“THE HUNGER GAMES: Mockingjay Part 2” is the less than mellifluous name of the final (thank God) in the Hunger Games’ endless flow of movies. The name is as long as the movie felt. On and on and on. Not unlike the endlessly drawn out yawn of “The Hobbit”: a novella spun into faux cine-operatic, money-making, multi-series multiplicity.

By now you know the story of THG: The games are the annual live entertainment sport in which a team of (mainly) young persons chosen from their districts, fight for their lives… to the delight and enjoyment of all. It’s the way the government of the Districts of Panem keeps the population compliant and entertained even as they suffer and starve. (They call it hunger Games, we of course call it the FA Cup). Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and her partner, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) had been past winners and star crossed lovers. But her sense of justice and her fearlessness has made her more than a past winner: she’s become the heart, soul and face of a bubbling rebellion.


The first part of this drawn out finale was a really fine movie. If you remember, it dwelt on the idea of identity and image: Katniss’ integrity and refusal to be shaped by the image masters of the state made her, ironically, the ideal image of the rebellion. Hers was an image founded on her uncompromising sense of identity. “Mockingjay Part One” ended with the love of her life (the vapid Peeta) captured by the Capitol and being turned into her opposite image number…epitomized by his own loss of identity.

Part One managed to nicely balance a quieter more introspective side (Katniss is prone to nightmares…she’s in love with a man who is morphing into her enemy) with a few startling bursts of explosive action…the rhythm of the movie worked.

Part two however has lost this finely calibrated balance. The story tells of Katniss’ never quite credible need for revenge…to kill President Snow (Donald Sutherland), the overlord of Panem. She’s leading a small group of rebels into the heart of the Capitol whilst at the same time triying to recover the soul of her sold out lover (Peeta). Into this mix there’s deceit and the inevitable pollution of power.

The elements are all there, all glossed up with Philip Messina’s (“Ocean’s Eleven”) superb production design.

Sadly the combination of a characterless Julianne Moore as President Coin, the bureaucratic leader of the rebellion (who could win an award for the most expressionless acting of the year), a generally faceless enemy (Snow the bad guy is reduced to a few avuncular statements and has been replaced by the anonymous threat of what are in effect high tech land mines), the menace-free Peeta (no more really than a puppet on a string) and a stunningly corny script (by the same combination of writers, Peter Craig, Danny Strong and Suzanne Collins) place all the emphasis for drama, tension, empathy and threat on the sole shoulders of Jennifer Lawrence’s underwritten Katniss.

All the, by now extraneous, characters from the past, who’d at least added sparkle and zest – Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch, Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Plutarch, Stanley Tucci’s camp Caesar Flickerman and Natalie Dormer’s Cressida – have been reduced to cameos. THG Mockingjay Part 2 has shifted from the best of YA soft rock (Katy Perry) to an arhythmic one-note samba.


All the multiple strands of the movie – the hissing nastiness of the overlords, the duplicity of Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and President Coin, the simpering romance with Peeta, Katniss’ own self doubts etc – are finally woven together in a meandering, formless way, with a few (admittedly tremendously exciting) action scenes substituting for the intellectual and visceral catharsis you’d expect after eight hours of viewing.

And the last few scenes of the grand finale itself, like a monster who just won’t die, just carries on sin fin long after the curtains should have fallen, closing the franchise with a stuttering whimper not a bang.


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. Dir: Francis Lawrence. With Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymore Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Jeffrey Wright. Cinematographer: Jo Willems. Production Designer: Philip Messina


STEVE JOBS**** Portrait of the artist (as a piece of S*^t)


AARON SORKIN (“MONEYBALL” “The Social Network” “Charlie Wilson’s War”) and Danny Boyle (“127 Hours” “Slumdog Millionaire” “Trainspotting”) have teamed up to give us a juicily entertaining and rivetingly engaging movie: “Steve Jobs”. The arc of Steve Jobs’ trajectory is cleverly mapped out through three high octane, thrillingly scripted vignettes… that center around the launch of Jobs’ three iconic creations: the Mackintosh, the Next computer and his triumphant reentry into the company that had fired him, the i-Mac.

Michael Fassbender’s Jobs is spellbindingly watchable… probably his best role yet (and for an actor of his calibre, that’s a big deal). The Jobs we meet is driven, ruthless, blindingly self-centered and mainly downright nasty. Boyle uses the dramas of the launches to suggest a symbiotic relationship between Jobs’ unstinting and merciless attention to detail, to absolute flawless perfection and the unquestioning reverence of his smitten followers. One thing leds to another. He also shows us that this adored messiah is one who, in private, is mainly loathed by his intimidated employees; and who, despite his vast riches, consistently tries to disown his own daughter.

The perfectionist messiah is the far from perfect human.

Like the initial Apple 2, which he also tried to disown, Lisa, Jobs’ precocious daughter (played nicely by multiple actors, Mackenzie Moss, Ripley Solo and Perla Haney-Jardine) was the result of a past liaison. And Jobs, living in a world ten years hence, has no time for the past. It’s as though, for him, the present doesn’t really exist: is only a stage to be gotten through. (There’s a lovely moment when, at the moment of the launch of the i-Mac, he boasts to his daughter, lumbered with the then groundbreaking Walkman, “I’m going to put five hundred, a thousand songs in your pocket”…even then the i-Pod was in his brain)

The point is, perhaps in the world of computing (of business) the past really is irrelevant… You’re only as good as tomorrow’s ‘next big thing’. But in the world of human relations, the past (your family) is part of who you are…your lifeline, your link to a more vital dimension of your real worth; and not something you can simply walk away from.


But really this could be seen as Steve Jobs and his ‘circle’. It’s not a one-man show. Fassbender is matched step for step by an outstanding Kate Winslet as Johanna Hoffman – his most trusted confidant and the only person with the balls to stand up to him. Winslet’s Hoffman speaking in a slightly clipped Polish/Brooklyn accent is the solid, slightly dowdy conscience to Jobs, (in what is also her best and definitely Oscar-worthy role to date; she’s becoming ‘this generation’s’ Meryl Streep). The acting master class is rounded off by a very believable Seth Rogen as the bypassed, loyal, pissed off co-inventor of personal computing, Steve Wozniac (referred to as Woz, as if he too were just another expression of the past).


Jeff Daniels is saddled with the unenviable role as the patsy in the ‘circle’: John Scully, the high flying Pepsi executive marketing guru who Jobs brought in to run the company and who, managing by the numbers, near ruins the company even as he orchestrates the dismissal of his former mentor.

He is the anti-Jobs: boring, conciliatory, board-appeasing, research- besotted and without a shred of Jobs’ visionary, creative energy. In a telling confrontation between them, Scully just doesn’t ‘get’ Jobs’ (and ad genius, Lee Clow’s) groundbreaking ad, “1984”. And if you can’t ‘get’ great advertising, a pox upon your houses!

The movie emphasizes (and exaggerates) the pedestrian banality of Scully in order to pull off a wonderful sleight of hand: despite the no-holds barred ‘expose’ of someone you really wouldn’t want to be around: a domineering, unfeeling, inhuman Jobs, you simply can’t help but admire him. His personality simply grips you by the throat and doesn’t let go. Who’d you rather lead the world into the future the movie seems to ask: the bookish Scully or the brilliant Jobs? The pedestrian and balanced administrator or the passionate and ruthless artist? For even as Jobs/Fassbender rails and rants at lesser mortals, there’s no question that you’re in the presence of greatness. Here’s someone who will go to any lengths to ensure that his groundbreaking invention doesn’t just compute, but says “Hello”

For what Danny Boyle seems to be suggesting is that Steve Jobs was no mere super-talented computer geek (we have Bill Gates to answer to that one). He was the obsessed, passionate, revolutionary artist. Wozniac was the one building a new type of computer, Jobs was the one trying to change how the world functioned, how people communicated. The dialogue between them continuously revolves around this pretty fundamental dichotomy in world-views: between the computer as a tool and the computer as a means of almost spiritual self expression.
Like any great artist, Jobs taught the world how to “think different”.

And like any great artist, it’s the art you judge, not the man.


STEVE JOBS; dir: Danny Boyle. Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin and Walter Isaacson. With Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels. Composer: Daniel Pemberton. Cinematographer: Alwin Kucher



Ai Weiwei at the RA***** Breathtaking

Ai Wei Wei, art review

IN HIS ‘PRELUDE’ to “The Lyrical Ballads”, Wordsworth spoke of poetry as “powerful emotions recollected in tranquility”. I guess that could be a fitting epigraph to Ai Weiwei’s tremendous exhibition now on at the Royal Academy. The Chinese artist has been tortured, incarcerated, beaten up, his passport confiscated, his studio burnt down and his workers harassed… such is the fear of the powerful Chinese government (the same one that treats Obama and Cameron with only mildly hidden contempt) to the power of his art.

And powerful it certainly is, in its often jokey inventiveness. The exhibition largely charts Ai’s stormy relationship with the Chinese government (its crude surveillance, its futile harassment, its failed attempts to muzzle his outspoken anger) in what amounts to one extended self-portrait. It’s a portrait of an artist as a citizen.

This portrait that Ai Weiwei offers, at its most obvious level, is that of the freedom fighter; one where the artistic imagination refuses to be constrained in the way that the man so clearly was. After his studio had been razed by the authorities, Ai WeiWei salvaged remnants of the destroyed place and reconstructed them into a series of sturdy walls (with all the symbolism suggested by the wall). You can destroy things physically, but you can’t destroy the idea behind them. The wrath of a government can never diminish the idea of art.


In a sense we’re privy to an inseparable duality: between the man (the political prisoner, locked in a cell) and the artist (imagination unbound…those powerful memories and emotions recollected in tranquility). Since it is his self portrait, it’s also the artist’s not too subtle way of presenting himself as he would have the world see him…the work is as clever a piece of self branding as the anti-capitalist semiotic of the Coca-Cola logo on the jade vase. The Ai WeiWei brand is that of the fearless artist who cannot be constrained. The artist as truth guerilla.


In this, the artist’s relationship with his public is a very modern, post pop-art one: his audiences are not so much museum goers as consumers. In the same way that they can relate to the Apple brand, Ai WeiWei courts his consumer base to relate to and buy into what his own brand of art has to offer: thoughtful and imaginative defiance against the super-state.

And as consumers, he offers his own ironic perspective: several of his pieces deliberately subvert the idea of commerce by turning valuable ‘pieces’ into entirely useless objects…into artIMG_0862

The artist was once imprisoned for about three months in a small padded cell. There with him, not three feet away were two prison officers. They had been ordered to monitor his every move, even as he defecated, but to never speak a word with him. In a feat of extraordinary memory, Weiwei spent the three months committing every minute detail to memory, only to recreate and process the experience in a series of sculptures (they are boxes through which viewers could spy in – voyeurs all – on vignettes of the incarceration). It’s a giant finger up the authority’s attempt to silence him.



But this is no expression of esoteric angst. I think the power of what Ai Weiwei is doing goes well beyond one individual’s relationship with a threatened state…potentially his art speaks for us all. We too live under the same watchful eye of Weiwei’s porcelain CCTV’s;


And like him we live in a state pretty much owned by a small cluster of very powerful men (the symbolism of that Coca-Cola logo once again) whose control of the media shape what and how we’re meant to think about the things that matter to them.

Perhaps this exhibition is more than the portrait of the artist… more a portrait of us all: mere consumers…not so much people as trained citizens (trained to consume) under the state’s supposedly benevolent supervision.

(Which begs the question – where are the Ai Weiwei’s of the West? Fortunately we seem to be moving on from the vulgar commercialism of Damien Hirst and the tawdry ugliness of Tracy Emin…but the energy that fuelled the Lowry’s and Guernica’s of the world seem to have been tamed… possibly by the controlling hand of the big galleries who know what their wealthy clients want…and that ain’t anger!)

But despite it all, the work is often mocking, often funny…he’s channeled his anger to rise above the primal scream; and there is about his pieces a wonderful joyousness…it’s the joyous celebration of Chinese craftsmanship. Unlike so many other artists whose atelier’s skills remain under wraps, Ai Weiwei very publicly trumpets the extraordinary craftsmanship of his team. To him, it’s a proud and very overt demonstration of Chinese brilliance. As a result, the art offers us this wonderful dynamism between the big picture themes of state oppression and crass commercialism (is a Jade jar worth more or less if a Coca-Cola logo has been stencilled across it?) and the equally relevant ‘small picture’ emphasis on the minutiae of the workmanship. He’s saying that the controlled anger of the artistic imagination is only really as good as the craftsmanship that allows the anger to communicate with others.


Here are impeccably carved marble leaves of grass, where the strength and the brittleness of the material imprison a child’s stroller. Or here is a towering chandelier (the first image shown here) constructed around the frames of bicycles…the bicycles Ai Weiwei grew up with…it’s light emanating through memory.

And that’s art!

SPECTRE**** Double O Heaven


SPECTACULAR. BOND MOVIES have always delivered on the exotic, as does this one; where “Spectre” dramatically ups the ante is the level of sheer spectacle director Sam Mendes delivers. The movie begins in Mexico City during one of its Day of the Dead celebrations. Mendes’ camera follows a masked Bond through a thronging carnival of stunningly costumed revelers. The camera snakes past voodoo-esque drummers and vast skull-shaped floats. After Bond’s almost balletic leaps across rooftops, the opening sequence culminates with a woozy helicopter ride that spins and somersaults over tens of thousands of innocent masqueraders below, packed into the city’s ancient centre in one of the many bone crushing close encounter fights of the movie.

It’s a wonderful rush and a great beginning.

And from that moment on, this more introspective of Bond’s (we’re introduced to more of his personal life) never really lets up.

The Day of the Dead was no empty spectacle. Death is at the heart of the action. Indeed the first words on the screen refer to the idea that “the dead are alive”. The story has 007 following a lead initiated by two dead people: a recorded message from Judy Dench’s M and the dying words of his past nemesis, a disheveled reclusive Mr. White (he was the ultimate baddie in “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace”). Bond, a man of the shadows as he is described, is driven by the shadows of his past. This is no longer the brightly lit world of “Skyfall”; we’re now in a darker place.

Indeed, much of the action takes place at night… in the shadows. Even the look of the film is grimmer (Mendes changed his cinematographer from Roger Deakins to Hoyte van Hoytema, possibly to capture the look he gave to “Tinker, Taylor, Soldier Spy”)

The plot also nicely links the multiple (recent) villains – Mr. White and Le Chiffre  from “Casino Royale” and Silva from “Skyfall” -to the hydra-headed Spectre, magisterially presided over by the oozingly evil Ernst Stavro -“I am the author of all your pain Mr. Bond”- Blofeld (a nasty Christoph Waltz reprising the menace he delivered in “Inglorious Basterds”).

It also introduces us to a proper henchman: Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista – a full time wrestler come action star last seen in “Guardians of the Galaxy”).


We’re accustomed to the Bond villain, but henchmen are thin on the ground: there was Grant (Robert Shaw) from “From Russia with Love”, Jaws (Richard Kiel) from “Moonraker” and of course Oddjob (Harold Sakata) of “Goldfinger”. To this noble lineage comes Hinx, a sneering brute of a man, who, in a wonderfully choreographed fight with Bond, pretty much destroys an entire train (and thereby upping the ante on 007’s last great train fight in “From Russia With Love”). It’s a brilliant fight. Indeed, what’s with Bond and trains? I’d suggest he stay well away from them.

But it’s on a train that he begins his long (and generally unconvincing) courtship with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux of “Blue is the Warmest Colour” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel”), who happens to be the daughter of Mr. White (Much has been made of the fact that Madeleine Swann, when compared with the likes of Pussy Galore, Onatop etc is a pretty ordinary name for a Bond girl. Less theatrical maybe, but no less referential: remember it was in Proust’s “Swann’s Way” that he discovered the medeleine that sets his enormous work on memory in play)

What makes “Spectre” especially fascinating is that underneath the mayhem and the car chases and the gadgets (all the Bond formula is here beautifully shaken not stirred, even what looks like Goldfinger’s Rolls), there’s an underlying seriousness: the movie explores the spectre of the Edward Snowden world where government surveillance is shifty and unchecked. We’re introduced to a Mr. Denbigh (Andrew Scott…Moriarty of the new “Sherlock Holmes” series), a cocky civil servant in charge of a new snooping agency, the Centre of National Security (Bond insists on calling him “C”). Denbigh is forcing through a world body of security agencies, all sharing secrets in the name of enhanced security. He has also cancelled the double O program (something that was looming since “Skyfall”), having repositioned it as inefficient when compared with the easier omni-surveillance of the state listening in to our conversations and reading our private emails.

But he is no bureaucratic naïf. And, as even M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Wishaw) and Miss Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) eventually find themselves on the wrong side of the new status quo, there are darker forces massing in the shadows.

So, is it better than the high bar of “Skyfall”?

Yes, because Mendes and Daniel Craig (who is credited as a co-producer) weave in this more interesting and somber theme of freedom v surveillance. And yes, because of the heightened spectacle and some moments of genuine hair bristling tension.

But no, because, despite these pluses some of the set piece action scenes…in particular the climatic showdown with Blofeld, isn’t as gargantuan, despite Thomas Newman’s tremendous score (when compared with the climax of “Skyfall”). Bond’s relationships with his two leading ladies also feel artificial and fake: the stunning Monica Bellucci, who plays the widow of a recently executed gangster has a too brief walk-on part and a seduction that is casual even by Bond’s standards.


Léa Seydoux lacks the spunky toughness of Eva Green; she feels lightweight and little more than irrelevant eye candy. And even Christopher Waltz’ Blofeld is no match for the seedy, deranged, Hannibal Lecter- like evil of Javier Badim’s Silva. The arc of the story is certainly better and more intriguing than “Skyfall”, but the writing’s not as clever (even though M’s given a zinger of a line that had the entire cinema laughing).

But who’s really complaining?


Daniel Craig is a magnificent Bond: weathered, athletic, ruthless and sexy. The entire thing is lushly enjoyable, especially at a second viewing (which I heartlly recommend)…cinematic comfort food at its best

But it is of course all just fantasy; and as Ralph Fiennes said recently in an interview’ “best not to be taken too seriously”

So, is “Spectre” just another disposable action flick?

Mendez and Craig had a lot more to live up to than ‘topping Skyfall’. For Bond is more than a successful movie franchise (now in its fifty second year). The Bond figure is part of the mythos of Western culture. He has become through the arc of his adventures from the subterranean Hades of Dr. No, forever defying the dark side of the psyche, to the jungles of Africa, the modern Odysseus, the man of “twists and turns”

“Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds, / many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea,/ fighting to save his life…” (from the Robert Fagles translation of “The Odyssey”). Bond’s journeys have gripped our collective unconscious like none other in Hollywood myth making. Always the journey is one that leads him away from the order of M, the technology of Q, the fidelity of Moneypenny into a chaos, a heart of darkness, that he must defeat.

And, like every mythic hero, in the annihilation of chaos, Bond remains the focal center of our reassurance. In a world collapsing in on itself through insider malfeasance and outsider threat, Bond is the one dragon slayer in whom we can forever be sure. But where Bond and not say Superman, is the mythic hero, lies in his fallibility, his imperfections, his ability to ‘die’ (as Bond does in “Casino Royale” and, more so, in “Skyfall” and “Spectre”) and be reborn transformed into a stronger life force. Christopher Nolan’s Batman recognized this, and the ultimate triumph of Craig’s Bond is that he manages to invest his death-transcending hero with the wounds and character that give the impression of flesh and blood mortality.

What the mythology Bond offers is that, even in these troubled times, here at least is one hero, armed with the moral certitude we need to rescue us all… from the abstract evil of a Spectre to the more prosaic evil within us all.

SPECTRE. With Daniel Craig; Christoph Waltz; Ralph Fiennes; Mobical Belucci; Lea Sedoux; Naomi Harris. Dir: Sam Mendes. Writers: John Logan; Neil Purvis; Tobert Wade; Jez Butterworth. Cinematographer: Hoyte Van Hoytema. Production Designer: Dennis Gassner. Composer: Thomas Newman

LOBSTER** Better as thermidore



Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos                                                                                                                                                                         With: Colin Farrel, John C Reilley, Lea Seydoux, Rachel Weisz, Ben Wishaw, Olivia Colman                               Cinematographer: Thimios Bakatakis

A STRANGE TIME loop seemed to have enveloped the cinema where I recently saw “Lobster”, the new (and celebrated) movie from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (“Dogtooth”). Though the movie is officially only just under two hours, I could swear it took just under two days to view. Maybe it was the slow robotic deliberateness of all the conversations; or maybe its deep thoughts were so ponderously heavy that they weighted down even time; or maybe the meandering pointlessness to it all cast a stilling spell of futility upon the passage of time itself…I will never know.

But buyer beware. If you go to see this movie on a Saturday, an entire weekend will have passed before you emerge, bleary eyed, confused and gasping for the resuscitation of banal conversations.

It’s set in some distant future or more likely, a parallel universe where the State has intruded even to the point of controlling and ordering the timing of romance. In this universe, the love-lorn must repair to a bleak lakeside hotel where they’re given forty-five days to find true love again; and if they fail, they’re turned into the animal of their choice. Our protagonist David (a fattened, moustachioed Colin Farrell) who hangs around with his brother, now a dog, chooses a lobster (They live long, forever retain their sex drive and have blue blood. Sort of the Henry VIII of animals). Over the hill, somewhere in the distance, live another group – their opposites – who are dedicated to abstinence. Their punishment for finding a mate is to have their lips sliced (a nasty idea which, mercifully, we were not shown).

Of course, mate-desperate Dave stumbles upon an unnamed inhabitant of the abstainers (Rachel Weisz) for what blossoms into illicit sex and love.


Love will out.

Or opposites attract. Or something equally profound.

It’s Romeo and Juliette without the Capulets and Montagues…

And without charm, wit, dramatic tension, engaging characters, good dialogue, sex appeal or any reference back to even flashes of life as we know it.

And this despite a tremendous cast, working very hard to emote on cue

But, this bizarre movie does have its unique ability to warp the space-time equilibrium. There’s something to be said for that I guess.

SUFFRAGETTE*** Earnest and Well Intentioned


ABI MORGAN, WHO wrote the screenplay of this earnest, well-intentioned movie, also recently wrote two other earnest, well-intentioned movies: “Maggie” and “The Invisible Woman”.

Like her most recent creation, “Suffragette”, she has to be lauded and encouraged along with director Sarah Gavron (“Brick Lane”), production designer Alice Normington (“Brideshead Revisited”), executive producer Nicky Bower (“Selma”) and the six other female co- producers, set decorator Barbara Herman- Skelding (“The Riot Club”) and all the other women involved in this extraordinary gathering of female talent… in what is a notoriously male industry.

Morgan’s story focuses in on the private life of a hardworking laundry worker, Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan). Maud is a wife (to Sonny, performed by Ben Wishaw), a mother and, as expected of her, the caring center of her little happy, if impoverished, family. She is also, legally, a piece of property, and judged by the status quo (men) as being both emotionally and intellectually incapable of earning the right to vote.


Like most other women at the time, she was aware, if indifferent, to the spreading suffragette movement (when asked why she would want the vote, she struggles to answer…finally admitting that she really doesn’t know). But, caught at the wrong place at the wrong time, she witnesses a scene of thuggish police brutality against a group of women attending a peace rally to hear the movement’s leader, Emmeline Pankhurst (a nominally present Meryl Streep…basically lending her imprimatur to the proceedings). Whether she wants to or not, she has become  ‘involved’.


The movie traces the spread of the movement as it veers from (generally ignored) peaceful protest to increasingly violent urban terrorism through the life of Maud. Her own life morphs from that of abused worker/mother/wife to one of insurrectionist/jailbird/freedom fighter. In the cause of ‘the cause’ she loses her respectability and her family, and gains instead her self-respect and the beginnings of equality for women.

As you’d expect, Carey Mulligan’s performance is nuanced and powerful (as are the performances of all the key actors including a nice turn by Helena Bonham Carter, the great great grand-daughter to Herbert Asquith, the British PM who denied women the vote and an nice understated performance by Brendan Gleeson)

Director Gavron’s movie is engaging and efficient: every scene drives the plot forward; there’s not a wasted moment in the movie. Indeed, it’s a great movie to show to schoolchildren, as a much needed reminder that the vote – so often ignored and taken for granted – was a hard earned right…the result of enormous personal sacrifices and loss.

The problem with it all is that it’s all a bit simplistic.

The idea that drives the action is Pankhurst’s rallying cry to her supporters, “Deeds matter more than words” (though only through words – the news coverage of Emily Davison’s suicide at the Epsom derby- did the movement succeed).

But at a time when this idea applies equally to Isis or Hezbollah or any nutter with a bomb in search of martyrdom, you wonder where the philosophical divide lies that infuses action with its moral dimension; or is morality a sham construct of an entrenched status quo, which at times must be cast aside? We never really get to ‘know’ Emily Wilding Davison (Natalie Press) as we briefly follow her through the heaving crowds at the derby. But just what turns within the human heart to drive you to suicide (whether by horse or by bomb)? At what point does the shift between the selfish need (“I need a better life”) and the selfless action (“what matters for me matters for all”) become the spark that sets a revolution in play?

Don’t look to “Suffragette” to try to resolve these deeper issues.

I am not trying to rewrite Ms Morgan’s enjoyable, well-intentioned movie. But without any deeper probing, “Deeds matter more than words” is just a trite and shallow cliché. It really should be the beginning of a conversation that a richer movie could have delivered. Instead we’re left with “Suffragette”: enjoyable, well intentioned and, in Hollywood’s macho world, an important step forward.

But in the end, superficial and underwhelming.

SICARIO**** It’s a hit, man


SICARIO WE ARE told, in this heart-stoppingly gripping movie of the same name, was the term given to the insurgents, the freedom fighters, during the Roman Empire. It’s also Mexican slang for hit-man. Alejandro (Benecio del Toro) and his boss, Matt (Josh Brolin) the titular sicarios of the movie, live in this grey world where the noble mission of halting the drug trade veers into a murky world of extra-legal collusions, assassinations and revenge.

We follow the story from the eyes of a courageous, idealistic, but naive Kate (Emily Blunt) who, angered by the bizarre and fatal turn of events on a mission she’s recently led, allows herself to volunteer for a more dangerous mission- to find a people smuggling pipeline and bring to justice the leaders.

At least that’s how she sees it.

As she slowly realizes however, this isn’t about Mexicans crossing the border, this isn’t even about justice. This is a darker mission about bringing down one of the many drug lords. Her new boss and ‘mentor’, the laconic, amoral Matt (a tough, weather-beaten Brolin) jokes that the aim of the mission is to “dramatically overreact”. And to accomplish this, Matt is armed with Alejandro, an emotionally wounded man turned attack dog, whose personal mission is one of single-minded vengeance. His is a ruthless take no prisoners approach that means nothing and no-one, not even Kate, will stand in his way.

Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (“Prisoners”) leads us through the story from Kate’s perspective. She, like us, slowly piece together what the real mission is, without ever really understanding who her colleagues (backed up by a mini battalion of Afghanistan trained mercenaries, who seem to be paid by whatever drugs they seize) are. They may be DEA or CIA. Who knows? At one point she’s told, “nothing will make sense to your American ears, and you will doubt everything that we do, but in the end you will understand”. What she does come to realize is that she’s joined a team that has no compunction about crossing the border and waging war in Mexico, where the demarcation between the police and their prey, between the good guys and the bad is, like the border, ever shifting.

The philosophical construct Villeneuve offers is the existential conundrum: play by the rules and the war on drugs will never be won. Break the rules – which means murder, torture or at best collusion – and you’ll stand a better chance of success… at the price of your moral conscience.

“Sicario” has the nerve biting, muscular tension of the best of Michael Mann. The score of composer Jóhan Jóhannsson (“Foxcatcher”, “Prisoners”) – all low notes and frenzied electronics – and the cinematography of Roger Deakin (“Skyfall”, “Ture Grit”) – flat, at times over lit, at times dark and brooding (he’s considered one of the three best cinematographers around) lend the movie a sense of unrelenting dread. You get a sense that even the land and the elements are threats.
Brolin and Blunt (who was the best thing about “Edge of Tomorrow”) are a solid, compelling duo.


But the stand out performance is that of Benecio del Toro’s. His Alejandro is no one-dimensional killer. He’s clearly a wounded man with a warmth and paternal protectiveness which his job and his past must mothball. These are not the times for gentleness and caring. As he tells Kate, “you are not a wolf. And this is a land of wolves”. He has become, despite himself, a wolf. Del Toro’s triumph is that he allows us to see the dark symbiosis of the sicario…the nobility and fearlessness of the freedom fighter and the savagery of the hit-man.

“Sicario” is a slickly directed action movie placed in service of a serious look at quagmire of the drug trade. In the end, as the cynical Matt (Brolin) observes, until the 20% of the American public who want the drugs, curtail their needs, the war will never be won.