list.co.uk/ﬁlm REVIEWS | FILM
BIOPIC RICHARD JEWELL (15) 131min ●●●●● BIOPIC DARK WATERS (12A) 127min ●●●●●
SCIENCE FICTION LITTLE JOE (12A) 105min ●●●●●
Clint Eastwood continues his run of true stories about unlikely American heroes (American Sniper, Sully, The 15:17 to Paris, The Mule), directing a gripping drama about security guard Richard Jewell who saved countless lives at 1996’s Atlanta Olympics bombing, only to be accused of planting the bomb himself. Jewell is played by Paul Walter Hauser, an actor best known for small roles in BlacKkKlansman and I, Tonya. He plays Jewell as a schlubby mama’s boy who gets into trouble for overzealous behaviour in his various security jobs. That behaviour ends up saving lives when Jewell spots a suspicious package at the Atlanta Olympics. But when an FBI agent (Jon Hamm) leaks to a journalist (Olivia Wilde) the fact that Jewell is their lead suspect, the public turn on him and he hires a small-time lawyer (Sam Rockwell) to clear his name. The performances are terrific; Hauser, in particular,
is remarkable, the accuracy of his portrayal underlined by a brief clip of the real-life Jewell. The audience knows from the outset that Jewell is innocent, and Eastwood infuses his film with plenty of righteous anger. It’s a timely tale that sticks extra sharp skewers into both the government and the media. (Matthew Turner) ■ Out now.
A public health emergency makes a big screen splash in the latest from Todd Haynes (Carol). Based on a true story, it sees Mark Ruffalo’s corporate defence attorney Robert Bilott switch sides when the plight of his grandmother’s friend Wilbur (Bill Camp) tugs at his conscience; the West Virginian farmer has seen nearly 200 cows ravaged by disease, believing the run-off from the landfill of chemical company DuPont to be the source of his epic misfortune. While the spiralling nature of the narrative
sucks you in, Dark Waters lacks the conviction, idiosyncrasy or suspense of something like Spotlight or The Insider – for all Haynes’ qualities, a director more adept at thrillers might have really made it motor, while it sometimes feels heavy-handed. Not every screen crusader can be Erin Brockovich and if Bilott is a touch bland, Ruffalo invests him with integrity as he squirms in his suit in a variety of settings and becomes isolated from peers and family alike.
It boasts blood-boiling subject matter, has cinema’s favourite everyman on the case, while the facts are laid out with care. But if Dark Waters bangs the drum admirably, for the good of us all, it doesn’t quite rouse as you’d hope. (Emma Simmonds) ■ General release from Fri 28 Feb.
Balancing work and motherhood is a challenge for single mum and scientist Alice (Emily Beecham). She’s speaking to a therapist, but is struggling with guilt for wanting to spend more time at the lab than with her teenage son Joe (Kit Connor). Then there’s the worry that the plant she has created, Little Joe, may be affecting those who have been exposed to it by subtly changing their personalities.
With scientific progress comes ethical debate and clashing opinions, something which Austrian director Jessica Hausner (Lourdes) does not shy away from in this eye-catching sci-fi, co-written with Géraldine Bajard. It’s a confrontational, chilling brainteaser covering a multitude of thorny themes: familial bonds, the impact of mood-altering drugs and toxic attitudes towards mental health.
Hausner has crafted a strange hybrid of Little
Shop of Horrors and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with its own distinct aesthetic. From the mint green walls to the mustards of Alice’s attire, the world-building demonstrates a fine attention to detail in a film that oozes oppression. Hausner keeps the viewer guessing as to whether the plant is up to no good, or if it’s all, simply, in Alice’s head. (Katherine McLaughlin) ■ Selected release from Fri 21 Feb.
ROMANCE QUEEN & SLIM (15) 132min ●●●●●
A Tinder date goes humorously then horrible awry in this welcome twist on the lovers on the run flick from Beyoncé collaborator and debut feature helmer Melina Matsoukas, which combines style, subtlety and a vaguely oddball air. Although they’re dubbed the ‘black Bonnie and Clyde’, the eponymous lawbreakers lack edge, swagger or anything resembling criminal nous.
Two beautiful Brits – breakout star Jodie Turner-Smith as Queen and Daniel Kaluuya as Slim – head up this very American road trip romance written by Master of None’s Lena Waithe that sees the mismatched duo cross the divided South following a fatal traffic stop. She’s a strait-laced legal eagle, her emotional walls built high; he’s a laidback nice guy, giving it a shot but a bit bemused by his companion’s lack of courtesy. Although they’re basically a couple of floundering geeks, they have some shady connections to squirrel them away. Queen & Slim slightly glosses over the psychological impact of the initial incident, while the level of glamour applied to the pair’s predicament has attracted criticism. However, it’s a film that burns with anger, highlighting the wrenching divisions and racism alongside the gorgeous people and glorious views. It’s important, too, that this is a story written and directed by black women, fronted by black protagonists. It ain’t no Green Book.
If there’s plenty at stake and lots of polish, there’s enough
low-key charm to recall the shenanigans of TV’s Atlanta, while the influence of Tarantino is in ample evidence. We watch our protagonists learn to live, and to love, and although there is a sense they could be arrested at any time, the solidarity they inspire on their journey across America makes this a film all about hope. (Emma Simmonds) ■ Out now.
1 Feb–31 Mar 2020 THE LIST 67