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N0 3 | 21 – 23 FEB
Wed 22 Feb, GFT, 8.45pm | Thu 23 Feb, GFT, 3.45pm
Brothers in Arms Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire assembles big names for smaller scale action, with a film devoted to an extended shootout between all kinds of shady people. Alongside one of his stars, Sharlto Copley, we discuss singlelocation thrills and spirited scumbags
AS IT LOUD?! If the volume’s up it can be a little intense.” South African actor Sharlto Copley is responding to the news that The Skinny has come to interview him pretty much straight from a press screening of his new film Free Fire, a 1970s Boston-set action movie from British director Ben Wheatley, the other interviewee present. “After one
Intervie w: Josh Slater-Williams screening,” Copley continues, “I was, like, Okay, I lived through it once. I could have sat a little further away from the speaker.” In Free Fire, Copley is but one member of an impressive ensemble (including Cillian Murphy, Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Jack Reynor, Sam Riley and Wheatley favourite Michael Smiley) trapped in a deserted warehouse, who are left to fight off everyone else after an arms deal goes wrong. And while many directors would make that just one scene of many, Free Fire’s calling card is that the ensuing shootout takes up the entire rest of the film. About a year ago, when The Skinny chatted to Wheatley about his prior film, High-Rise, we got a
sneak peek of his intentions for Free Fire, which was in post-production. Among the influences Wheatley cited during our full conversation at the time was John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13, but the director is now keen to establish key differences between that classic siege thriller and his new film. “It was all those kind of spare 70s movies,” Wheatley clarifies. “I suppose Assault is one. But this is a bit fiddlier than Assault is, because ultimately it’s a bit more austere, and a modernist thing.” Wheatley explains that it’s more the intent that’s austere than it is the look of the film. “It’s shot with all the modern tools,“ he says, “and it’s shot digitally as well, so there’s no concession to olde world-y style, particularly. But I just like continues…
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TUE 21 The Other Side of Hope
The Levelling GFT, 6.15pm Poetry and gritty realism collide in this drama from Edinburgh-based filmmaker Hope Dickson Leach following a student who’s forced to return to her home in Somerset during a family crisis. The Other Side of Hope GFT, 6.25pm The great Aki Kaurismäki reunites with Sakari Kuosmanen, his deadpan hero in classics like The Man Without a Past and Drifting Clouds, who here plays a poker-playing restaurateur who crosses paths with a Syrian refugee. Expect an exquisite blend of poetry and pathos. The Surprise Film GFT, 8.50pm We’ve no clue what film this might be, but our fingers and toes are crossed for the new big screen version of The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
>> the way that Carpenter concentrates people into a space and he’s happy with that. That makes the drama work.” In that earlier interview, Wheatley also revealed that dissatisfaction with contemporary action filmmaking was a motivator for the project. Specifically his beef was with huge blockbusters, where the human scale of the conflict tends to be overshadowed by an overwhelming focus on computer-generated mass destruction. His fellow interviewee is no stranger to those sorts of CG effects-heavy films, with the likes of Maleﬁcent and The A-Team on his resume, alongside a trio of Neill Blomkamp collaborations (District 9, Elysium, Chappie). On the topic of differences between the two modes of action filmmaking, Copley is effusive.
“I’m an actor so you need to be able to be mocked by everyone in order to do the job” Sharlto Copley “It was definitely one of the highlights of my career,” the 43-year-old actor says of working with Wheatley. “I’d heard this from my agent about Ben being somebody actors just truly rave about. I was like, ‘wow, this feels like it would be fun working with someone who’s very sensitive to what actors like or what actors need. You couldn’t ask for a better situation: everyone’s in one place, you’re kind of almost doing it as a play; Ben shoots very fast; it’s shot in order; everything’s real, practical.” Though Copley’s career since 2009’s District 9, the actor’s feature film debut, has been rife with those aforementioned CG spectacles, there are also smaller, feistier genre movies peppered throughout his filmography. These include Spike Lee’s stylish take on Oldboy and the divisive Hardcore Henry, an action film shot entirely from the first-person POV of its eponymous character. We ask what draws him to these smaller films, like Free Fire. “For me it’s just [that] I like people that
are pushing the envelope in some way, I guess. I’m a pretty extreme person, so I just love the fact that people have the balls; that Ben would make a movie like this. A lot of directors would be like, well, I need more narrative, I need more happening. It’s really a confidence thing.” Whether in the studio pictures or the indie films, there’s a particular characteristic that regularly recurs in Copley’s roles: that of playing figures that enter a narrative and disrupt the bearings of everyone around them. Indeed, that’s an element of his arms dealer character, Vernon, in Free Fire, who inspires the film’s other characters to openly take the piss out of him, even before they want to kill him. The film’s production notes suggest that Wheatley rewrote the part for Copley once he signed on, so in a move that could perhaps have been thought through with more care, we essentially ask Copley if he feels he often plays annoying characters. “I mean... wow, thanks,” he says, which provokes cackling from Wheatley on the sidelines. “Thank you! Well, I’m an actor so you need to be able to be mocked by everyone in order to do the job. So it’s useful! You need a certain degree of thick skin to be able to attempt the job in the first place.” We acknowledge that the question could have been phrased better. “No no no, I love how you phrased the question, because it’s absolutely true. District 9, the first character that I did, essentially has that element too, where people are like, ‘Is this guy ridiculous? Do I like him? Do I not like him? He’s annoying me, but, oh, he’s got some heart.’” Wheatley chips in to defend these misfits too “There’s spirit in those characters, isn’t there? In the same way, there’s Sam Riley’s character [in Free Fire]. He has a similar issue, doesn’t he? He’s absolutely despicable [and] he disrupts the whole film. He causes all the trouble in it, right up until the end. And I think the spirit of those two characters is really exciting because they’re just tearing the film up, smashing the film, breaking the film as it’s happening in front of you. It should really be a film about Armie Hammer. In a normal movie the main character would be him. But it’s not. It’s all these smaller roles coming to the front and fucking everything up for everybody else.” And with that, the freewheeling nature of Free Fire is succinctly summarised.
R E VIE WS
“Glimpses of a political thriller bubbling beneath its surface”
Angry Inuk Director: Alethea Arnaquq-Bari
Animal rights groups see seal hunting as an abomination. The EU views it as a legislative headache. And the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic embrace it as a way of life. Angry Inuk is director Alethea ArnaquqBaril’s attempt to make the case for her often-overlooked community and their complicated love affair with a controversial practice. It’s a grassroots challenge to the lobbyists’ marketing machine and the 2009 ban that threatens the Inuit economy. For most of its running time, the film follows the campaign documentary route
Thu 23 Feb, GFT, 6.15pm Fri 24 Feb, GFT, 11am
too conventionally: plodding its way through a war between a plucky David and a PR Goliath. Though there are interesting glimpses of a political thriller bubbling beneath its surface: a tale of activism for profit and colonial attitudes cloaked under seemingly progressive policy-making. In these moments, Arnaquq-Baril’s storytelling channels the Gonzo dynamism of Moore or Spurlock, and successfully taps into the debate’s inherent drama. But up top, on the barren ice, it’s a film of quiet dissent. And while its cause is worthwhile, its fight is not always cinematic. [Phillip Kennedy]
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“Hammers home points already made clear”
A Quiet Passion Director: Terence Davies Starring: Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Ehle, Keith Carradine, Duncan Duff, Jodhi May, Joanna Bacon, Catherine Bailey, Emma Bell, Annette Badland, Benjamin Wainwright, Rose Williams
After a decade of difficulties with projects stuck in development hell, that British director Terence Davies now brings us his third feature in six years is a blessing not to be taken lightly. In a somewhat
One Sings, the Other Doesn’t GFT, 3.40pm This paean to female friendship from the great Agnes Varda follows a 17-year-old singer and a widowed mother of two who form a close bond over the course of a decade. Expect rich visuals and a sharp eye for people and place from this most humane of filmmakers. I Am Not Your Negro GFT, 6pm Raoul Peck uses James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript as the basis for this forceful, free-form documentary which acts as a compelling and angry mini-history of black racial identity in the US from the mid-20th century to today’s Trump America.
Thu 23 Feb, GFT, 6pm
surprising development, however, the first half of A Quiet Passion, Davies’ long-gestating bio-pic of Emily Dickinson (Cynthia Nixon), is heavily comedic in the vein of the dry wit of Whit Stillman. Consequently, when the tone sours as the various tragedies of the American poet’s life pile on, there’s something missing to make the transition feel smoother. Perhaps this is down to the repetitive nature of many of the scenes included, where too much fidelity to the subject’s
The Demons GFT, 8.15pm This study of a disturbed ten-year-old Quebecois boy who sees things to fear everywhere, particularly within his own family, looks to be the pick of GFF’s True North strand.
life hammers home points already made clear. Or maybe it’s that there’s more a feeling of static staginess to many sequences, as opposed to the hypnotising, uniquely cinematic quality so key to Davies’ previous life-spanning works like The Long Day Closes. Despite Nixon’s ability to externalise Dickinson’s inner demons as though forcibly torn from within the pit of her stomach, the film around her doesn’t burn with quite so much fire. [Josh Slater-Williams]
Thu 23 Feb, GFT, 3.20pm Fri 24 Feb, GFT, 10.45am
Starring: Adrian Titieni, Maria-Victoria Dragus, Rares Andrici, Lia Bugnar, Malina Manovici, Vlad Ivanov
Teen Eliza (Maria-Victoria Dragus) has been raised by her physician father Romeo (Adrian Titieni) with the idea she will one day leave their Transylvanian town to study and live abroad. On the eve of her final exams, an assault jeopardises her pending UK scholarship, causing Romeo to pursue shady solutions to ensure her future. If asked to name one recurrent concept in the films of Cristian Mungiu, the arguable poster boy for the so-called
Romanian new wave of the last decade, one might be inclined to go with compromises. Though his past features like Beyond the Hills are rooted in the specificities of the institutions they concern, they are all broadly concerned with how you can never come away clean when dealing with broken systems. Graduation, his latest great work, offers another suspenseful web of compromises, with an achingly sad figure at its centre: a man trying to secure better prospects for his daughter in terrible circumstances, while only serving to set off a proverbial ticking time bomb for his own life and so many others. [Josh Slater-Williams]
“Suspenseful web of compromises, with an achingly sad figure at its centre”
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Illustration: Raj Dhunna
Director: Cristian Mungiu
Thu 23 Feb, GFT, 9pm
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“Verbinski’s films are all fuelled with an atypical passion for the macabre”
The Wizard of Gore Ahead of GFF’s screening of A Cure for Wellness, one writer takes a look at the career of its mercurial director, Gore Verbinski, one of the more divisive Hollywood directors regularly handed big budgets
or the best part of a decade now, Hollywood marketers has shown a penchant for promoting the ‘visionary’ – you’ll all be familiar with trailers claiming the latest film hitting your multiplex as being from ‘visionary director NAME HERE’. Cursory research suggests the trend started around the time of Watchmen’s first trailer in 2008, which featured ‘From the visionary director of 300.’ This credit provoked some questioning. That comic book adaptation’s director, Zack Snyder, only had two prior feature credits to his name before being awarded this lofty title: fellow faithful comic adaptation 300, and a remake of Dawn of the Dead. Was it premature to label this figure a visionary based on little evidence of his own originality? Further ‘visionaries’ have been cited in trailers since, some of which have made more sense, but the latest example to get some pundits a-tweeting was the initial trailer for asylum horror A Cure for Wellness, which attributed the status to director Gore Verbinski. He who helmed the majority (to date) of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise that went so stale? The man whose last film, The Lone Ranger, was a notable box office bomb? Is Gore Verbinski a visionary director? Our verdict: a resounding yes, actually. Since his 1997 debut MouseHunt, Verbinski’s career has involved blockbuster behemoths (the first three Pirates films), an Oscar-winning animation (Rango), a trendsetter horror remake (The Ring), and more modest comedies (The Weather Man, The Mexican). Though he has regular collaborators in Disney,
The Thing Snow Factor, 7pm The widescreen photography of John Carpenter’s horror masterpiece The Thing is so vivid it could fool you into thinking frostbite is setting in; with GFF’s exquisite choice of real snow ski slope as venue, there’s no need to imagine. To heighten the realism, we suggest shiftylooking audience members be submitted to a blood test half way through the movie.
Words: Josh Slater-Williams Johnny Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, his body of work is surprisingly varied for someone regularly handed substantial budgets; certainly more so than, say, Michael Bay, whom Verbinski was compared to by some around the Pirates series’ heyday. By no means is quality guaranteed, but Gore Verbinski’s films are always, at the very least, rife with ambition. The Pirates sequels may be lumbering messes, but their failures and odd excesses are a darn sight more interesting than most in their field. It’s telling that Rob Marshall, who took the reigns for the franchise’s fourth film, On Stranger Tides, couldn’t make an instalment with half the personality of its predecessors. Even Verbinski’s career outliers The Weather Man and The Mexican are more offbeat than their studios knew what to do with when it came to marketing. These two comedies aside, Verbinski’s films are all fuelled by an atypical passion for the macabre. The Ring possesses it in spades by virtue of its genre, but the blockbusters and Rango all show a love for the deathly, squelchy and disgusting in their designs and narratives. Even Mouse Hunt, ostensibly a family film, opens with the protagonists’ father’s corpse being sent flying down a manhole. A final thing to give Verbinski credit for, in terms of a distinctive imprint, is how he injects homages to classic Hollywood into his bigger movies, in often surprising ways. Few would expect a Nickelodeon animation starring Johnny Depp as a chameleon to become a riff on the plot of Chinatown. And for all its questionable casting choices, The Lone Ranger’s love of old school westerns and its climactic, full-on tribute to Buster Keaton’s The General fuel some of the best large-scale cinema set-pieces of recent memory. In short, Verbinski deserves the visionary moniker, ahead of A Cure for Wellness, because you just don’t know what you’re going to get.
A Cure for Wellness GFT, 9pm A Cure for Wellness’s trailer suggest Shutter Island and Shock Corridor have got mixed up in the wash, but our leading man, Dane DeHaan, is always a compelling screen presence while director Gore Verbinski has form at turning hokum into gold – when he’s not setting sail with the Pirates of Caribbean, that is. Phantasm GFT, 11.40pm The 4K restoration of this beautifully designed, goofily enjoyable, hugely imaginative coming-of-age horror looks gorgeous; so crisp you’ll want to duck every time the brain impaling sphere flies across screen. Produced by The Skinny magazine in association with the Glasgow Film Festival: Editor-in-Chief
George Sully Sandy Park
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