Tiger Raid: Suspenseful and unpredictable

Tiger Raid is a dark, suspenseful and unpredictable film which will keep you hooked from start to finish.

The film follows two Irish mercenaries as they travel across the deserts of Iraq to complete a mission.

As the raid progresses, their frenzied world turns in on itself as past misdeeds come to the surface, and violently threatening to tear them apart.

The film opens with a montage of images but only a figure of man and a woman can be made out and heavy breathing is echoed over the images.

This same montage I used throughout the film and one could suggest it is a recurring motif for the character Joe, played by Brian Gleeson.

After the credit sequence there is a wide shot of the desert with a car in the distance moving towards the camera with music over the top establishing the location of the film.

The two Irish mercenaries are introduced, Joe (Gleeson) and Paddy (Damien Moloney) and immediately it becomes quickly apparent these two have conflicting opinions on multiple issues including the north and south divide of Ireland.

After killing some Iraqi soldiers, the opening scene returns as the camera focuses on Joe’s face hinting at his psychological state.

Joe is continuously portrayed as being quite fragile minded and it becomes apparent something happened in his past and he is holding some guilt in.

It is hard to watch the film to try not to connect with both Joe and Paddy but as the film progresses it becomes more difficult to want to.

Through his character development we learn Joe has a wife and children and he is only a mercenary as he owes something to an unknown character called Dave.

The same happens with Paddy. Learning early on he has a mission to assassinate Joe but towards the end of the film you learn there is more to his character.

As previously mentioned, the name Dave is frequently referred to but this man is never seen or introduced physically.

It is said Dave is the leader of the mercenary group and Joe and Paddy are working for him. The majority of the film only has these two characters as they journey across the desert.

With the lack of a variety of characters, the film relies heavily on the conversation between these two and their character developments are essential in pushing the film forward.

One other character is introduced towards the end of the film. A woman called Shadha (Sofia Boutella).

The introduction of Shadha takes the film to a whole new level in an unforeseeable change in direction.

She is a vital character and the two mercenaries are shown to be hiding deeper secrets. Both of their secrets are revealed at the climax of the film.

Although the film is ultimately a dark thriller director and writer Simon Davies adds a slight bit of humour into the script which will occasionally make you smile in places you would not expect to smile.

If I Close My Eyes I’m Not Here: A powerful, melancholy film

If I Close My Eyes I’m Not Here is a melancholy film that looks at the concept of losing someone and trying to continue with everyday life.

The film follows the young teenager Kiko (Mark Manaloto) who lives with his mother (Hazel Morillo) and her new partner Ennio (Beppe Fiorello) who forces him to work at his construction site.

The only place where Kiko feels safe is at an abandoned bus in a dump yard which he has built as a shrine to his deceased father.

One day, Kiko’s life changes when an elderly man and friend of his father, Ettoro (Giorgio Colangeli) becomes a mentor to him. However, he soon reveals his true identity.

If I Close My Eyes I’m Not Here begins with a voice over narration with shots of a boat that become more prominent as the camera gradually moves closer towards it.

It is then revealed that the voice over is in fact a man speaking to a young, Filipino boy about space and a piece of meteorite

The camera then reveals a shot of the stars in the sky and numerous constellations and a new voice over narrator begins speaking about space.

The independent production focuses on the realism in Italy and anyone with any knowledge of the Italian film industry will know that it is renowned for realistic portrayals of the Italian working class community from the very early stages of cinema.

The film is full of many scenic shots showing the landscape of the town Kiko lives in and the shots used reinforce the melancholy and isolation themes throughout the entire film with bleak and dreary buildings and empty spaces.

One particularly memorable shot features a blurred background with Kiko’s classmates and a ping-pong net in the foreground and a ping-pong ball flying over the net. The beautiful use of background and foreground comparisons will stay in your mind long after the film is over.

As well as the realism aspects, the film takes on a deep, thought-provoking concept with many different ideas being surfaced about the universe and will make you pause and think about what has been said and the potential truth behind it and if that is not a good writing technique then I don’t know what is.

By focusing on the aspect of realism, the film becomes a melancholy look at the life of someone who is struggling to come to terms with the death of his father and trying to support his family as well as keeping up with school work.

Kiko is forced to work at a construction site which takes over his life making him fail at school despite the potential to excel and it becomes clear that through the shots of Kiko and the other construction workers that he is observant, quiet and intelligent.

After meeting Ettoro and the two bonding over the relationship they each had with his father, Kiko seems to come out of his shell and we learn more about how he is feeling and his outlook on life and in particular the universe.

Throughout the film, the character of Ettoro becomes a father-figure and seems to be around when Kiko is feeling lost, alone or in trouble.

Upon first viewing, there were shots that initially brought to mind the idea of a guardian angel as he just happens to appear when Kiko is in trouble.

Ettoro helps build Kiko’s confidence and helps him study and as the narrative progresses, Ettoro continually reveals parts of his life that cause the audience to expect a certain final, climatic revelation to occur and makes you question who he is and his relationship with Kiko’s father.

Mark Manaloto’s portrayal of the alone and melancholy Kiko is particularly moving. For the majority of the film he rarely speaks and Manaloto shows his characters emotions solely through facial expressions and reactions.

Giorgio Colangeli’s performance of Ettoro gives an insightful look into someone who is attempting to make peace with the death of Kiko’s father.

Colangeli’s acting will make you sympathise and feel sorry for Ettoro but at the same time, you’ll be wondering just what he is trying to get out of Kiko. A trusting old man with a dark secret.

Another technique that director Vittorio Moroni frequently uses is monologue-esque voice overs and a montage of images.

The technique is used throughout the entirety of the film that it becomes a somewhat motive and this is reinforced through the use of the same tune to go alongside it.

Not all the images relate to the words being spoken in the monologue but nevertheless they start to become expected and it is an interesting touch to add to the film and it can be seen to be a potential homage to the Soviet montage theory of Eisenstein.

Like many independent productions, the ending is not a climatic, all guns blazing, tying up loose ends but merely it just goes to black after a final shot of Kiko.

This is very common amongst independent films and it could possibly have been done in order to keep up the idea of making you think. It is left up to the audience to decide what happens to the characters.

If I Close My Eyes I’m Not Here is a film that captures the true meaning of loss and the attempt to get through the day-to-day struggles.

A Royal Night Out: Sugar-coated, fact-fiction film

Capturing the heart of the British nation during the celebrations of VE Day, A Royal Night Out is a sugar-coated, fact-fiction film.

It follows Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret as they leave Buckingham Palace to join the celebrations with the ordinary folk in 1945.

As their evening unfolds, they encounter romance, danger and the common man in this over-the-top, ‘melodramatic-esque’ portrayal of a true event.

On a basic level, it is a story of a royalist meeting a working class man as they search London city in the hopes to find her sister.

Being referred to as a ‘true narrative’ beckons the question of whether these events that unfold in the film really took place.

It is a known fact that the princesses were allowed out during these celebrations but there are rumours surrounding the places they went.

Therefore one could suggest that this adaptation borders along the lines of fact-fiction as only the Queen herself knows what happened during that iconic evening and whether she gave permission for this film to be produced is another question.

The film opens with a black and white shot of Princess Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) which is followed by real footage of the celebrations and Churchill giving the ‘end of war speech’ which creates a more realistic element.

The use of black and white refers back to when there was no colour TV but in a slow transition the colour begins to emerge onto the face of Princess Elizabeth creating a beautiful reference to the era in which the film is set.

Gadon’s performance as the Princess Elizabeth is melodramatic, over-the-top and over accentuated but your eyes will not be drawn away from her.

Her facial features and make-up make her resemble the young Queen and her performance is even more outstanding when realising she is Canadian.

One casting choice was quite a surprise when watching the film. Rupert Everett was cast as King George and although he was suitable casted, it was difficult to watch his performance without comparing it to Colin Firth’s portrayal in The King’s Speech.

Other cast members included Emily Watson as the Queen’s Mother and Bel Powley as Princess Margaret.

Jack Reynor plays the role of the male lead and love interest Jack. It must be stated that as these events are all based around rumours, it is unclear as to whether this character is actually factual.

If he is a fictional character, then it leaves the question of why was he added to the narrative? Was he predominately there to show the comparisons between social classes? To show the difference between a Royal and a working class citizen?

These questions are unanswered and leaves it up the audience to decide what they want to believe.

Shot across a range of different locations including Chatsworth House as the Buckingham Palace and Hull, the film is a beautifully shot and uses a perfect amount of blue screen CGI which is only obvious after watching the extra footage.

Avid royalists would not appreciate the romance-filled film and the portrayal of the party-animal Princess Margaret but nevertheless it is still a typical, British romantic comedy set at a time when the whole country were celebrating.

Whether or not the events were true or not does not overly effect the response to it and it is a perfect film to watch on a Sunday afternoon with the grandparents.

Toni Erdmann: A bizarre film but oddly relatable in many ways

Whether it is a man masturbating onto cake or dressing up as a Bulgarian spirit Toni Erdmann does not fail to keep you hooked from start to finish.

After the death of his dog practical joker Winfried (Peter Simonischek) decides to pay a visit to his extremely career driven daughter Ines (Sandra Huller) who he does not see much.

Ines, who is working on an important project as a corporate strategist in Bucharest, begins to grow annoyed by her father’s pranks and his little jabs at her routine lifestyle making Winfried decide to return back to Germany.

Disguised in a tacky suit, weird wig and false teeth Winfried returns to Bucharest as Toni Erdmann, his smooth-talking alter ego.

Toni barges into Ines’ life but she meets the challenge. The harder they push the closer they become and slowly she begins to understand that her father might deserve a place in her life.

Written and directed by award-winner Maren Ade the film tackles some deep themes including the estranged relationship between father and daughter but manages to capture the humour in serious topics.

Huller’s performance of Ines is relatable. Whether or not you are estranged from your parents, no matter how old you are parents will always embarrass you.

Huller managed the capture this perfectly. Although not everything she does is deemed so kind it is hard not to relate to her in some way.

At the beginning of the film you expect her to be some stuck up career driven woman when as the narrative continues it is revealed – through one particular scene – that she is like that to impress the men at her job.

She is stuck in a man’s world and despite initially disliking the character you will find yourself feeling sorry for her.

Obviously the star of the production is Simonischek. From the very beginning you will begin to understand his humorous take on life such as painting his face in a skull design and telling people he is going to a care home.

Both Simonischek and Huller worked great together and one in particular scene where they play and sing Whitney Houston’s classic The Greatest Love of All will leave you humming the tune.

With the actors jumping from German to English emphasises the pure talent the two main actors and the rest of the cast has.

With an ambiguous ending the film will leave you asking questions but receiving no answers but nevertheless Toni Erdmann is a brilliant production.

After watching you will want to call your parents without a doubt. It is an oddly satisfying film and is worth a watch.

Beyond The Reach: Bad script, OTT acting and a confusing premise

Gone are the days when Michael Douglas was a good actor judging from his performance in Beyond The Reach.

The seasoned actor has a collection of fantastic films under his belt and it is surprising after watching this new one just why he decided to add this to his filmography.

One can only hope that Beyond The Reach is an independent film and not a new direction that Hollywood is taking.

It had similar styles and characteristics to those produced in the 90s and with no special effects or CGI the camera and actors had to do all the work.

This is not a criticism as I personally enjoy a film with less CGI however, this is not one that I would want to sit through again.

The opening scene shows the young character of Ben, played by Jeremy Irving, running through the desert just wearing underwear.

This should have been an instant impression but never judge a book by its cover right? Wrong when reviewing this film.

There was no explanation of the story or plot and no character development. However, there was a snippet of a back story to Ben who revealed both his parents had died.

After the short bonding between the two characters, the film took a new direction and seemed to be an attempt at a full-blown action/psychological thriller.

The narrative, if you could call it that, is confusing to say the least. The beginning could be interpreted as a film about two lovers going their separate ways with Ben and his girlfriend physically going different directions.

As the ‘narrative’ progresses a sort of road trip story with a father-like figure and a son-like character going into the wilderness and bonding together over their lives was also hinted.

These two frequently used and exhausted narratives were completely turned on their head as the ‘events’ unfolded in Beyond The Reach.

It becomes a hunting trip gone-wrong within the first 20 minutes which results in Ben walking around the desert in nothing but his underwear.

Unlike most films that give the audience a sense of foreboding towards the events to come, Beyond The Reach had no clear explanation of why these events were happening.

Could this be due to the fact that there was no character development? Who knows?

I personally enjoy a film that has intertextual links and references to other films and Beyond The Reach did not fail to do so which did humour me for roughly five seconds.

Instead of referencing a similar film such as one of Sergio Leone’s iconic scores from one of his Spaghetti Westerns, Michael Douglas’ character quoted the Pixar, animated children’ film Wall-E.

Why this film? Maybe it was an attempt to reinforce the isolation of the characters? Or maybe the director Jean-Baptiste Leonetti didn’t think things through when reading the script?

I’m not a script writing or film director but even I know that there is no link between an action/psychological thriller to a Pixar animation that focuses on a robot.

The concept of humans against nature was an interesting point that the film brought up however there were no realistic developments.

Ben, for instance, walks in the scorching sun for nearly 24 hours without water or clothes and yet keeps managing to avoid death.

Someone please tell me if this is possible?

As a big fan of nature and animals, I was immediately put-off at the thought of watching a film focussed around hunting but one thing that really stood out was the lack of wildlife.

The only sign of any living creature besides the two men were vultures who were flying over Ben as he stumbled through the desert.

I cannot say that I am an expert in what creatures live in the American desert but I am positive there are some.

Maybe the director was reinforcing the idea that Ben was the thing being hunted and not the hunter anymore but still a shot of a snake or some living animal would have created more realism.

With the ending drawing nearer, I was soon filled with a sigh of relief when I thought the film was over but it carried on for another ten minutes with what tried to be a shoot-out but ended with an anti-climax.

This anti-climactic finish was expected. It did not provide anything that would have made the film better towards the ending.

After completely destroying the film, I would like to finish on a positive note. There were some truly beautiful shots of the landscape and they did reinforce the idea of isolation and how far away they are from civilisation.

Plus, anyone who is remotely interested in seeing Jeremy Irving wearing nothing but his underwear then this is the film for you.

DROWN captures the psychological mind set of a confused and violent male identity

The film follows Len (Matt Levett), a lifesaving champion, whose life gets turned upside down with the arrival of the younger, fitter and faster Phil (Jack Matthews).

Len’s confused feelings for Phil cause him to react violently and when Phil wins the annual Sidney Lifesaving competition, Len starts to wonder the truth of his identity.

As these feelings develop, violence becomes a language Len uses to express his attraction to Phil which inevitably begins the spiral of self-loathing that culminates in his destruction.

The film begins with a voice over narration that starts to develop a character that we have not even met yet.

After the opening scene we soon learn that the character Len is the one speaking during the voice overs.

The voice over technique is a prominent feature throughout DROWN and it does allow the audience to get a real sense of the failing mind set of Len and we get a clear idea that he is struggling to come to terms with his own identity.

To add to the crucial, struggled mind of Len the corresponding psychological music helps to reinforce the decline in his mental stability.

Upon first viewing, I was initially sceptical about it and it seemed to be a ‘straight falling for a gay’ movie but the added psychological element made the film a deeper and more truthful production.

The script is not great and there are times where the film borders on cringey yet trying to take your eyes off the screen is difficult.

The concept of homophobia, homosexuality and homoeroticism are constantly reinforced through the use of countless close-ups of male, semi-nude bodies both on land and underwater, as well as the slow motion shots of the swim suited men.

By utilising these elements and techniques, director, Dean Francis, creates a truthful, sad and homoerotic movie and these techniques help to develop the feelings Len has towards Phil.

Despite the script and acting not being overly great and sometimes slightly melodramatic, the film takes on themes that relate to everyday life.

Homosexuality in sporting events, or lack of, can be seen to be pushed to the forefront in DROWN with the gay character of Phil hiding his own true identity from his colleagues.

Levett’s performance as the struggled Len is initially not great but as the narrative progressed it becomes evident that his mental stability and his effort to find his own identity are effecting his life and Levett’s way of creating this fragile character is worth a watch.

Through the use of flashback sequences throughout the entire film, we clearly can see an inevitably downfall in Len’s mind and this feature creates a sort of story spoken by Len.

Homophobia and violent bullying are prominent features and parts of the film are hard to watch due to the intensity and tension that has been built up through the camerawork and the narration.

DROWN, which is an adaptation from a play of the same name by Stephen Davis, is undoubtedly an homoerotic, shocking and intense psychological drama.