The Deep: into the depth of human endurance

Typically reserved and inward-looking, this intriguing Icelandic docu-drama treads much the same water (sorry) as Robert Redford’s All Is Lost romp. But while the latter is a ripping yarn of high-tension on the high seas, The Deep is far more remarkable because it’s a credible re-telling of actual events. The Deep explores the unlikely survival…

Valhalla Rising: Norse noir

Don’t watch this looking for a Hollywood-style sword-n-savagery action flick (although there is plenty of bloodily realistic hacking, maiming and killing). This is not the Mads Mikkelsen you know from Hannibal. This is experimental, art-house, risk-taking film-making. It is weird and beautiful and brutal. It’s also minimalist, surreal, philosophical and prone to showing extended clips…

Freebie Friday: top-class Eurocrime DVDs up for grabs

We’re giving away two terrific crime-thriller flicks on DVD this week. EL NINO is intelligent Eurocrime; a stylish slice of modern Spanish movie-making about narcotic smuggling in the Med. Here’s our full review. ALL THAT MATTERS IS PAST is a disconcerting Scandinavian psychodrama featuring murder, a tangled love-triangle, sibling rivalry and sexual violence. Here’s all…

Horns: murder-mystery with a devilish twist

It’s never easy adapting a quirky book into an interesting film. ‘Horns’ turned out to be much better than you might expect. It’s an engaging, entertaining murder-mystery with a preposterous but perfectly accomplished supernatural spin. Take away the horns and you have a genre standard, wrongly-accused, coming of age investigation which centres on the brutal…

The Equalizer: equal and almost opposite

For more than two hours, this intelligent, taut, low-key thriller kept us entertained and engaged. It far exceeds expectation, and delivers a typically thoughtful and powerful performance from Denzel Washington. It also perfectly sets up a sequel or TV series, but it’s now hard to imagine someone other than Denzel taking centrestage in the role…

Pioneer: art-house underwater intrigue

  More art-house than action-adventure, Pioneer nonetheless kept us utterly gripped with intriguing plot developments, stunning underwater photography and a powerful central performance. There is, inevitably, an American re-make on the way but this multilingual Scandinavian film (with subtitles, no need to learn Norwegian) perfectly captures the feel of the times. In common with many…

God’s Pocket: a fitting farewell to Philip Seymour Hoffman

God’s Pocket is the kind of low-key high-brow crime drama typical of Continental cinema which Hollywood rarely produces. That probably explains why the American audience didn’t quite know how to take it. It mixes bitterly bleak, stiletto-sharp social observation with slapstick snapshots of comedy, played to perfection by a sweatily lumbering but utterly understated Hoffman.…

Cannibal: haunting, not horrific

Don’t watch this expecting to find Hannibal Lecter at his most gruesome. No fava beans were harmed in the making of this subtitled art-house drama (although I’m pretty sure that a nice Chianti makes a guest appearance). Instead you’ll be mystified, perplexed and intermittently entranced by a slow-burn psychodrama, one which explores human isolation and…

In Darkness: Schindler’s List in the Sewers

Based on true events which took place in the Polish city of Luvov in WW2, this gruelling arthouse film revisits the emotional and factual territory familiar from Anne Frank’s diary and Schindler’s List. It seeks out rare fragments of human integrity and benevolence which have been all but extinguished under the Nazi boot in occupied…

Page Eight: low-key/high class spy story

If you’re after a spy story with running and shouting, violence and high-tech trickery then Page Eight is all wrong (try Spooks instead). Page Eight is a much more thoughtful, contemplative drama reminiscent of early Le Carre (The Spy Who Came In From The Cold era) or the wonderful but short-lived TV series, The Sandbaggers.…