Ben Schnetzer

REVIEW: The Riot Club (2014)

Two first-year students, Miles (Max Irons) and Alistair (Sam Claflin) join the infamous Riot Club at Oxford University, where reputations can be made or destroyed over the course of a single evening.

The Riot Club is a fascinating film as the vast majority of the characters are completely awful and unlikeable but it’s still a compelling film to watch. The young men who are a part of the Riot Club are rude, entitled, violent, destructive, and a few are inclined to sexual assault as well.

What works well is that when you are introduced to both Miles and Alistair, you feel sorry for them for different reasons. Alistair has overbearing parents and his older brother’s reputation to live up to, while even though Miles is a posh boy, he’s more down to earth than others and finds it difficult to be a part of the rich boy’s club and with his fellow students who were from state school backgrounds. It’s like he doesn’t totally fit in with either group.

As the film progresses and they both get initiated into The Riot Club you meet the right other young men that complete this club. James (Freddie Fox) is the President but it’s boys like Harry (Douglas Booth) and Dimitri (Ben Schnetzer) that really egg the group on and display a complete disregard for people and money.

There are so many things, both little and big, that make you uneasy about the young men in the Riot Club and their beliefs. All these things build up, as Alistair appears more comfortable in the Club while Miles becomes more torn, and everything comes to ahead at a dinner in a small family-run pub. The actions of The Riot Club are deplorable and there’s so many moments that show how a few of the young men could become half decent people if they were away from the toxic environment of the Club.

The Riot Club is unsettling and maddening. As events build and get worse, it’s like a car crash you cannot look away from as you watch these boys bring out the worst in one another, to the detriment of the innocent bystanders around them. It’s an unflinching display of superiority complexes and an entitlement that money can fix all problems as they men show no respect to people they see as beneath them. It’s rather concerning that there’s a good chance that young people like the characters here exist in the real world. 4/5.

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REVIEW: Pride

pridePride is about the true story of a group of lesbian and gay activists who rallied together to raise money for the miners on strike in 1984. The UK miners’ strike from 1984-1985 was due to the government’s plans (led by Conservative Margaret Thatcher) to close dozens of coal mines and pits across the country. Those on strike were obviously not getting paid so were in need of financial support from supporters across the country. It was a desperate situation for miners and their families but that doesn’t mean that they were necessarily happy to be receiving money collected by gays and lesbians – in part due to the prejudice against the gay community, especially with the emergence of AIDS.

Pride shows this conflict between the miners and the LGBT community – two communities that had a common ground due to being attacked by the police, the tabloids and the government – is handled very well. It brings a lot of humour and shows that there are both differences and similarities in people where you’d perhaps least expect it. The culture-clash yields surprising, funny and touching consequences.

Joe (George MacKay) is the audience’s eyes as he stumbles into London’s Gay Pride march and meets Mike (Joseph Gilgun) and the rest of the gang that will become the Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners group. Joe is coming to terms with his sexuality and is having his eyes opened to this different world, just like the audience is.

The cast is undeniably brilliant. It is a showcase for long-standing British talent like Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton and Paddy Considine as well as upcoming talent like Gilgun, MacKay and Faye Marsay. There is great chemistry between all of the cast and the humour and comrade feels as natural as the moments of conflict. American Ben Schnetzer portrays Mike, the leader of the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group, and gives a (hopefully) breakout performance. He’s both confident giving a speech to a less than welcoming crowd at the working men’s club in a Welsh village and sensitive to the discrimination faced by both the LGBT community and the miners.

The screenplay is simultaneously witty and heartfelt. It is very easy with a true story to become too sentimental and cheesy but Pride doesn’t fall into that trap. If anything the script has faith in the audiences intelligence (which is very refreshing), sub-plots are often given just enough development for audiences to be left to think “Does that mean…?” Pride is laugh out loud funny, clever but also knows when and how to work the more emotional moments.

Pride is well-directed by Matthew Warchus (Pride is only his second film) as he makes the most of the big set-pieces in the working men’s club as well as the more quiet moments between two characters. The cinematography is beautiful and shows the Welsh countryside at its best. Pride also has a brilliant soundtrack combining Welsh hymns with disco and Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

Pride is a historical comedy-drama that’s well written, well-acted and well-directed. It’s funny, moving and ultimately uplifting and gives you hope for what people can achieve. 5/5.