THE WOLF HOUR – movie review

THE WOLF HOUR
Brainstorm Media
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Alistair Banks Griffin
Screenwriter: Alistair Banks Griffin
Cast: Naomi Watts, Jennifer Ehle, Emory Cohen, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Brennan Brown, Jeremy Bobb
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 11/28/19
Opens: December 6, 2019

The Wolf Hour Movie Poster

This claustrophobic film that focuses almost exclusively on an agoraphobic might be considered by some viewers to be a vanity project for Naomi Watts but there are more dimensions to this theatrical piece. Not only is Watts, considered by many to be one of the great actresses of her generation, in her métier, but writer-director Alistair Banks Griffin, following up his freshman feature “Two Gates of Sleep” about a mother’s final request, uses Watts’ impressive acting skills to serve as a metaphor for one of New York City’s darkest years. If you are a New Yorker older than fifty, you will recall how Rudolph Giuliani became one of our most popular mayors by (as he put it himself) cleaning up the mess from the seventies. The women of the city had focused their fears on David Richard Berkowitz, aka the Son of Sam, a smiling sociopath who killed brunette women, leaving notes to provoke the police, promising to continue his favorite hobby.

Somehow Naomi Watts in the role of June Leigh is holed up in an apartment that seems more as though a section of a Bangladesh slum had relocated in South Bronx. She may have been a victim of an unmentioned tragedy, a woman whom you would expect to live in New York’s Silk Stocking District given her placement on best seller lists with her first novel, a guest on a TV interview show answering questions from Hans (Brennan Brown), and refusing to take guff from a William Buckley Jr. type interested in ratings for his intellectual show.

June has kept her publisher waiting for four years for a second novel, since the author’s fears have kept her blocked. But leave it to a tragedy affecting one of her few contacts to pull her out of her funk and set her up with a breakout second book. Apparently her sister Margot (Jennifer Ehle), who forced her way into June’s flat, cleaned up the mess of books, and is rewarded by being told to get out, is no solution for June. An unlikely hero for her is not police officer Jeremy Blake, who offers to help and keep a special watch in return for sexual favors. Nor can Billy (Emory Cohen), an understanding third-rate gigolo, do more than relieve her sexual tensions. Unlikely as you might think, Freddie (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a delivery guy from the local bodega who uses the apartment to wash up and cool off from a frightening hot summer, will serve as a catalyst for her return to society.

The movie would be better on the stage of an off-off-Broadway house given the sparseness of the production design and works OK on the screen thanks to Watts, since she easily project her emotions in many close-up from Kahlid Mohtased’s camera. Strangely the 38 caliber revolver given to her by Margot stays in the drawer and is not retrieved in Act 3, so while the movie is Chekhovian, the gun does not inevitably reappear.

One item is confusing, making the viewer think that Freddie, the delivery guy, is a figment of her imagination. When she calls the bodega he allegedly works for, she’s told that the boss never heard of him. I can’t think of any actress other than Watts who could produce the feeling of terror as she does.

99 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – A-
Technical – B
Overall – B

THE AERONAUTS – movie review

THE AERONAUTS
Amazon Studios
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Tom Harper
Screenwriter: Jack Thorne, story by Tom Harper, Jack Thorne,s 2013 book “Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air.”
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Phoebe Fox, Himesh Patel, Rebecca Front
Screened at: Whitby Hotel, NYC, 11/28/19
Opens: December 6, 2019

The Aeronauts Movie Poster

Human beings have dreamed of flying since the Greek mythology adventurer Icarus, son of Daedelus, was given wings of wax and feathers. He was warned not to fly too close to the sun, but Icarus was ecstatic at his ability to zoom through the air, ignoring the warning by flying close to the sun. His wings melted and he fell to the earth. Well, there’s a fellow willing to risk his life for his dream, while some years later, the Wright brothers took their lives into the hands in 1903 from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in a flight that lasted only minutes. Between the Wright brother and the ancient Greeks, we have conquered flight by way of balloons at least since the mid-18th century. “The Aeronauts” tells us, for example, in a movie inspired by an actual event, that the fictitious character Amelia Wren (Felicity Jones) and the actual character James Glaisher, took a chance on breaking a balloon record by flying 38,000 feet, or about seven miles closer to the sun. Instead of melting, however, they wound up freezing their buns off at five degrees of temperature and a scant ability to breathe when they reached a height greater than that of Mount Everest. Too bad the snobbish, insular, stuffy old men with long white beards claiming to be scientists would not think of allowing a woman to take part in the noble experiment—which is why director Tom Harper’s use of Amelia is fiction.

Almost nobody believed that weather could be predicted by any means whatever, but Glaisher, a scientist, is motivated to break barriers of technology while his companion Wren is simply an adventurer. When they take off in 1862—during a year that Americans were battling one another in the War Between the States—they feared only that they might lose the war against nature. There were fearsome winds, rain before they ascended past the clouds, and possibilities that their balloon might burst, but given the physically challenging work especially of Amelia Wren (while her partner was busy writing in the record book), they fought against Mother Nature particularly when they had ascended to the record-breaking height and their breathing was so shallow that they could have died. The movie unfolds virtually in running time, broken up through several flashbacks that indicate the motivations of the duo.

Histrionics are on display now and then. Cheered by a crowd of 10,000 spectators who paid tickets to watch them take off, Amelia would enter the ring with a flourish, turning somersaults and making announcements to the crowd that belie the idea that women would be such exhibitionists during those pre-feminist times. Amelia even threw her Jack Russell Terrier from the balloon at a flight of a thousand feet or so, the automatic parachute opening just as the shocked crowd is about to boo the explorers. If the pigeons that James used to carry messages to earth were real and not animations, the movie could not show in end credits that “no animals were harmed in the making,” since one of the birds had died from the sparse oxygen within the basket.

Director Tom Harper is in his métier, following up last year’s “Wild Rose,” about a Glaswegian dreaming of becoming a country singer. “The Aeronauts” is PG-13, suitable for kids, especially those who when asked what they want to be opt to become astronauts. The film is a wild ride with interesting characters, crack cinematography by George Steele aiming his lenses over several parts of England. Toward the conclusion it looks as though the twosome, inches apart, might kiss—and more—but this is out of the question given the hoped-for size of its movie audience.

101 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+

UNCUT GEMS – movie review

UNCUT GEMS
A24
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie
Screenwriter: Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie
Cast: Adam Sandler, Lakeith Sanfield, Julia Fox, Kevin Garnett, Idina Menzel
Screened at: Park Ave., NYC, 11/29/19
Opens: December 13, 2019

If you like your movies over-the-top like “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Inglorious Basterds,” then has A24 a movie for you! The pace doesn’t let up for a second, the photography evokes New York on amphetamines, and Adam Sandler gives the performance of his lifetime. Yes, that Adam Sandler, moving up from a waterboy for a football team, a manchild with a stutter, to a jewelry merchant on New York’s 47th street with a gambling disability. “Uncut Gems,” directed by Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie following up their New York-centered pic “Good Time,” about an attempt by a guy to get his younger brother out of jail. Given that “Uncut Gems” shoots many of its scenes inside a midtown jewelry store which has a way of locking people inside, the Safdies are right in their métier.

Even if you have a hearing disability you’ll have no problem understanding the dialogue. The shouting is combination of the floor of the Chicago Futures Market and Donald J. Trump’s ersatz press conferences that are drowned out by his chopper. Anchoring the proceedings, Adam Sandler in the role of Howard Ratner knows and loves gem stones.  He does not think that he could make the kind of life he wants at his desk in the back room, preferring to gamble on basketball games, chiefly because he has faith that his main man, Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics (who plays himself), will sink enough baskets and pick up enough rebounds to make him an instant millionaire.

The shouting, in fact, starts right in the beginning, not in New York but in Ethiopia, where a large group of miners who had just extracted a fellow worker from a grievous accident. The bosses are getting hell for allowing unsafe conditions, but when two miners re-enter the tunnel they find a large rock with brilliant opal stones imbedded as though fashioned by an expert cutter.

On a hunch, Howard buys the rock, then lends it out to KG who convinces Howard that he will buy it. To contrast Howard with his long-suffering wife Dinah (Idina Menzel), who is aware that Harold has a woman, Julia (Julia Fox) on the side, the couple are at a theater to watch their daughter perform in a play. Dinah is sitting with her teen son, but Harold who should be with them, is running about outside, all in the service of making his fortune while at the same time avoiding or putting off his creditors.

Harold is larger than life, just like Trump, and like the president he is wrapped up in himself, playing a high-wire act that finds him tending to his business but more involved in actions that could make big trouble for him. He is a rabid sports fan, liking the Celts not as a mere hobby but as his chance to make it big financially. It would be nice to say that a win that bring him over a million dollars would allow him to retire, but you can bet that he will gamble it away within a month.

Daniel Lopatin’s score, particularly in the miners’ scenes, can be madly intrusive, making one wonder why the bold and furious action would not serve to excite the moviegoers. For Darius Khondji who is behind the lenses, no action that he captures is too fast. The ensemble cast are terrific, but wouldn’t it be great if Adam Sandler, seeking the big movie guild prizes this year, winds up competing for the over-the-topness with “Dolemite”’s Eddie Murphy?

135 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+

RICHARD JEWELL – movie review

RICHARD JEWELL
Warner Bros
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Clint Eastwood
Screenwriter: Marie Brenner, Billy Ray
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde, Jon Hamm, Kathy Bates, Nina Arianda, Paul Walter Hauser
Screened at: Warner, NYC, 11/25/19
Opens: December 13, 2019

Richard Jewell Movie Poster

No good deed goes unpunished. Remember Frank Wills, the security guard at the Watergate Hotel who discovered something funny about the lock on a door and whose discovery brought down President Nixon? Wills was given a $2.50 raise and was denied a promotion that he requested based on his good citizenship. Think of Chesley “Sulley” Sullenberger, rewarded for saving the lives of all aboard his plane, but not before he is baked over the coals for allegedly violating orders from the ground. Sulley, like Richard Jewell, was given his due by Clint Eastwood in the 2016 film “Sully.” The director’s now sets his sites on overzealous police.

If you’re high up, like journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, you will be rewarded, maybe with a Pulitzer, as the two newspaper men got for reporting on the Watergate scandal in the Washington Post. But if you’re low on the totem pole, you may wind up like the title character, Richard Jewell, who saved scores of lives by alerting the authorities of a potential bomb inside a backpack left under a bench at the 1996 Atlantic Summer Olympic games. His reward? Though not under arrest, he remained a suspect as the bomber himself, later remaining for six more years as a suspected accomplice to the terrorist.

Richard Jewell is played remarkably by Paul Walter Hauser, not unknown as an actor but this time given the lead role by director Eastwood. Based on actual events surrounding the bombing of the Atlantic Olympics, “Richard Jewell” is anchored by Hauser’s performance, an overweight guy with a record as a screw-up, a former sheriff’s deputy who is eased out and forced to become a lowly supply clerk at a law firm after a college dean fired him for being overzealous in giving hell two a couple of students with alcohol in their dorm. Your record follows you for life and could help the authorities do a number on you for actions that are completely innocent.

Though already age 33 Jewell still lives with his mother Bobi (Kathy Bates), seems to have no social life, and becomes a punching bag, or doormat, by the FBI, eager for an arrest and conviction for a tragedy that took two lives and injured 111 others. As luck would have it, Jewell had made the acquaintance of a lawyer, Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell), who is working at a law firm and who joins Jewell in a video shooting gallery. Jewell, a non-entity, is destined to become first a hero, then a terrorist, when on the evening of July 27, 1996 he warns police to clear an area because of the discovery of a suspicious backpack. When the bomb goes off, he is hailed as a hero in the press, particularly by journalist Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), who has been given confidential information by FBI agent Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm), with whom she may be having an affair. She is later to turn against Jewell with sensationalized reporting that trashes Jewell, reflecting Tom Shaw’s new, classified information.

Defended by Watson Bryant during questioning by Agent Shaw and his assistant Dan Bennet (Ian Gomez), Jewell becomes chief suspect for fitting the profile: a guy with a modest job, no friends, obese and living with mom, Jewell remains in Agent Shaw’s sites for six years, as the FBI closes the case, though Shaw tells Bryant that he think the lawyer’s client is “guilty as hell.” Watch the awards groups considering Paul Walter Hauser for Best Breakthrough Performance and Sam Rockwell for supporting role. They rivet attention.

This is the year that the movies free the innocents. In “Brian Banks,” a football star is convicted for a crime he did not commit and sentences to ten years of jail and probation. The California Innocence Project gave him back his life. In “Just Mercy,” a man is sentenced to death despite the lack of evidence and is freed thanks to the hard work of a newly graduated Harvard-educated attorney who declined big money jobs to work for virtually nothing. Losers, like starving lawyer Watson Bryant and security guard Richard Jewell become winners, working together in this solid police drama.

Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+

LITTLE WOMEN – movie review

LITTLE WOMEN
Columbia Pictures
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Greta Gerwig
Screenwriter: Greta Gerwig, adapting the Louisa May Alcott novel
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, Timothée Chalamet, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton, Louis Garrel, Chris Cooper, Jayne Houdyshell, Abby Quinn
Screened at: SONY, NYC, 11/21/19
Opens: December 25, 2019

Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen in Little Women (2019)

When I attended middle school, on the last day of classes before summer vacation the teacher gave us a list of books that she recommended for summer reading. One list headed “For Boys” recommended “Johnny Tremain,”about the American Revolution, while the other list titled “For Girls” lobbied for “Little Women.” At the time I had no problem with that, since after all, boys will be boys and will want books with action, while girls, wearing pink, would like romance. But now, the practice of separating the genders in reading lists is obsolete because, gee, how are boys to supposed to know what girls think about and what they’re like if they don’t read books that focus on women? As a result of this hopefully obsolete practice in schools, men know more about what women are like. But since I did not read Louisa May Alcott when I was twelve, to this day I do not understand women. But wait! Here comes another adaptation of the 1868 novel on the screen to make up for everything missed in middle school. Take advantage and go to the movie. On the whole it’s delightful, really gets into the heads of the fair sex, shows them concerned not only about boyfriends, believe it or not, but ambitious, talented, wanting to get ahead in the world on their own terms and not depend on men for emotional and financial support.

Greta Gerwig, following up her “Lady Bird” two years back about an artistically inclined seventeen-year-old girl–which included some of the performers in this picture–adapts Louisa May Alcott’s classic 1868 novel which deals also with an artistically inclined quartet of sisters. I think that Ms Alcott would have been pleased with the adaptation since we come away knowing what by now even I understand about women. They want financial security, sure, so do men, and like men they want to be loved, and even more important if you follow the trajectory of Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) who anchors the film, they want to be able to love others. Jo March, like her three sisters, wants love, but she is unsure whether she can areciprocate that affection with any man. Like Alcott, who never married, preferring the liberties that come with those unencumbered by family restrictions, Jo, who stands in for the author in a movie that is loosely based on the novel, is concerned primarily with her ability to write stories and novels.

In fact judging by the movie, Jo’s sisters are all talented, each with a special skill to show to the public. Meg March (Emma Watson), likes acting. Amy March (Florence Pugh), is a painter. And Beth (Eliza Scanlen), is an accomplished pianist. To follow their lives from adolescence to young adulthood, Gerwig presents the story in two time frames seven years apart, a choice that can cause confusion but at the same time allows us to watch their growth as though this were a Michael Apted type of documentary about people during each seven years of their lives. (Apted’s“63 up” is playing in New York.) If you’re surprised by the feminist theme, wondering whether such ideas were prevalent in the mid-19th century, you need only turn to the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 in with the theme “We wish to be free as man is free” which launched the women’s suffrage movement. Like Louisa May Alcott’s own mother, who encouraged her creativity as a writer—luckily because “Little Women” flew off the shelves as soon as it came out—Marmee March (Laura Dern) nurtures each of her daughters’ talents while not pushing them into marriage. In that sense she is somewhat unlike the girl’s wealthy aunt March (Meryl Streep), who is not so crass as to say “marry for money” but advises rather “Marry well.”

The most humorous scenes take place between Jo and her publisher, Mr. Dashwood (Tracy Letts), who at first lets her down, telling her that the stories are not commercial, but that she should send more as she churns them out. Ultimately he is excited by the manuscript of “Little Women,” urging her to marry the principal character off because otherwise the book would not sell. As for the other men in the movie, none of whom really in the center of things, Timothée Chalamet in the role of Theodore “Laurie” Laurence claims his long-term love for Jo, who turns him away, given her insistence on being unburdened by marriage. For her part Meg March has committed herself almost from the beginning to marriage, going with John Brooke (James Norton) who is barely getting by on a teacher’s salary, while Laurie Laurence discovers that he can love two sisters at once, getting Amy March as his bride. The story’s tragedy unfolds on Beth, the recipient of a free piano as the March family could not possibly afford such an instrument. She dies of scarlet fever.

Filmed by Yorick Le Saux in Boston, Concord, Harvard, Lawrence, Stoughton in Massachusetts to stand in for Concord, Mass., “Little Women” profits from exquisite, sometimes even painterly photography, while Alexandre Desplaut’s music hits a highlight in the athletic Irish dances, the stomping on the floor, the physical exuberance of the young women matching that of their male counterparts.

Greta Gerwig, able not only to write and direct but is featured largely in quirky acting roles such as Florence Marr in Noah Baumbach’s “Greenberg.” A woman of impressive, all-around talent, she continues to play up her principal theme of female dynamics, and does so here with aplomb.

135 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+

63 UP – movie review

63 UP
BritBox
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Michael AptedTony, Lynn, Nick, Neil, Peter
Cast: Charles Furneaux, Lynn Johnson, Nicholas Hitchon, Tony Walker, Neil Hughes, Bruce Balden, Paul Kligerman, Suzanne Dewey, Symon Basterfield, John Brisby, Andrew Brackfield, Susan Sullivan
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 11/22/19
Opens: November 27, 2019 at New York’s Film Forum

63 Up Poster

Breathes there a kid who has never been asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” In my day the two most popular answers were fireman and policeman. While politically correct youngsters nowadays would more likely say firefighter or police officer, the most popular ambition now is to be an astronaut. And don’t think that children would automatically adjust their thinking when they turn twenty-one and are ready to make a living. As Michael Apted repeatedly notes in his monumental, epic spot of moviemaking, “Show me the child and I’ll show you the man.” Apted give us a documentary unique in its aspirations, having begun interviewing fellow Brits when they were seven and continuing the “Seven Up” tradition now. With archival films that he uses to show us a select group of people at age 63, flashing back to 7 or 14 or 21 or 28 and beyond, he allows us to come to the conclusion that people generally turn out at least somewhat as you might expect them to be when they were 7.

Yes, it’s amazing that every seven years he has been able to go find and go back to the people he interviewed at seven. Most people might wonder whether he would even locate them over such a long life span, whether they would agree to continue with him every seven years, and mirabile dictum, there was only one death, one serious illness, and a small group who opted out.

The kids are all wonderful. They sound more articulate than the American youngsters with whom I’ve been in contact, and yet they have not all been chosen for their intellectual gifts. Only Lynn had passed away,and that from a freak accident. She was hit while playing on a park swing with her grandchildren. She was beloved in her career as a school librarian who because of government cutbacks lost her job more than once, and not ironically was an advocate of stronger government spending on social services.

The saddest story is that of Nick who had just been diagnosed at 63 with throat cancer, a gifted professor who appears shaken given that the diagnosis was given just days before the filming. Some were married more than once, and given the merit of film, we are able to see their spouses now, seven years back, then seven years back again and again. Not surprisingly they look older now having lost the gift of youth which seems to confer the adjective “adorable” on the lot of them.

When asked their opinions of Brexit, all appear to be opposed, one suggesting that 52% of Britons voted to leave the EU not because they really wanted to separate from Europe but because they were getting revenge on the whole political apparatus. In that our cousins across the Atlantic are akin to us here in the States.

Though a large number of the fourteen subjects were in occupations to envy—one a solicitor, another a professor, which might reinforce the idea that Britain is a class society that might predict what people would be in glamorous professions while others may drive a cab (and be annoyed by the competition of Uber), at least one suggests that things are different now. Now, an employer would look at the résumés and backgrounds and hire based on ability. If only that were true.

Neil is the only person who might be called a loser, and then only during certain periods of his life. He had been homeless and he had roamed the country, now and then. But even he gets elected to local political office, buys a home in France, and serves as a lay minister in churches.

Though Michael Apted gets full directing credit for the entire 55 years, a number of photographers had been on hand to capture the words, emotions and philosophies of the selected candidates. Will there be a “70 Up?” Cross your fingers. The current film is a lengthy 139 minutes but given the work that the crew and actors have put in, they certainly deserve your attention the full time. Apted himself remains in the background the entire time, posting questions in an empathetic style that is probably what is responsible for the continued appearances of his cast.

139 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – A-
Acting – B+
Technical – A-
Overall – B+

1917 – movie review

1917
Universal Pictures
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Sam Mendes
Screenwriter: Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Cast: Andrew Scott, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dean-Charles Chapman, Richard Madden, Mark Strong, Colin Firth
Screened at: Lincoln Square, NYC, 11/23/19
Opens: December 25, 2019

1917 - Poster Gallery

There’s a reason that for Sam Mendes, landing the slot as director of this movie about a single mission during the First World War is his most heartfelt project. “1917” is based on an actual episode in northern France taken from an account told to Mendes by his paternal grandfather, Alfred Mendes. Mendes is following up his direction of such films as “Spectre,” based on a mission executed by James Bond, and “Skyfall,” based on a threat to Britain’s MI6 that Bond must destroy. If “1917” were a James Bond vehicle, the title character would likely be called upon by his country’s military to prevent the British army from falling prey to an ambush that would have resulted in a massacre: the deaths of the entire unit of 1600 men. This war movie will doubtless remind cinemaphiles of Peter Weir’s 1981 movie “Gallipoli,” in which Australian troops were massacred in Turkey by following terrible orders.

The mission here to which two lower officers Corporals Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) are assigned to a perilous mission to go through German-hold territory in France and warn a division under Col. MacKenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch in his smallest role) to stand down from a plan to attack Germans when the enemy are allegedly on the run. The truth is that the Germans encouraged the attack given the ambush that they had in store. At the same time Schofield makes a promise to Blake, his partner in the mission, to find Blake’s brother in case Blake were to die during the run, a theme that will remind you of Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan,” an attempt to find Ryan and send him home since his brothers had all been killed in the Second World War.

What proceeds largely as a two-hander, Schofield and Blake, becomes a one-man project as Schofield must survive a booby-trapped shack abandoned by the Germans, in which a rat crosses a trip wire that the retreating foe had left to blow up trespassers. Schofield falls into ditches, he dodges bullets with only a grenade, his primitive single shot rifle, and assorted packs on his back. He must deal with a German pilot whose plane had been downed just a few steps from where he is standing, and fight to the death, hand to hand, with a German soldier that had remained back from the front. You may wonder how the Germans (luckily) are such bad shots that they are unable to get Schofield in their metaphoric cross-hairs.

When Schofield does ultimately make contact with the division, he receives retorts from a Lieutenant Leslie (Andrew Scott) and Colonel MacKenzie (Benedict Cumberbath). They refuse to accept the plea to abandon the wave, so sure are they that they could knock out an entire German division.

George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman perform their roles with aplomb, running, jumping, shooting, seeming to do their own stunts. In a period in which the #Me-Too movement is ascendant, only one woman, a French lass with a baby who have survived the massacre of her village by Germans.

Thomas Newman’s music on the soundtrack does much to pump up the thrills while Roger Deakins, behind the camera, films the horrors of war fought in mud and raging waters. The production design team under Dennis Gassner does indeed transport us to the year 1917, to a war that historians are still trying to discover which country was the guiltiest party. In fact, since the victors write the histories, many believe that the harsh treatment of the defeated Germans under the Versailles Treaty was the principal factor leading to the rise of the Nazi party and the next world war.

110 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – A-
Overall – B+