Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence's out of this world adventure; Will Smith's all-star meaning-of-life weepie; Oliver Stone's Edward Snowden biopic and more...
21 December. Cert TBC
For those who find the new Star Wars spin-off Rogue One isn’t enough to scratch their sci-fi itch, then try Passengers. For once, it’s not based on a pre-existing comic, movie or novel but comes from an original script by Jon Spaihts (who also worked on the Alien prequel Prometheus) about a spacecraft travelling a 120-year journey to a faraway colony known as Homestead II.
With over 5000 people on board in hibernation, the twist comes as a malfunction causes two of the pods to open – belonging to journalist Aurora Dunn (Jennifer Lawrence) and mechanical engineer Jim Preston (Chris Pratt). Part-love story, part-conspiracy tale, and engineered with some beautiful visuals, the film is also directed by Morten Tyldum, his first since The Imitation Game.
30 December. Cert: 12A
Arriving in cinemas on the penultimate day of the year might just be the best ensemble cast a movie has seen in 2016. Heading the bill is Will Smith – playing New York advertising executive Howard Inlet who retreats from life after suffering a tragedy – but the support cast is to die for. Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Edward Norton and Naomie Harris…including Smith, that’s a total of 18 Oscar nominations between them.
With director David Frankel at the helm (he brought us that classic canine weepie Marley & Me), don’t expect to leave the theatre with a dry hankie, as Smith’s character spends his time writing letters to Love, Time and Death in an attempt to understand what’s happened to him. Maybe a cathartic way to round off what’s been a difficult 2016 for everybody.
Out now. Cert: 15
A British indie with real spirit, Scots-born director Charles Henri Belleville’s stylish thriller is a backpacker tale in the mould of The Beach. Two friends, Lee (Robert Sheehan) and Sol (Osy Ikhile) are kicking back in paradise – well, Goa – until things turn sour. Ominously running over a cow (sacred, of course, in India), things get worse for these boys when their past catches up them with the arrival of Craig Parkinson’s vengeful club owner.
Adapted from Simon Lewis’ book Go, Belleville conjures a dreamy, hedonistic playground, blending past and present as these sharply-etched characters come into focus. Featuring Sofia Boutella (recently seen in Star Trek Beyond) as the love interest, it’s a cool, unconventional ride that leaves a lasting impression.
The Birth of a Nation
9 December. Cert:15
Already a prize-winner from the Sundance Film Festival, The Birth of a Nation was all set to be a major contender at this year’s awards season, until controversy surrounding director/star Nate Parker’s past, and his acquittal in a rape case, turned the film into a PR nightmare. But don’t let that detract from this hard-hitting, supremely well-crafted drama about real-life Virginia slave-turned-rebellion leader Nat Turner.
Played by Parker, Turner goes from a Bible-reading boy to a preacher who travels the state with his master (Armie Hammer) observing the daily horrors as his brethren are beaten and exploited. It’s a tough watch at times, as Turner gathers men to rebel against their owners, but it’s brilliantly executed by Parker. Deserves to be seen.
9 December. Cert: 15
After exploring conspiracies (J.F.K.) and presidential administrations (W, Nixon), Oliver Stone is the ideal director to bring the story of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to the big screen. Snowden famously alerted The Guardian newspaper to illegal mass government surveillance, an action that’s left him still living in exile in Russia. Stone explores what led this former CIA star agent to revealing all.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is ideally cast as Snowden, adding levels of thoughtfulness and paranoia to the character. Less successful is Rhys Ifans as Snowden’s CIA boss, who rather lapses into caricature. And while it doesn’t boast the tension of the Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour, which depicted Snowden’s handover of the documents in Hong Kong, Stone’s heart is certainly in the right place.