In cinemas this week: Birdman, Unbroken and Paper Planes.
Birdman – A captivating, awe-inspiring work that takes a fascinatingly layered narrative about an aging actor, Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton) attempting to finance, direct and star in his own stage adaptation of a Raymond Carver story and escape a career defined by one achievement. As he struggles to bring the story to life, he is suffering with anxieties of failure and a loss of purpose. Once the star of the blockbuster series, Birdman, Riggan walked away at the height of his fame in pursuit of other projects. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself. Made to appear like it is comprised of a single shot, courtesy of the work of Emmanuel Lubezki, this is a technical marvel that features masterful performances from Keaton and the supporting cast. Conceptually bold and brilliantly written and directed, I loved everything about Birdman. Within minutes Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s (Babel, Amores Perros) film has done its dance and laid out its rules. If you let yourself get swept up in its aesthetic it will be hugely rewarding, and even when the story gets morose and odd it always entertains.
Paper Planes – Directed by Robert Connolly (The Turning), this is an imaginative children’s film about a young Australian boy’s passion for flight and his challenge to compete in the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan. Ed Oxenbould and Sam Worthington star. The trailer reveals the whole story, but this looks like it will be quite pleasant and charming.
Unbroken – Angelina Jolie directs and produces Unbroken, an epic drama that follows the incredible life of Olympian and war hero Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) who, along with two other crewmen, survived in a raft for 47 days after a near-fatal plane crash in WWII – only to be caught by the Japanese Navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand’s novel, Unbroken brings to the big screen Zamperini’s unbelievable and inspiring true story about the resilient power of the human spirit. Leading the accomplished crew is 10-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins, while Joel and Ethan Coen rewrote the screenplay from earlier drafts by William Nicholson and Richard LaGravenese. There has been plenty of Oscar buzz about Unbroken, given the story and the pedigree, but reviews have been very mixed, claiming that the film hits too many of the cliche dramatic beats to fully resonate, despite O’Connell and Deakins bringing their full potential.
Weekly Recommendation: Birdman. What a film.