“The result is never in question, just the path you take to get there.”

Set in New York in 1981, this masterpiece tells the story of Abel, a business-man in the oil industry trying to expand and grow his trade. Apparently 1981 was statistically the most dangerous time in the city and this is felt in the film.

There are many aspects of this film that I would like to discuss but that would give away too much of the narrative. This is an epic film with big themes, akin with some of the great stories from history.

J.C. Chandor writes and directs this near enough masterclass in story-telling, keeping the tension high and the pressure on our hero, Abel (pronounced Ah-Bell).

Brilliantly played by the man of the moment Oscar Isaac, he instills Abel with a moral fortitude rarely seen on screen. He is the epitome of right action and therein lies his challenges, working in a complicated, political world that doesn’t always play by the rules.

By his side is the hugely talented Jessica Chastain playing his wife and here she delivers a performance filled with danger, loyalty, strength and feminity. There is a touch of the Lady Macbeth’s in her work, subtly manipulating Abel in order to achieve her goals but at the same time being a rock for him.

There is a palpable sense of underlying danger that threatens to rear its ugly head at any time. It’s this unseen threat that really keeps the tension taut, helped in no small measure by the haunting soundtrack composed by Alex Ebert.

The incredibly gifted cinematographer, Bradford Young shows his skills with his beautifully constructed shots. I’d first noticed him when he shot Pariah and he recently shot Selma. He is a talent I will be looking out for.

There’s been a lot said about the seeming snub from the Oscars this year, when put into the mix of the nominated films it stands head and shoulders above most of them. This was attributed to its late release (late 2014). Chastain was nominated in other ceremonies and won several awards for her performance, rightly so, interestingly Oscar Isaac tied the award for best actor with Michael Keaton (Birdman) at the National Board of Review awards in the United States.

His performance is quiet, subtle and grounded in an otherworldly energy at times, that is up there with the great performances of the last year (along with Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler, another overlooked, powerhouse achievement). Isaac brings to mind Al Pacino as Michael Corleone without the overt menace in his portrayal of Abed. David Oyelowo continues to show his skills as the district attorney who is investigating Abel’s company. Alessandro Nivola, who needs to be in more films, is as charming as the devil as one of Abel’s competitors, Peter Forente. The mighty Albert Brooks is Andrew Walsh, Abed’s consigliere. Jerry Adler (The Sopranos) is the man whom Abel is doing business with and he imbues his role with wisdom and fair play.
Special mention goes to Elyes Gabel, a British actor who is doing very well for himself, here delivering a performance filled with uncertainty and depth. His character is pivotal to the story and will leave you feeling sympathy for him.

There is an undercurrent of instability that permeates every shot. Taking its mood from the American films of the seventies, this has more than a whiff of The Godfather but never once feels like plagiarism, much more homage and being the best way to tell the story.

Chandor does it again, making a film that really should have got more attention, it will become a classic in the eyes of most cognoscenti and hopefully the rest of the cinema going public.

A most affecting film.

If you haven’t seen it, find it and watch; you won’t be disappointed.






A welcome addition to the apes’ canon started in 1963 by Pierre Boulle with his novel, La Planete
des Singes. I doubt he had any idea of the longevity of his idea, 50 years later they’d be still making films.

The second reboot of the Apes franchise after the embarrassment of the Burton/Wahlberg effort is such a breath of fresh air, filled with a great many right notes that make for a great story. The few gripes I had are outweighed by the sum of its parts.

James Franco is Will Rodman, our human protagonist and does a great job until Basil Exposition rears its ugly head. Only a tiny amount but the odd one line here, one line there to let us, the dumb-fuck audience know what is happening, which is weird considering how much most of the film steers clear of the expo. If a line is written badly you do what you can to make it real. It ain’t easy. A lot of time goes by without any speaking, lots of great scenes of the main ape, Caesar (Andy Serkis) growing up and trying to find his place in this strange world.

Rodman is a scientist who is trying to find a cure for Alzhiemers, which his father is suffering from. John Lithgow is, as always, a joy, bringing such sensitivity to the role of Charles Rodman, Will’s father.

Frieda Pinto gives good face and, for the most part, it’s fine until ‘O-Oh Who’s this barging through the door desperate to get his tuppence in’? Ah yes, Basil of the many expositions, and then wooden is as wooden does.

David Oyewelo tries his best at the greedy whor-porate boss but is just in it too much and whose end doesn’t come soon enough.

It’s weird looking back and seeing such strong well told pieces of narrative that are offset, only a tiny amount, but offset nevertheless, by these trite bits of sloppy characterization and exposition. Either be daring or don’t. Don’t piss about on the fence.

These are tiny criticisms of the overall picture, it is well-made, well-told and well-executed and is a very enjoyable film.

Andy Serkis is fantastic, once again proving that the actor brings his immense talent to creating a character filled with nuance, bringing to mind Lon Chaney Jr and his ‘Man of a Thousand Faces’ title. Surely it’s only a matter of time before the award ceremonies to catch up and recognize.

Rupert Wyatt directs with confidence and skill, having shown his talents previously with the great prison drama, The Escapist.

This is a lot of fun, with some wonderful set pieces and sturdy performances. It says something when the most interesting parts are C.G.I. and here Wyatt has managed to ground them in an emotional reality, more often than not missing in such films.