Film Review: THE SENSE OF AN ENDING (UK 2016) ***1/2

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the_sense_of_an_ending.jpgDirector: Ritesh Batra
Writers: Julian Barnes (novel), Nick Payne (adaptation)
Stars: Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter

Review by Gilbert Seah

The first thing that should be known when watching the drama THE SENSE OF AN ENDING is that it is based on the 2011 Man Booker Prize winning book of the same name by British author, Julian Barnes. The influence of a writer and the importance of writing are both evident at many points in the film.

The story in the book is told in two parts, narrated by Anthony ‘Tony’ Webster at two stages of his life, the first as a school lad in the 6th form (Grade 12 or Pre-University) and secondly in his elderly retired part of his life. The script by Nick Payne (a playwright with this being his first film script) reverses the process. The film opens with Tony (Oscar Winner Jim Broadbent) in his senior years recounting the past, which is told in flashback. This story-telling better suits a film structure.

The film is the story of how a letter written in anger by Tony in his younger days had affected the girl, Veronica (Freya Mavor) he loved and his best friend, Adrian Finn (Joe Alwyn). The story here emphasizes the importance of writing even as Tony jokes with this line uttered at the start if the film: “No one writes anymore.”

The film is an excellent blend of writing in and direction. The words of the book come alive as the beautiful dialogue is spoken by the actors. Director Ritesh Batra’s (he made the highly successful Indian film THE LUNCHBOX in 2014) English directorial debut is excellent.

Batra plays the film as a mystery with lots of skeletons in the close in addition to false clues to tease the audience. The truth comes out at the very end. Nothing is what it seems. The climax occurs in the pub where a revelation is made to Tony. Batra’s Indian influence can be noticed with the over-excited, chubby Indian postman who delivers the post to Tony’s house.

Despite the seriousness of the story, there is a lot of humour in the film. The humour comes primarily from Tony’s lesbian daughter, Susie (Michelle Dockery). She is a member of the LPL (lesbians impregnating lesbians). When the film opens, she is taking her father to the lesbian baby delivery classes.

But the film, in all earnest, (funny enough) is a coming-of-age story of a senior retired man, disgruntled with his life, as seen as he mutters and grumbles about at the start of the film. After his growing up process, he is shown the kinder gentleman.

Jim Broadbent is again, excellent in his meticulously portrayed Tony without any display of over-acting. Charlotte Rampling (who is always doing roles of frustrated seniors) plays the elderly Veronica while Matthew Goode has a small role as Tony’s teacher in school.

THE SENSE OF AN ENDING is so called because, as quoted from by author Julian Barnes, in life incidents just happen. In books, a meaning to an incident is explained. In the film all events occurring to Tony’s life come with explanations. And very satisfactory ones resulting in a very satisfactory film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYLNTQGpNQ0
 

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ASSASSIN’S CREED (2016) Michael Fassbender. Marion Cotillard.

assassins_creed_movie_poster.jpgDirector: Justin Kurzel
Writers: Michael Lesslie (screenplay), Adam Cooper (screenplay)
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael Kenneth Williams

Review by Gilbert Seah

 Assassin’s Creed is an action-adventure video-game series created by Ubisoft that consists of nine main games and a number of supporting materials. The games have appeared on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and many other platforms. The games are set in a fictional history of real-world events and follows the centuries-old struggle between the Assassins, who fight for peace with free will, and the Templars, who desire peace through control. From the game came the book series and it is inevitable that a film follows. Very bad idea! For a game about peace, the film is quite violent. Even with Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender starring and producing it, ASSASSIN’S CREED for all its $125 million production cost and star power like Marion Cotillard (barely recognizable), Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson and Charlotte Rampling, the film comes out incredibly dull. For one, moviegoers know the famous adage: “It is hard to get excited over a movie made from a video game.” Yes, no matter how much the filmmakers try.

Cal Lynch (Fassbender) is about to be executed as his capital punishment. But he ends up travelling back in time to 15th-century Spain through a revolutionary technology that unlocks the genetic memories contained in his DNA. There, he lives out the experiences of Aguilar de Nerha, a distant ancestor who is also a member of the Assassins, a secret society that fights to protect free will from the power-hungry Templar Order. Transformed by the past, Cal begins to gain the knowledge and physical skills necessary to battle the oppressive organization in the present. There are lots of fighting with Fassbender shirtless showing off his super-toned body.

That is about it for story and plot. The visuals are mainly done though Computer Graphics with the film looking much like a video game with computer generated figures fighting or shown in large crowds. The visuals are nothing out of the ordinary. There are lots of action scenes with characters running about on rooftops, firing arrows or jumping around. These hardly generate any excitement.

The key prize that the Templars and Creed both seek is the apple, supposedly the one from the Garden of Eden that Eve ate, and so released the knowledge of Good and Evil. The audience is supposed to believe that the non-rotting apple has survived through the years and that anyone who possesses it can control man’s free will. So, the Templars wish to control humanity by owning the apple.

The film is directed by Australian Justin Kurzel who directed Fassbender in last year’s MACBETH. He did a good job, rising to fame with SNOWTOWN, but none of his talent is observable in this poor effort.

So during the Christmas season, it is a hard toss which is the worst film of the season or for the year for that matter. The three contenders are PASSENGERS, COLLATERAL BEAUTY and this one!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfJVoF5ko1Y

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