Far more entertaining than it has any right to be, this is a big, messy blockbuster retelling of the Greek myth that thankfully has a sharp sense of humour and some surprising twists up its sleeve. The cast is also packed with veteran performers who know how to make the most of some eyebrow-raising innuendo, generating intrigue while keeping the audience laughing with them rather than at them.
The premise takes a revisionist approach, grounding the legend of the demigod Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) in real stories that have been exaggerated by his nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), who travels with him as a kind of toga-era marketing expert. Their team of mercenaries includes wryly fatalistic seer Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), quick-witted blade-thrower Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), bow-wielding amazon Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) and loyal mute warrior Tydeus (Aksel Hennie). When they're offered a fortune by Lord Cotys (John Hurt) to quell a rebellion, they find themselves in the middle of a massive battle that doesn't go the way they expected. And as events take unforeseen turns, Hercules and his gang have to dig deep to turn the tide in their favour.
Johnson is a natural in the role, so massively pumped up that he looks like he could be popped with a pin. His hulking physique and just enough back-story give the character's reputation some weight, both literally and figuratively, so even if he's not half-god his achievements are still pretty impressive. (There are also plenty of hints that he may turn out to be a god after all.) And the surrounding characters add to this with cleverly written roles that are expertly played by British scene-stealers Hurt, McShane, Sewell, Mullan and Fiennes. McShane is so good that he essentially walks off with the whole movie. But relative newcomers Ritchie, Hennie and Berdal more than hold their own.
Continue reading: Hercules Review
With elements lifted from virtually every sci-fi classic in film history, this post-apocalyptic adventure feels eerily familiar but features just enough plot twists and emotional resonance to make it enjoyable. Director Kozinski (Tron Legacy) also makes sure it looks amazing, with cool-looking sets and gadgets and an entertaining use of destroyed New York and Washington landmarks.
It also gives Cruise a slightly more internalised character than he usually plays in big blockbusters. He's Jack, a repairman 60 years after aliens blasted the moon to bits, causing earthquakes and tidal waves. Now it's 2077 and the remnant of humanity is being evacuated to Saturn's moon Titan, while mop-up teams help protect giant resource-gathering machines from alien scavengers. Jack works Sector 49 with his partner Victoria (Riseborough), but has vivid, impossible dreams of a life on pre-war Earth with a mysterious woman (Kurylenko). When she suddenly turns up in an ancient spacepod, and Jack discovers a scrappy group of human survivors led by Beech (Freeman), he begins to wonder what's really happening here.
And so do we, since we have begun doubting the entire set-up from Jack's opening narration. Mission commander Sally (Leo) looks very shifty indeed, and there's something vaguely fishy about all of the sleek glass, steel and plastic technology. As Jack's gleaming white leather outfit becomes increasingly murky, so does his simplistic view of his own life. And Cruise holds the film together nicely with an introspective turn as a man who's just enigmatic enough to engage our interest. Riseborough and Kurylenko, meanwhile, get much juicier roles, providing strongly emotional layers to the story. And Freeman and Leo add a bit of class.
Continue reading: Oblivion Review
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