2016 Catch-up Triple Bill #3

Three more 2016 offerings for your consideration....

Hell or High Water (David Mackenzie, 2016) is a lean and engaging cops-and-robbers neo-Western set in a dusty post-recession Texas. Two brothers, one quiet (Chris Pine), one unstable (Ben Foster) embark on a bank-robbing spree, for reasons which become gradually clear as the film progresses. On their trail is near-retirement Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges), who enjoys ribbing his Mexican partner as much as trying to second-guess the brothers' next move. Their paths inevitably cross, although the boundaries of 'good' and 'bad' begin to blur as events build to a satisfying climax. It's a really solid piece of work, one that confidently balances the action set-pieces with the quieter character-building moments of introspection to engage both the brain and the heart. One of the year's best, particularly for fans of Bridges, here scoring a solid 7-out-of-10 on the Gruff-ometer, having apparently morphed into Kris Kristofferson.

Anthropoid (Sean Ellis, 2016) is a perfunctory telling of the attempt to assassinate high-ranking Nazi Reinhard Heydrich in 1942, a mission codenamed Operation Anthropoid. Jamie Dornan and Cillian Murphy play the two Czech paratroopers with suspiciously Irish accents who are charged with carrying out the highly dangerous plan. Along the way, doubts are raised about the repercussions of their actions and the value of their personal sacrifices in carrying out their mission, which naturally enough doesn't go quite to plan.  It's a terrific story, but sadly this film doesn't do it justice. The recreation of 40s Czechoslovakia is good, but the drama is clumsily handled, limping along to a conclusion which should be much more affecting than it is. You'd be far better off reading the acclaimed novel HHhH by Laurent Binet which covers the same events in much more inventive and gripping fashion. Which incidentally has itself been adapted into a film The Man with the Iron Heart, due for release in 2017. Typical, you wait all this time for an Operation Anthropoid film, then along comes two at once.

In Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross, 2016) Viggo Mortensen plays a hippy-ish father raising his 6 children off-the-grid in the forests of Washington state. There he exercises their bodies, schools their minds and celebrates things like Noam Chomsky Day, instead of Christmas. However, when news of his wife's death reaches them, they must venture into the real world, where he finds his idealistic alternative-living approach to parenting maybe isn't as great he thought it was. This sets itself up as a quirky comedy-drama, but it's never really quirky or comic or dramatic enough to becoming anything more than averagely watchable, plus it builds to a rather sentimental ending which I don't think it really earned. Nevertheless, the performances are good and if you're a parent there's enough food-for-thought to make you switch of the TV and drag the kids out for a hike. Not that they'll thank you for it, mind you. 

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