A terrific mid-West road movie, a coming-of-age chess drama from Disney/Africa – and Ken Loach's Palme d'Or-winner: something for everyone in this month's movie round-up
14 October. Cert: 15
British director Andrea Arnold (Red Road, Fish Tank) makes her first foray into America with this sensational road movie that claimed the Jury prize in Cannes back in May. Set in the Mid-West, newcomer Sasha Lane plays Star, a young woman who hooks up with a misfit crew selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door. Living hand to mouth, these kids work hard and party harder, under the watchful eye of Riley Keough’s spray-tanned manager, and it doesn’t take long before Star is entranced by Shia LaBeouf’s head salesman.
With a running time of two hours and forty-five minutes, it’s an epic watch – though Arnold’s sensitive direction, the naturalistic performances, a cracking soundtrack and Robbie Ryan’s spellbinding cinematography all combine to ensure it never outstays its welcome.
I, Daniel Blake
21 October. Cert: 15
Winner of this year’s prestigious Palme d’Or in Cannes, Ken Loach’s harrowing tale of a carpenter from Newcastle who must navigate the torturous red tape of the British welfare state is a triumphant piece of filmmaking. Scripted by Loach’s regular writer Paul Laverty, former Geordie comic Dave Johns plays the eponymous Daniel Blake, a dignified soul whose heart condition has laid him off work.
As he fruitlessly seeks to claim sickness benefit, befriending Hayley Squires’ fellow struggler along the way, it’s a heart-wrenching study of those on Britain’s breadline. It’s not all bleak, with scenes frequently carved out with Loach’s typical earthy humour. But the result is a film liable to make you feel sad, angry and ashamed. Perhaps the most important movie of 2016.
Queen of Katwe
21 October. Cert: PG.
From the director of Monsoon Wedding, Mira Nair, comes this family-friendly true-life tale set in the Katwe slums of Uganda. Madina Nalwanga plays the young Phiona Mutesi, a poverty-stricken girl who dreams of becoming a chess master. Tutored by David Oyelowo’s keen coach, Phiona is soon beating all-comers as she sweeps into regional, national and international tournaments.
Co-starring 12 Years A Slave’s Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o as Phiona’s widowed mother, the film is less a movie about sporting triumph and more a coming-of-age story, as Phiona is given a taste of a world outside the slums. Featuring an excellent turn from Oyelowo (who played Martin Luther King in Selma), it’s a gentle drama that, while predictable, sparkles like sunshine.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
21 October. Cert: TBC
Based on the character created by best-selling author Lee Child, Tom Cruise reprises the itinerant former soldier-turned-investigator he played in 2012’s underrated Jack Reacher. Adapted from Child’s 2013 novel Never Go Back, this time Reacher finds himself at the centre of a government conspiracy and a fugitive on the run.
Co-starring Cobie Smulders (best known for long-running sitcom How I Met Your Mother), the film also reunites Cruise with Edward Zwick, who previously directed him in The Last Samurai. A role that seems to fit the 54 year-old star like a hand-tailored leather glove, Reacher almost gives Ethan Hunt – the actor’s Mission: Impossible character – a run for his money when it comes to steely-eyed action. Expect a lean, mean and explosive thriller.
Train To Busan
28 October. Cert: 15.
The Girl On The Train may be this month’s highest profile locomotive-themed movie, but this gem from South Korea is the one you should board. Assuming, that is, you’re OK with zombies. Like last month’s British movie The Girl With All The Gifts, this a contemporary tale of a pandemic that affects the population. But here, as commuters take a train from Seoul to Busan – with rabid flesh-eaters in the carriages, at the stops and on the streets – the tension cranks up in a fight for survival.
Written and directed by Sang-ho Yeon, the idea of a zombie attack may be nothing new, but this is so brilliantly executed, you’ll be gripped until the journey’s end. Always on the right track, this is a superb horror-thriller.