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REVIEW: 6 Days (2017)

In April 1980, a group of gunmen stormed the Iranian Embassy in London, taking hostage all those inside. Over six days there’s a tense standoff between the police and the hostage takers with the threat of the SAS being sent in to take back the embassy hanging overhead.

The action follows three main characters and their experiences. There’s police negotiator Max Vernon (Mark Strong) who must keep the gunmen’s leader Salim (Ben Turner) on the phone and try to keep the hostages alive while the politicians, army and police try to come up with a plan of action, SAS Lance Corporal Rusty Firmin (Jamie Bell) who is one of the team leaders of the squadron preparing for the assault and journalist Kate Adle (Abbie Cornish) who reports from the police cordon outside the Iranian Embassy. You’re introduced to these characters on the first day of the siege and get very little background information about them upfront. This means you are really relying on the actor’s performances to pull you in and they succeed in doing this.

There are many false starts for the SAS team as they get ready to attack before something happens and they’re told to stand down. You can feel the rise and fall of the tension and for a film with little action till the end, it does a good job of building the suspense and keeping you right there with these characters. When you see the SAS finally storm the Embassy it is a set piece that really pays off.

Even though 6 Days does little to change the formula of these real story thrillers, it works with the usual tropes and makes a solid, enjoyable film. It’s snappy 90 minutes runtime certainly helps as there feels to be little filler, instead focussing on the characters, their preparations and the rollercoaster of emotions they experience in such a short space of time. It might be generic, but 6 Days is an immersive and satisfying film. 3/5.

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REVIEW: Detroit (2017)

Amidst the chaos of the Detroit Rebellion in the summer of 1967, gunshots are heard from the direction of the Algiers Motel. When the police and the National Guard arrive, tensions rise and three young African American men are murdered.

Detroit is based on true events and, as the film states at the end, has been put together from first-hand accounts and what limited official documents there are from the time meaning that some of the events depicted are dramatized. Detroit uses archive news footage and photos to help show what the violence and chaos on the city streets was really like and makes it all feel more real.

The whole cast gives phenomenal performances. Will Poulter as racist police officer Krauss is equal parts terrifying and mesmerising. You end up feeling you can’t take your eyes off him for a second as you don’t know what he’ll do next. John Boyega as security guard Dismukes feels underused at times but that’s mainly because he’s almost like a spectator to these events. That being said, when there’s moments for him to show more than restrained horror and the fear begins to register, Boyega nails it.

The violence the police officers inflict on this group of young people is tough to watch. The psychological torture tactics they use is sickening and the camera never really wavers from it either so you as the viewer, like men like Larry (Algee Smith) and Fred (Jacob Latimore) are forced to watch what others are going through.

At almost two and half hours Detroit is a long film and you can start to feel that towards the end of it. the last third is really quite drawn out as you don’t just get the usually text on screen, telling you what happened to these people next, instead you get to see it. This makes their grief and anger hard to take but in a way, it makes it feel like the film is prolonging the people’s pain and the viewers.

Detroit is a tense and powerful film that often makes for uncomfortable viewing. It’s shocking that not only did these events take place 50 years ago, but that no one with any real power to change things has learnt from them as events of police brutality is still prevalent today. 4/5.

REVIEW: The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017)

The true story of Antonina (Jessica Chastain) and Jan Zabinski (Johan Heldenbergh), keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, who helped saved hundreds of Jews during the German invasion.

The Zookeeper’s Wife is a beautiful looking film. So bright when the zoo is open and thriving, it’s almost idyllic before the Nazi’s invade, Antonina cuddles lion cubs and her son Ryszard (Timothy Radford and Val Maloku) has a pet skunk. Living and working in a zoo almost seems utopian until it’s suddenly and violently attacked. The juxtaposition of the innocence of animals to the cruelty of people can be a little heavy handed at times but there are certain moments of brilliance, like when tigers and lions walk down the bombed streets of Warsaw.

There’s a throbbing sense of foreboding once Antonina and Jan decide to try and help the Jewish people who had been rounded up into a ghetto. Every person is a potential threat from the cook, to neighbours and of course the German soldiers who are always on patrol. They have a plan and a system in place but there’s always the threat of discovering hanging over their heads like a guillotine.

The Nazi occupation is personified by German zoologist Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl) who is forever a lurking and watching the Zabinski’s. It begins as a mutual love of animals but his interest soon turns to Antonina causing an extra thread of tension to grow not only between the two of them but also between Antonina and Jan.

The themes of love, friendship and loyalty in the face of hatred, which are so often seen in films set in this time period, are no less affecting. This is down to great writing and brilliant performances from all involved. The Zookeeper’s Wife is sometimes a brutal and upsetting experience but there is still hope in the way Antonina and Jan resist the Nazi occupation and their ideologies. 4/5.

M is for Museums

The Ashmolean Museum

I love museums. I love learning about old artefacts and seeing things from different countries, cultures, and times in history. When I went to New York a few years ago, me and my mum spent over four hours in the Museum of Natural History! That’s the longest I’ve spent in any museum so far.

Last weekend I was in Oxford and while I was there I went to three of the many museums around the city. I went to the Ashmolean Museum first and I loved how the museum was set out, it was bright and it had different areas for different countries and time periods. I also went to the Natural History Museum there which was super cool – I love it when you can touch certain exhibits (because I’m a big kid) and that was available there – and the Pitt Rivers Museum which is the fullest museum I have ever been too. It was a fascinating place and it’s crammed full of artefacts from different cultures and I especially liked all the various weapons and armour it has, from swords and knives to pistols and semiautomatic weapons.

The thing I love about museums is it’s one of those places where you’re not seen as weird if ou go there on your own. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with doing your own thing but sometimes you can feel a bit uncomfortable doing traditionally social things on your own – but not with museums! They’re a place of learning and reflection and you will get relatively few weird looks if you just sit and stare at a painting for a while. I have to say I’m not a huge painting/art gallery fan, I much prefer looking at “things” from past civilisations, but some paintings are certainly eye-catching.

In a couple of weeks, some of the boys at the school I work at are going on a trip to the Natural History Museum in London and I’ve been asked to be one of the designated adults on the trip and I’m so excited! I’ve never been there before so I think I’m going to be geeking out more than the kids!

REVIEW: Jackie (2016)

jackie-movie-posterFollowing the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson), First Lady Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) must fight through the grief and trauma to console her children and to define her husband’s legacy.

Jackie isn’t a particularly linear story. It starts with Mrs Kennedy talking to a journalist (Billy Crudup) about how she wants her husband to be remembered and the film jumps back and forth to the past, the future, and her current interview with a journalist. While some events seen are easy to place, others you don’t really realise when they are happening till the end of the film.

The score in Jackie is very noticeable, which for some may work while for others may not. It’s a very loud, orchestral score that doesn’t always seem to fit with the action on screen. That being said, at times the crescendo of music does seem to reflect Jackie Kennedy’s inner turmoil.

Natalie Portman’s performance really is phenomenal and she does deserve any award recognition she may get. There’s many shots just focusing in on her face or of her wandering the corridors of the White House and you can see without words the pain, anger and loss she’s feeling. Peter Sarsgaard also gives a great performance as Bobby Kennedy and he and Portman’s chemistry as two people united by grief is captivating. Make no doubt about it though, this is Portman’s film.

Jackie is definitely one of those films that feels like a well-made and traditionally “good” film and while I can appreciate it for that, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. It’s a beautifully shot film and all the costumes and make up look top-notch but at its heart is a few weeks of a woman’s life as she struggles to put her life back together. I feel Jackie certainly earns the critical acclaim it has gotten so far but it wasn’t for me. Though if you have a great interest in the Kennedy’s, then Jackie is probably the film for you. 3/5.

READ THE WORLD – USA: March Trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

march-trilogy-john-lewisMarch is a graphic novel memoir trilogy about the American Civil Rights Movement told from the perspective of John Lewis, a civil rights leader then and now a US Congressman. It charters his early life, the Nashville sit-in movement, the fight for desegregation and actual voting rights and the Selma to Montgomery marches. It follows the successes and the failures and shows the behind the scenes moments of many big events you might have only seen photos of or read about in school.

March is an incredible graphic novel series. It’s bookended by President Obama’s inauguration on 20th January 2009 and has flashbacks to that day throughout the trilogy – it truly highlights how far the Civil Rights Movement has come, but also how much there’s left to improve. It’s something I wasn’t expecting but it was a really lovely touch.

John Lewis tells his story and his experiences in the Civil Rights movement with a lot of honesty. He says what he thinks about people like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, JFK, Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson as well as many other people that may not be as well-known names. He says the good and the bad and doesn’t lie if he had opposing views to someone else, even if it was another of the “Big Six” Civil Rights Leaders. The thing that got me about Lewis was, he never seems to give up hope in people and that they have the capacity to change their views. He sees it happen and is nearly always positive that the protests he, and so many other people, are a part of will bring a better future. It’s truly admirable.

I found March tough to read some times. The first two books I read in the same day but the third one took me longer. I’d often get frustrated with how people were so blind and ignorant and what black people in America had to go through in the sixties so I’d have to put it down for a while before carrying on reading. Also, each book was longer than the one before it which probably contributed to how long it took me to read them. That being said, the series benefits when you read each book one after the other as they are all a part of a bigger and wider story.

The art in March is great because it’s all black and white which really helps add to the emotion of some of the situations, especially when there’s a single page or a double page of artwork. I think this memoir of the Civil Rights Movement works so well in graphic novel form because you can see people’s reactions to things or you can see someone get hit by the police and it makes it more real and tangible.

March is an important and brilliant read. The art works so well with the story and it’s the kind of story that everyone one can read, no matter their age. If you have an interest in African-American history, or just American history in general, then I highly recommend March5/5.

REVIEW: The Trouble with Women by Jacky Fleming

trouble-with-womenThe Trouble with Women is a graphic novel looking at women’s role in history – or lack thereof. It questions why we only ever learnt about three women at school and whether or not women can be geniuses.

The Trouble with Women is really funny. Thanks to the observational drawings and the sharp wit, it’s a very smart and different take on women in history. There are so many great lines like, “In the Olden Days there were no women which is why you don’t come across them in history lessons at school” and “For a long time there were no black women.” It’s kind of brutally honest as it looks at the terrible attitude men had towards women and their intelligence. It is sad that the stereotypes that if women become too smart and educated they’ll become unattractive to men are still prevalent today in some shape and form.

The Trouble with Women features many women from different fields – many of which I hadn’t heard of before. There’s women like Marie Currie, Annie Oakley and Jane Austin who are obviously very well-known but it also talks about women like Phillis Wheatley, Elisa Grier and Emmy Noether who I had never heard of before. I’ve made a note of all the women featured who I know very little or nothing about so I can read up on them later. All the women featured were scorned or dismissed by men with them often being surprised by the women’s skill or attention to detail.

The Trouble with Women makes you think about women’s role in history and how they were seen by society and how it was very difficult to progress in any field without being judged by men and society as a whole. It’s unfortunate that some still believe women are incapable of making any achievements whether in science or the arts, but there’s still hope. A line that I absolute love and can’t reiterate how important it is, is “Women have been retrieving each other from the Dustbin of History for several thousand years now.” Women in history are being rediscovered by women of today and women helping other women, in whatever way, is a very important thing indeed.

The Trouble with Women is a short original book that looks at history in a different way. I wish it was longer and I’ll definitely be looking into Jacky Fleming’s other comics and writing. 4/5.