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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews - Michael Bodey Twit­ter: @michael­bodey

You can start your Academy Award catch-up at home this week­end.

Best pic­ture nom­i­nees Mad Max: Fury Road and The Mar­tian have been re­leased on dig­i­tal/DVD in re­cent weeks and both, in their dis­tinct ways, are easy to rec­om­mend.

And an­other, Steven Spiel­berg’s Bridge of Spies, is out this week. The Cold War thriller’s sup­port­ing ac­tor Mark Ry­lance jus­ti­fi­ably won an Academy Award this week, al­though the film has much more go­ing for it be­yond his won­der­ful per­for­mance.

As a side note, Spiel­berg’s films have now earned 128 Os­car nom­i­na­tions, yet Ry­lance is only the se­cond ac­tor from one of them to win (the other be­ing Lin­coln’s Daniel Day-Lewis; in­cred­i­bly, Schindler’s List’s Ralph Fi­ennes was beaten by The Fugi­tive’s Tommy Lee Jones in 1994 and, less sur­pris­ingly, Liam Nee­son by Philadel­phia’s Tom Hanks).

Hanks is bril­liant too in Bridge of Spies, cowrit­ten by Ethan and Joel Chen. It re­in­forces Hanks’s sta­tus as a mod­ern Gary Cooper, the up­stand­ing, re­lat­able Amer­i­can who doesn’t play bad guys. The com­par­i­son fits in this old-school en­ter­tain­ment based on ne­go­ti­a­tions by a mi­nor Amer­i­can lawyer (Hanks’s James Dono­van) used by the US govern­ment to con­clude an ex­change of spies while “de­fend­ing” a cap­tured Soviet spy, Ry­lance’s Ru­dolf Abel.

Bridge of Spies (M, Fox, min, $29.99) has been damned with some faint praise be­cause it lacks Spiel­berg’s bells and whis­tles. Yet it’s a rar­ity in be­ing one of Spiel­berg’s act­ing show­cases. And ev­ery other com­po­nent fits beau­ti­fully in this very sturdy, en­ter­tain­ing film.

The other Academy Award nom­i­nees re­leased this week are doc­u­men­taries The Look of Si­lence and Car­tel Land (MA15+, Mad­man, 100 min, $29.99). The lat­ter is a cap­ti­vat­ing and some­what ni­hilis­tic look at the vig­i­lante bat­tles, in the US and Mex­ico, against ma­jor drug car­tels.

Di­rec­tor Matthew Heine­man scores un­be­liev­able and brac­ing ac­cess to a para­mil­i­tary group, the Ari­zona Bor­der Re­con, tak­ing de­fence into its own hands, and, most com­pellingly, to a ci­ti­zen group called the Au­tode­fen­sas, led by doc­tor Jose Mire­les, that suc­cess­fully pushes out of the Mex­i­can state of Mi­choa­can, town by town, the Knights Tem­plar drug car­tel.

This is real cinema vig­i­lan­tism, not Dirty Harry, and it will have you squirm­ing at the bru­tal­ity and odd jus­tice of it and rev­el­ling in its vic­to­ries be­fore the dis­as­trous fa­tal­ism of the Mex­i­can state’s cor­rup­tion over­whelms ev­ery­thing.

Heine­man’s po­si­tion on all this seems ques­tion­able too; he seems hap­pily gung-ho as part of the chase and a free-mar­ke­teer who sort of agrees with the right to bear arms when your state lets you down. It’s un­for­tu­nate that this par­tic­u­lar theme is prop­a­gated in a very good doc­u­men­tary.

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