Here are the top three films you don’t want to miss this week, writes Declan Burke.
The Mummy 4/5
The Shack 2/5
The first of a ‘Dark Universe’ series of movies intended to revive the classic monsters of Hollywood lore, The Mummy (15A) opens with American soldiers Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) ostensibly engaged in long-range reconnaissance in Iraq, but squeezing in a little freelance archaeology on the side.
When Nick and Chris unearth the ancient tomb of the Egyptian princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), they also unleash her curse, with dire consequences for mankind…
The Mummy is less a horror than it is a good old-fashioned matinee adventure, a rollicking tale with plenty of humour to leaven the regular eruption of impressively executed action sequences.
Boutella makes for a charismatically sinister mummy, while the ever-willing
Cruise is in good form as the amateur archaeologist (ie, tomb-robber) who, realising too late he has bitten off more than he can chew, spends most of the proceedings wearing a befuddled expression as a result of being punched, blown up or subjected to lectures from Dr Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), a genius who has taken on the not inconsiderable task of ridding the world of evil, a mission that is occasionally hampered by the appearance of Dr Jekyll’s chaos-loving alter-ego, Mr Hyde.
The latter stages suffer from erratic pacing as the director and screenwriters shoehorn in the backdrop to the ‘Dark Universe’ set-up, but for the most part, The Mummy is an adrenaline-fuelled romp that augers well for future installments from the ‘Dark Universe’.
Subtitled The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer, Norman (15A) stars Richard Gere as Norman Oppenheimer, the president (and sole employee) of Oppenheimer Strategies, a company engaged in facilitating Israeli-American business deals.
Desperate to broker an agreement between billionaire Arthur Taub (Josh Charles) and Israeli politician Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi), Norman strikes up an unlikely friendship with Eshel — a development that backfires badly when Norman starts wheeling-dealing and trading heavily on Eshel’s name.
Gere turns in one of the finest performances of his career as the elusive, pathetically needy Norman, an understated turn that transforms a character who might have been just another big city grifter into tragi-comic hero defined (and eventually undone) by his persistence and indefatigable optimism.
Written and directed by Joseph Cedar, the story strikes a universal chord as Norman struggles to climb the greasy pole of success, his triumphs as tiny as they are hard-won.
Overall it’s an absorbing portrait of a lovable gonif, even though we learn very little about the ‘real’ Norman Oppenheimer other than the snippets of information he lets slip when pressured into revealing his true self.
It’s by no means the most thrilling movie you’ll see this summer but Gere’s performance is worth the price of admission alone, with strong support coming from Michael Sheen, Lior Ashkenazi, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Steve Buscemi.
Adapted from William P. Young’s phenomenal bestseller, The Shack (12) opens with Mack Phillips (Sam Worthington) struggling with feelings of guilt, shame, and depression as a result of his youngest daughter, Missy (Amélie Eve), being abducted, presumed murdered, during a family vacation.
When Mack receives a handwritten invitation to spend a weekend at the shack where traces of Missy’s murder were discovered, he presumes Missy’s killer is taunting him.
Determined to have his revenge, Mack sets out for a showdown, only to be confronted by a wholly unexpected Trinity — ‘Papa’ (Octavia Spencer), Jesus (Avraham Aviv Alush) and the Holy Spirit (Sumire Matsubara) … Directed by Stuart Hazeldine, The Shack opens as a pleasantly absorbing exercise in a kind of Christian magical realism, as the bitterly cynical Mack refuses to believe he has somehow found his way into an earthly paradise ‘to spend a weekend with God’.
God essentially blames all of Mack’s suffering on his own misguided expectations of what God should be.
Indeed, despite the uplifting tone, which suggests that forgiveness is the only balm a tortured soul needs, there’s something repellently exploitative in the way the story employs Mack’s reaction to the rape and murder of his young daughter to make its theological points.
Worthington puts in a solid performance as the conflicted Mack, but as a vehicle for exploring the redemptive power of faith, The Shack is for the most part as flimsy a structure as its title suggests.
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