Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022)

This second Knives Outing for Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) plays like an updated Agatha Christie, but with Craig as a more demonstrative Poirot. The exotic isolated location nods at Evil Under the Sun, as do an assortment of eccentric characters, old friends brought together by the egotistical Miles Bron (Edward Norton). Supposedly for a fun murder mystery weekender, that quickly unravels into a real murder mystery.

Don’t worry if you haven’t seen Knives Out, I haven’t, you’re watching a stand alone episode that may be part of something long running. Rian Johnson is good at these kinds of films, he knows how to plant the seeds of misdirection, tease and turn things. So when the flashback start a-coming things thicken faster than Craig’s somewhat distracting accent. Watch out for Norton as a look-a-like Frank Mackey, Tom Cruise’s character in Magnolia (1999), all black leather waistcoat, maroon shirt, and distinctive ponytail.

It can all get very meta, but fun if you like playing those kinds of games.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11564570/

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The Wonder (2022)

Faith and science clash in the rural midlands of Ireland in 1862. English nurse “Lib” Wright (Florence Pugh), steadfast veteran of the Crimean war, has been brought from London, hired to observe the eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell (Kíla Lord Cassidy), who despite not eating remains fit and healthy. Is the girl faking, being surreptitiously fed, or is she as many claim, a miracle?

Pugh is commanding, tough, vulnerable, complicit in teasing a compelling performance from the young Cassidy. Director Sebastián Lelio leans into the stifled emotions, without offering judgment, letting the uncomfortable truths of the story live, emerge from events. His choice to bookend the story in the sets from the film, is unique and some might say superfluous? I read it as highlighting our own willingness to believe a fiction. That or a nod to the book the story is based on by Emma Donoghue. Neither would surprise me.

An interesting film that makes you believe in the story.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9288822/

The Alienist 2018–2020

I was asked to write three hundred words on a scripted TV show. This is what I wrote.

The Alienist is a thriller set in New York at the close of the nineteenth century. A time when sexism, racism, and corruption are endemic. Where poverty chafes against wealth, and someone is preying on the boys that work the streets and brothels of midtown.

The Alienist

When the mutilated corpse of a boy is found on the scaffolds of the Williamsburg Bridge, psychologist Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) enlists the help of friend and illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans) to make drawings of the murder. Convinced it’s linked to the murder of a former patient, Kreizler uses his connection with the newly appointed police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Geraghty), to involve himself in the investigation, where he is joined by the first woman to work for the NYPD, Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning).

Using Kreizler’s psychological insights, and the latest pathology techniques, employed by detectives Lucius and Marcus Isaacson (Matthew Shear and Douglas Smith), the group slowly builds a profile of the killer, and set out to stop him. 

The production does a good job of recreating the squalor of the time, but does nothing to contextualise that poverty. It’s hinted at. Marcus meets single-mother Ester (Daisy Bevan) handing out leaflets for a socialist rally. But their brief affair is dealt with on a personal level, missing the chance to explore the upheavals that are intrinsic to the social changes they’re part of.

The main characters are complicated, with traumatic histories, that unfortunately rub too gently against their environment. Howard is perhaps the best example. It’s as if she’s going through the motions of being independent, a trailblazer, without the sternness of a woman battling the expectations of her class and sex.

Overall it’s a familiar set-up, in the tradition of Sherlock Holmes, and while it gently challenges the morays of the time, they’re merely the backdrop to the mystery, rather than an integral part of the story.

Les affamés aka Ravenous (2017)

As infection sweeps Canada, and probably the rest of the world, the population of a verdant northern Quebec are turning into violent screeching cannibals.

A handful of survivors escape into the woods looking for a place to hide, for refuge. What more do you need to know?

A deliberately understated film, the way Drive (2011) is understated. So when something happens, when thing escalate, get grizzly, violent, it really packs a punch.

I liked it.

Luckiest Girl Alive (2022)

An outwardly successful woman battles inner demons, as the traumas of her youth haunts her adult life.

Told in a mix of flashbacks and painfully self-aware voice-over, past and present chafe, as writer Jessica Knoll (Mila Kunis) unpicks an intricate web of behaviours caused by her traumas.

Smart enough to feign being one thing, while being something completely different.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4595186/

The Good Nurse (2022)

All the tension in this low key “we know who done it” is in the unknowns of Charlie Cullen (Eddie Redmayne). What will he do to his college Amy Loughren (Jessica Chastain) when he realises she’s on to him? Good but not great.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4273800/

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