|Queen & Country|
Quick capsules on the week's art-house releases:
"'71" stars Jack O'Connell (from "Starred Up" and "Unbroken") as Gary Hook, a British soldier accidentally abandoned by his unit after a street riot in 1971 Belfast, who must survive the night by wending his way through a maze of warring Protestants, IRA Catholics and the even more vigilante "Provos" of the Provisional IRA. "'71" may be the one film in a thousand that's enhanced by its failure to provide much-needed subtitles; like Hook, we're in alien surroundings, and our lack of comprehension heightens our sense of displacement. The film builds to an extended climactic sequence up, down, inside and around a multi-level apartment building that's highly exciting. Still, I'm ready to see O'Connell out of uniform, out of prison clothes, not being beaten up or tortured, doing real acting and showing off that hot bod of his.
Leave it to a Dane - Dogme95 signatory Kristian Levring - to make the kind of good old-fashioned Western we get too infrequently nowadays. Mads Mikkelsen (I hear ACM swooning) stars as Jon, a Danish ex-soldier turned frontiersman who, as "The Salvation" opens, waits at a train station for the wife and young son he left behind seven years before. When a bandit throws him out of a stagecoach and subsequently kills his wife and son, Jon hunts him down on foot and shoots him dead. In turn, the baddie's brother, Delarue (a deliciously evil Jeffrey Dean Morgan), makes killing Jon Job 1. Levring and lensman Jens Schlosser capture some exquisite images of the West (I think especially of a rain-soaked sequence in the dark of day) and play expertly with light and shadow. There are thousands more bullets than shades of grey in "The Salvation," but that's just the way it should be.
The noted British director John Boorman has announced that "Queen & Country" will be his final film, and like Hayao Miyazaki's "The Wind Rises," this follow-up to "Hope and Glory" makes for an incongruously minor swan song. Blandly handsome Callum Turner plays the now 18-year-old Bill Rohan (who as a 9-year-old schoolboy rejoiced in the destruction of his school by an errant German bomb: "Thank you, Adolf!") and Caleb Landry Jones (in a simpering performance) is his best friend Percy, who incurs the wrath of the brigadier general (David Thewlis) by pilfering his beloved centuries-old clock. The film's "M*A*S*H"-esque gallows humor produces a number of laughs, but Bill's romance with a comely depressive (Tamsin Egerton) acts as a drag on its otherwise buoyant spirit, and what I'll remember most is his family home on an island in the Thames, where a sign informs visitors to ring the bell and wait for someone to row to shore.