Films to see in London this Weekend
EDITOR'S PICK: Wondering what's on at the cinema this weekend? India Halstead rounds up the latest cinema listings, from epic saga Wild to indie gem Whiplash
Epic saga: Wild
Starring and produced by Reese Witherspoon, this adaptation of Cheryl Strade's wistful memoir is gaining a lot of hype, with some dubbing it the performance of Witherspoon's career. Following her highly versatile acting roles – from her well-known teen-flick Legally Blonde to her Oscar-winning performance in Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, Witherspoon makes a foray into this grittier territories as she treks across the American wilderness in Wild. This is her second attempt at producing – last year's Gone Girl achieved huge success – and in this role as former drug addict who takes a 1,000 mile walk to escape her messy life, Witherspoon demonstrates her immense versatility. A true tale of human endurance, Nick Hornby's screenplay features a series of hyper-realistic flashbacks triggered by the events journey to powerful effect. Director Jean-Marc Vallée, of Dallas Buyers Club fame, made Witherspoon herself undertake the physical challenges that the film depicts, and many of the frustrations shown are in fact her own. An intensely personal journey, then, Wild manages to avoid dull repetition under Witherspoon's captivating performance, and is well worth a watch.
For fans of Hurtlocker: American Sniper
Clint Eastwood directs a star cast, including Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller, in this tense portrayal of modern sniper warfare. American Sniper tells the true story of US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, played by Cooper, and also features a number of real ex-navy SEALs is the. Early previews suggest the film shows a slightly disconcerting amount of patriotic fervour and glorification of a man who, with 160 confirmed kills, has been named the most lethal sniper in military history – and could risk precipitating a tense dialogue on how much American media tends to glorify the atrocities of war. Criticism elsewhere suggests American Sniper deals too closely with Kyle's personal life and fails to show two sides of the issue. With recent films such as Zero Dark Thirty perpetuating discussion on how America should retrospectively view its involvement in Afghanistan, this film is certainly one that will spark debate on both sides of the pond.
Romantics: Testament of Youth
Now fully-risen star Alicia Vikander joins Kit Harrington (of Game of Thrones renown) in this upcoming film based on the WWI memoir of Vera Brittain, commissioned as part of the BBC's centenary season. Fans of period drama won't be disappointed by British television favourite James Kent's poignant and touching direction of Testament of Youth's talented cohort of actors. The first of the many films Vikander has lined up for release this year (Son of a Gun, Tulip Fever and as alluring android in indie sci-fi Ex Machina), in Testament of Youth the versatile Swedish actress continues to show a flair for dramatic roles (as already proven in Danish drama A Royal Affair) with a powerful and heart-wrenching performance. Vikander will be supported by a number of British favourites, including heart-throb Dominic West. Hayley Atwell (The Duchess, Captain America) and twice Oscar-nominated Emily Watson (War Horse, Breaking the Waves) also make appearances.
Vera Brittain's memoir is one so poignant and extraordinary that it's surprising it's not been depicted in film before; an intelligent, spirited young woman who overcomes her family prejudices to gain a scholarship to Oxford, Britten falls for her brother’s dazzling friend Roland Leighton (played by Harrington) and the two prepare to enjoy their literary pursuits. The First World War, however, presses in, and their lives are thrown into disruption. Vikander's performance has already been described as 'the beating heart of the story', so anyone who's already been captivated by her eclectic range in the past year should catch Testament of Youth upon its release this Friday.
Indie gem: Whiplash
This new film, starring up-and-coming talent Miles Teller – who’s just been publically nominated for a BAFTA Rising Star for the role – is an electrifying tale with an unlikely subject. Playing ambitious young drummer Andrew, who quickly spirals into an obsession that pushes him to the brink of his abilities, Miller's performance is intense and engaging. Stands opposite him comedic veteran JK Simmons as Naziesque music maestro Terence Fletcher. Simmons is grandiose to the extreme, but where another actor might have played Fletcher as supremely monstrous, Simmons isn't afraid to subvert the character's terror with comedic nuances. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at last year's Sundance, and was treated to a standing ovation at Cannes – which, for a low-budget indie, is praise indeed. Writer and director Damien Chazelle takes audiences on an exhilarating journey into a mind set on success, in a film comparable to Aronofsky's intensely psychological Black Swan, but without lapsing into melodrama. Explaining his approach to filming, Chazelle described shooting the musical scenes as he would an action scene – by intricately mapping the camera movements and angles alongside the score. In this way, the camera 'provides the kineticism', and a concert scene can pack the same adrenaline punches as 'a bank robbery'. The combined talents of director and actors make Whiplash an exhilarating, original film that positively sizzles with spontaneity.