Brad Pitt's WWII Oscar contender and four more films to see this month

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Including: Amy Adams vs invading aliens – and a minimalist masterpiece from Jim Jarmusch


Arrival

Out 10 November. Certificate 12A. 

A thinking person’s sci-fi, Arrival comes from the prodigiously talented director Denis Villeneuve. The man behind Prisoners and Sicario, he’s currently at work on the sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic Blade Runner – and if it’s anywhere near as innovative as this tale of aliens landing across the globe, then we’re in for a treat.

Amy Adams plays Dr. Louise Banks, a linguistics professor called upon for a close encounter with highly-intelligent extraterrestrials. Arriving in giant shell-like vessels that hover 1500 feet from the ground, these spidery creatures are here for a reason. But what is it? Articulate and astutely made, Villeneuve’s film is far superior to the legions of alien invasion blockbusters Hollywood churns out. Psychologically complex, it’s also deeply personal – the story of one woman’s journey into her own life.


Indignation

Out 18 November. Certificate 15

The second Philip Roth novel to reach our screens this month after Ewan McGregor’s American Pastoral, coming-of-age drama Indignation is the directorial debut of James Schamus, the Oscar nominated writer-producer behind many of Ang Lee’s great works. Based on Roth’s 2008 novel – his 29th – Logan Lerman plays Marcus Messner, a working-class atheist Jew whose religious beliefs put him at odds with his fellow students and college dean (Tracy Letts) when he arrives on campus in 1950s Ohio.

Featuring a jaw-dropping 18-minute centrepiece, as Marcus and the dean argue about religion, it might sound dry, but Lerman’s performance and Schamus’ vivid direction keep it alive. Co-starring Sarah Gadon, as the student who unexpectedly introduces the studious Marcus to less cerebral pleasures, it’s an intelligent, provocative watch.


Allied

Out 25 November. Certificate TBC.

Now is the time of year when all the Oscar contenders start jockeying for your attention, and Allied is just such a film. Directed by veteran Robert Zemeckis (Cast Away, Forrest Gump), it’s a wartime melodrama starring Brad Pitt as Max Vatan, an intelligence officer who, in 1942, falls for a French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) whilst on a mission in North Africa.

While Pitt’s split with Angelina Jolie (and unfounded rumours that he and Cotillard were having their own romance off-camera) shone an unwelcome spotlight on the film recently, Allied looks strong enough to avoid any fallout. Lush and handsome, it’s the sort of old-school romance Hollywood made by the dozen in the 1940s. With Jared Harris and Matthew Goode co-starring, the Oscar race starts here.  


Paterson

25 November. Certificate TBC

US indie stalwart Jim Jarmusch is back with two films this month. Gimme Danger is a documentary about Seventies rock icons Iggy Pop and the Stooges, but it’s his 11th feature Paterson that deserves all the acclaim. The story of Paterson, a poetry-writing bus driver who lives in Paterson, New Jersey, this gentle week-in-the-life tale is a minimalist masterpiece.

Adam Driver, famed for playing Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ villainous Kylo Ren, is perfectly cast as the insular Paterson, who spends his days writing, thinking, drinking and dog-walking. Funny and poignant, with lovely support from Golshifteh Farahani as Paterson’s live-in girlfriend, it’s heartening to see a film about literature and life that doesn’t lapse into pretentious realms. The tragedies here are small, but hurt just as much.


A United Kingdom

25 November. Certificate 12A.

British director Amma Asante follows up her well-received second film, Belle, with another little-known real-life tale. Set in post-war England, it begins as Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a London insurance clerk, meets and falls in love with the African-born Seretse Khama (Selma star David Oyelowo) while he’s in the UK studying law.

With Seretse heir to the throne of the Bamangwato people of Bechuanaland – a protectorate under British rule since the 1880s – what follows is shocking, as the British government interferes in their relationship, trying to keep them apart. Dealing with issues of race and discrimination, it’s not only Asante’s ironically-shaded title that feels apt to Britain right now. Pike and Oyelowo are both vibrant presences, even if they never quite convey the burning passion that must have kept Ruth and Seretse believing.

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