they were kids. Adults now, the pair are beginning to have romantic feelings for one another — but life, as always, has a habit of getting in the way of true love.

Unfolding over the course of a decade or so, Christian Ditter’s film (adapted by Juliette Towhidi) is by its very nature episodic, as Rosie and Alex find themselves separated for the first time when Rosie falls pregnant after a one-night stand, and Alex heads off to live in America.

Unfortunately, the story feels much more start-stop than its framework intends, as drama is piled upon crisis with little time for the viewer to adapt to the latest development or invest themselves in the characters’ most recent mini-tragedy.

Lily Collins makes for a sprightly presence at the heart of it all, but the most interesting and emotionally heartfelt scenes are those in which Rosie interacts with her growing daughter.

By contrast, there’s little by way of a believable chemistry with the rather wooden Claflin, and the story itself feels ponderous and trite, with matters further undermined by ham-fisted attempts at wacky comedy.

 


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