Zero Dark Thirty (Universal) sees Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow re-team with Hurt Locker screenwriter Mark Boal for a weighty examination of the decade-long search for Osama bin Laden.
The movie begins in 2003 with Maya (Jessica Chastain, Take Shelter) a young, ambitious CIA officer being dispatched to the US embassy in Pakistan to work with Dan (Jason Clarke, The Chicago Code), a tough CIA intelligence specialist charged with interrogating Ammar al-Baluchi, a detainee with suspected links to several of the 9/11 hijackers. To Maya’s initial discomfort, Dan subjects the detainee to torture, including waterboarding and ritual humiliation, with negligible results. A change in tactics sees the duo trick Ammar into giving up the name of an important lead, and Maya’s painstaking investigation sees her edge ever close to uncovering the whereabouts of the man responsible for the horrors of 9/11.
As a quasi-historical document Zero Dark Thirty is powerful and impressive, but its self-consciously epic scope arguably dulls its narrative verve. After an uncomfortably gripping open section -which focuses on graphic depictions of ‘interrogation’ at CIA ‘black sites’ -the middle chunk of the film feels stodgy and detail-heavy, leaving you desperate for the kinetic finale. Despite Point Break director Bigelow’s pronounced shift towards grander themes in recent years, her gift for action filmmaking still shines through, most notably in the climactic Seal Team 6 takedown. Although The Hurt Locker was essentially a series of nerve-shredding set-pieces stitched together, it was never less than engrossing -a feat Zero Dark Thirty struggles to replicate over the course of its 157 minute run-time. The ambiguous moral code at play in Zero Dark Thirty has prompted most of the discussion from commentators, but it is the ambiguous, sketchy characterisation that undermines the film’s charge.
After meeting at a party, ambitious corporate high-flyer Nat (Rose Byrne, Bridesmaids) and struggling novelist Josh (Rafe Spall, Life Of Pi) embark on a whirlwind romance, and their lavish fairy-tale wedding hints at an idyllic future. However, their family and friends have other ideas, and doubt the mismatched pairing will last. So begins I Give It A Year (StudioCanal), the latest comedy from Dan Mazer, co-writer of Borat and Bruno. With their relationship deteriorating fast, Josh’s ex-girlfriend, Chloe (Anna Faris, Observe & Report) and Nat’s handsome American client Guy (Simon Baker, The Mentalist) both arrive on the scene, complicating an already strained situation. With their first anniversary approaching, neither wants to be the first to give up, but will they make it?
Half rom-com, half puerile sex comedy, I Give It A Year treads a thin line, but Mazer (also making his directorial debut) handles the proceedings with aplomb. Rafe Spall impresses as the leading man, and an eclectic supporting cast -including Minnie Driver and Olivia Colman -offer solid support. Beginning with the best man’s speech from hell -courtesy of a typically awkward Stephen Merchant -I Give It A Year wastes little time in setting out its misanthropic stall, and beneath its Richard Curtis-esque exterior lurks an appealingly twisted sensibility. While it never approaches Borat/Bruno levels of dementedness, I Give It A Year is a funny little film that hits its target time and time again.
In Blood (eOne) Joe (Paul Bettany, Gangster No. 1) and Chrissie (Stephen Graham, This Is England) are a pair of detectives labouring under the fearsome reputation of their father, Lenny (Brian Cox, Manhunter) who ran the department for years, and remains a well-known figure in the local community. A bully to both his colleagues and his sons, Lenny is now suffering from dementia, and is drifting away from his wary sons. However, Joe and Chrissie’s desire to fill his shoes -and emulate some of his more notorious traits -has a disastrous effect on their career, and they soon find themselves investigating their own hideous crime
Directed by Nick Murphy, whose previous movie was lukewarm supernatural thriller The Awakening, Blood is a loose adaptation of Conviction, the 2004 mini-series by veteran screenwriter Bill Gallagher. With a strong Hollywood-grade cast -notably Bettany, Cox and Mark Strong -who plays a scrupulous, dedicated cop whose attitude puts him at odds with the rest of the department -Blood definitely isn’t lacking in heavyweight acting chops. Unfortunately, its slapdash narrative trajectory leaves the cast floundering too often for comfort, and the lazy script does them few favours. With a darker, more provocative approach Blood could have carved itself a niche, but the interesting moments feel few and far between. Far less than the sum of its parts