My Cousin Rachel

3.5 Stars

Simultaneously cosy and uneasy.

My Cousin Rachel may well be the perfect film to watch on a rainy afternoon. In typical British-period-drama style it is beautifully shot and has great attention to detail. Adapted from a novel by Daphne Du Maurier (Rebecca, The Birds), you can expect an equally suspenseful and bleak story.

Phillip (Sam Claflin) suspects foul play when his beloved cousin Ambrose dies abroad after marrying another of his cousins, Rachel (Rachel Weisz). Iain Glen (aka Jorah Mormont from Game of Thrones) also stars as Phillip’s concerned godfather.

The plot does wind enough to keep you captivated and intrigued, but as with Du Maurier’s other stories, it’s more about the journey than the ending itself. Without giving too much away; I was anticipating a more satisfying ending than I got, but I was most certainly entertained regardless.

My Cousin Rachel premieres in Sweden on 25 August.

Get Out

4.5 Stars

This unlikely mix of horror-thriller and comedy is pure brilliance!

Since the disappointing plot of A Cure For Wellness in February, I have been hanging out for a thriller that absolutely delivers – and I seem to have gotten my wish far sooner than expected. Writer, producer and director Jordan Peele (of Key and Peele and Keanu fame) is an absolute genius to marry these two genres together with such ease in his directing debut. The humor ends up being a perfect antidote to the very serious and sinister story as it unfolds.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) have travelled out to stay with Rose’s Mum (Catherine Keener), Dad (Bradley Whitford) and brother (Caleb Landry Jones) for the first time as a couple. The already apprehensive situation of meeting her folks is compounded by the fact that he is of African-American descent. And why are the cook and groundskeeper are acting so peculiarly?

I have so many good things to say about this film. The acting overall is really impressive. Daniel Kaluuya gives a remarkable and emotional performance, which I think makes a huge difference to the realism and impact of what happens. You would never know he’s actually British, his American accent is flawless. LilRel Howery provides much of the comic relief as Chris’s friend Rod and is laugh-out-loud funny.

It’s a breath of fresh air these days when a film can stand on its own two feet without any big name actors, acclaimed directors, or franchises behind it to justify its presence.

Rewatchability is very important to me and Get Out is certainly a film I could watch over again. It’s the kind of film you’d like to watch again with someone who hasn’t seen it, so you can clock their reaction.

Get Out gives the cliché line “If you only see one movie this year…” relevance. Probably the best film i’ve seen since reviewing films for Siaeva. But don’t just take my word for it, my fellow critics gave it a round of applause at the end of the press screening!

Get Out premieres in Sweden on 19 April.

A Cure For Wellness

2.5 Stars

A poor man’s Shutter Island, overcompensated by far too many plot twists.

I really enjoyed Shutter Island so I was interested to see this as it looked like a similar concept… sadly, it falls way short.

Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is a brash young executive who has been sent by his colleagues to a rehabilitation center in Switzerland to bring back Pembroke (Harry Groener), in order to secure a business merger – but bringing him back becomes much harder than he imagined.

What starts out as a promising and intriguing tale with a beautiful backdrop of the Swiss alps, ends up in a whirlwind of horror clichés. I love a good plot twist, but this plot twists back and forth so many times you just want to slam on the breaks. There really is such a thing as ‘too much of a good thing’.

I’m not sure if the story is just not expressed well enough or if it literally didn’t make sense, but several times near the end I felt like I needed to consult a second party to explain what was going on. Don’t get me wrong, i’ve seen films where confusion has actually built more suspense; but this was confusing to the point where you start to lose interest.

On the plus side, it does give you an uneasy feeling which stays with you after you have left the cinema. I always appreciate films that can give you an ongoing experience after you’ve seen them, even if unpleasant.

The film really does have all the ingredients for a top-shelf thriller, it’s just the storyline which lets it down greatly.

A Cure For Wellness premieres in Sweden on 17 February.

Split

4 Stars

One of those rare, good-quality horror flicks.

Split should satisfy both horror and thriller fans, and most certainly M. Night Shyamalan fans will see this as a strong return to form.

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Teen classmates Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire (Haley Lou Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula) are kidnapped by Kevin (James McAvoy), who suffers from Disassociative Identity Disorder. With 23 different personalities and talk of a frightening new personality to soon show himself, the girls must try to find a way to escape.

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James McAvoy does an amazing job at projecting Kevin’s different personalities with clarity and ease; in some scenes doing one after the other. Anya Taylor-Joy does well as the troubled Casey but I wish she didn’t remind me so much of Kendall Jenner as I think I could have warmed to her character a bit more otherwise.

Disassociative Identity Disorder is an extremely interesting subject in and of itself, and this gives it an extra dimension when compared to a bog-standard horror film.

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As director, producer and writer of the film, Shyamalan is in full knowledge that his audience will be expecting plot twists. He doesn’t disappoint here, you may even find yourself being double-bluffed as I did!

The film is probably more of a 3.8 than a 4, but i’ve rounded it up for simplicity’s sake.

Split premieres in Sweden on 20 January.

Passengers

4 Stars

Decent, but had even greater potential.

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Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) are passengers on board a start-of-the-art spaceship ‘The Starship Avalon’, travelling from Earth to inhabit a new colony planet. 30 years into the 120 year journey, a malfunction in the ship causes Jim’s hibernation pod to open too early. Unable to reset the pod, and with only an android bartender named Arthur (Michael Sheen) for company, Jim must consider his options.

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The prospect of being stuck on a spaceship hurtling through space alone with no hope of escape is a really interesting premise; reminiscent of Alien and Moon. This makes for a really strong start to the film. Passengers starts out in sci-fi thriller territory but unexpectedly ends up in romance, somewhat killing the tension that had been built up. Luckily there are just enough plot twists to keep you entertained regardless. Although if I had a choice, I would have preferred things to remain in the same vein throughout. There was potential there for a far more intense (and less cheesy) storyline.

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Chris Pratt is perfect as the regular, down-to-earth guy Jim. This takes up the slack for Jennifer Lawrence as Aurora, who is a little more up tight and therefore harder to relate to. The Starship Avalon is almost a character in itself, with its hi-tech automated messages and assistant holograms. The vastness of the unpopulated ship helps to give an eerie feeling, similar to the hotel in The Shining. Yet its luxurious design scheme adds so much to the overall look and vibe of the film.

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Finally, It’s nice to see a big budget film come out that isn’t part of an existing franchise! Passengers premieres in Sweden on 21 December.

Jason Bourne

4 Stars

He’s back, and the action scenes are more spectacular than ever.

There’s no doubt that Jeremy Renner did a great job portraying Bourne in 2012’s The Bourne Legacy, but there’s nothing like having Matt Damon back in the role. Damon even produced the film this time – a first in the series. This is classic Bourne: Matt Damon, scenes shot in Berlin, rooftop sniping, and as usual he is on the top of the CIA’s wanted list.

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Jason Bourne’s past is brought into question when documents are discovered by old comrade Nicky Parsons (Julia Styles). He must uncover the truth behind his existence in the CIA program whilst being viciously hunted down by CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and agent Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander).

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The chase scenes in Bourne movies have always been fantastic, but this time things are turned up a notch. Without giving too much away, you get a glimpse of what i’m referring to if you check out the trailer and see the van crashing into a Las Vegas casino.

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My only reservation with this film is that perhaps the storyline is a little too simple, and therefore not as unpredictable as it could have been. Ok, and maybe Alicia Vikander’s erratic accent which seems to morph from American to British at will. Other than that, this is a must-see for Bourne fans!

Jason Bourne premieres in Sweden on 27 July.

Bastille Day

4.5 Stars

Something to keep you satisfied until the next Bourne film comes out.

If you’re anything like me, you’re hanging out for the next Bourne film. Sure, there’s Bonds and Mission:Impossibles coming out every few years, Idris Elba has even been tipped as a future contender to play James Bond. But as far as action thrillers go, there’s something special about the Bourne franchise. Bastille Day has the same rawness and energy as the Bourne films, so it’s not surprising that the screenplay has been penned by Andrew Baldwin – the same writer as the upcoming Bourne sequel, Jason Bourne.

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Sean Briar (Idris Elba) is a former CIA tough guy with a point to prove, after compromising the safety of another agent in his previous mission. Taking on an anti-terrorism case, he comes upon Michael Mason (Richard Madden), a talented pickpocket who has unwittingly placed himself in the center of the investigation.

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There’s a real vibrance here, I honestly didn’t think they made films like this anymore. The British/French production gives it the air of a foreign film whilst keeping it completely accessible to English-speaking audiences with much of the dialogue in English. It’s actually refreshing that this is a stand-alone film, you can’t count on anyone needing to stay alive to participate in any sequels – so literally anything can happen.

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The acting is decent all round. Special mention to Richard Madden for being incredibly good-looking. No, I didn’t rank the film higher because of this – but I *could* have 😉

Strangely, Bastille Day currently has no release date for the US. Their loss!

Bastille Day premieres in Sweden on 22 April.

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Secret In Their Eyes

3 Stars

A promising thriller with a B-grade ending.

The best thrillers keep us guessing and intrigued up until the end when the full story is revealed and everything slots perfectly into place. The story is so carefully crafted that you are left stunned at the final outcome. Then there’s the less than perfect ones. Sure, they can be just as entertaining and leave you eager for the ending – but then it comes and you realise the only reason why you would never have guessed it is because it’s so absurd. Yep, Secret In Their Eyes is one of those…

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In the aftermath of 9/11, a team of investigators including Ray Casten (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Claire Sloane (Nicole Kidman) and Jessica Cobb (Julia Roberts) are working for the counter-terrorism unit of the FBI. When Jessica’s daughter Carolyn (Zoe Graham) is found in a dumpster, Ray takes it upon himself to investigate.

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The story is based upon an Argentinian novel from 2005, and has been written by the film’s director, Billy Ray. The novel was initially made into a Spanish-speaking film similarly titled ‘The Secret In Their Eyes’ in 2009. The 2009 film is a full 2 stars ahead of this version on IMDB, so you’d probably be better off checking out the original instead.

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I can see why they needed such a strong cast (Both Kidman and Roberts are Oscar-winners, Ejofor has been nominated) to play these characters, but I am surprised that each of them accepted after reading the closing pages of the script. You can’t help but feel a bit embarrassed for them.

Secret In Their Eyes is in fact decent viewing up until the disappointing finale, so I had to rank it a little higher than average considering the overall experience. The film premieres in Sweden on March 18.

The Revenant

3.5 Stars

That bear scene, though.

If there’s any reason at all to see The Revenant, it’s certainly for the performance of Leonardo DiCaprio. This role demanded everything that he had, and he delivered 100 percent. There’s a heartfelt scene where he’s hugging his son, and his emotions are so intense that he’s producing deep forehead wrinkles in a formation I’ve never even seen before.

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Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) are part of a hunting team sourcing fur pelts in the woods. With native American Indians on their tail, their hard-earned hoard is threatened and their leader, Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) must decide what to do next. When unruly team member John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) starts to show his rebellious side, tensions start to run high.

Special mention to Tom Hardy whose acting was also outstanding. His accent is so perfect it’s easy to forget he’s actually a Londoner. As the sinister Fitzgerald he’s able to give creepy looks just with his eyes, reminiscent of Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance in Nightcrawler.

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The violence and gore in this film is perhaps even more than Tarantino-level – and that’s saying something. It’s clear to see that no expense has been spared with getting the special effects right, especially in the surreal scene with the Grizzly bear (see trailer). Then of course the beautiful wintery landscapes are a joy to behold, director Alejandro Iñárritu yet was very particular about using only natural landscapes and light – no CGI was used for these shots.

Yes, the quality of many aspects of this film is extremely high. So why only 3.5 stars? Actually it’s the storyline. It was good, but just not compelling enough to be remarkable. The Revenant is worth more for its individual parts than the overall package.

The Revenant premieres in Sweden on January 29.

The Gift

3 Stars

A lukewarm thriller.

While this may be a thriller, it’s not really all that thrilling, all told.

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Simon (Jason Bateman) and wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) have just moved to Los Angeles, near Simon’s hometown. It all kicks off when Simon (Jason Bateman) and wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) bump into Simon’s old schoolmate ‘Gordo’ (Joel Edgerton) while out shopping. As he presses his way into their lives, it becomes clear that he has a hidden agenda.

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Joel Edgerton directs, writes AND stars in this. You’ve got to give him credit for producing a decent film; it isn’t always a recipe for success (see Tommy Wiseau, The Room). The acting overall is very good, and Rebecca Hall’s American accent is flawless.

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There was just a tad too little suspense for my liking. They needed to turn up the thrill-meter. This could have made a huge difference to the film overall. If you compare this to something like Gone Girl, for example – in terms of being gripping, there is no comparison. Having said that, it is still entertaining. Just don’t expect too many thrills and you’ll enjoy it!

The Gift premieres in Sweden on October 2.