film re­views


The Killing of a Sa­cred Deer | May­hem | Three Bill­boards Out­side Ebbing, Mis­souri

The Killing of a Sa­cred Deer

Di­rected by Yor­gos Lan­thi­mos

At this point, it’s dis­mis­sive to con­sider Yor­gos Lan­thi­mos the leader of Greek cin­ema’s new wave. The Killing of a Sa­cred Deer — his sec­ond English­language fea­ture and sec­ond Colin Far­rell col­lab­o­ra­tion — is so con­fi­dent, sin­gu­lar and af­fect­ing that Lan­thi­mos should be con­sid­ered a master of mod­ern film, pe­riod. Here, Lan­thi­mos once again teams up with screen­writer Efthymis Filip­pou, who co-wrote his sim­i­larly off­beat black come­dies Dog­tooth, Alps and The Lob­ster. With The Killing of a Sa­cred Deer, they re­veal that maybe they’ve been writ­ing hor­ror movies all along.

Far­rell and Ni­cole Kid­man play Steven and Anna Mur­phy, a pair of seem­ingly happy mar­ried doc­tors who live in an enor­mous house with their two chil­dren. In his free time, Steven has de­vel­oped an un­likely friendship with a young boy named Martin (an ar­rest­ing Barry Keoghan) whose off-putting man­ner­isms prove to be an ac­cu­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tion of his sin­is­ter mo­tives.

De­spite Lan­thi­mos’s re­quire­ment for us to sus­pend dis­be­lief, he still lays out his movie’s rules plain and sim­ple — there are no sur­real pas­sages left open for in­ter­pre­ta­tion. In­stead, Sa­cred Deer is a grue­some, fucked-up fairy tale that will stick with you for days. The film has a solid plot, but it’s still marked by Lan­thi­mos’s un­touch­able stylis­tic flour­ishes. Shot in Cincin­nati, the film’s sickly hos­pi­tal scenes evoke early Cro­nen­berg, but direc­tor of photography Thimios Bakatakis in­tro­duces shots you’ve likely never seen be­fore. Hand­held cam­eras fol­low char­ac­ters at waist level or hover above like in­door drones. Be­cause it’s a truly unique view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, The Killing of a Sa­cred Deer fits in well with Lan­thi­mos’s im­pres­sive fil­mog­ra­phy. Still, thanks to its creep­ing ten­sion, jaw-drop­ping cin­e­matog­ra­phy and per­fect pac­ing, it just might stand as his best work yet. (El­e­va­tion, el­e­va­tion­pic­ May­hem

Di­rected by Joe Lynch

May­hem is next in a long line of “virus con­tain­ment” hor­ror films that amp up the dra­matic ten­sion by plac­ing char­ac­ters in a quar­an­tined zone. How­ever, it fea­tures a neat twist: the “ID7” virus isn’t deadly, but it makes peo­ple do deadly things. Derek Cho (Stephen Yeun), an em­bit­tered ex­ec­u­tive at cor­po­rate law firm Tow­ers & Smyth Con­sult­ing, help­fully ex­plains to us that his firm re­cently de­fended a man ac­cused of mur­der while in­fected with ID7, ar­gu­ing that the virus ren­ders the vic­tim un­able to con­trol their own im­pulses. Hosts in­fected with ID7 en­gage in a kalei­do­scope of wildly un­re­strained be­hav­iour, like bang­ing each other in pub­lic, scream­ing, set­ting things on fire and, some­times, even flatout mur­der. When Cho is framed and ul­ti­mately fired for a costly mis­take that could put the firm’s fu­ture in jeop­ardy, he de­cides to take his case all the way to the top-floor CEOs. Un­for­tu­nately, this is pre­cisely when pub­lic health of­fi­cials an­nounce that, iron­i­cally, the ID7 virus has in­fected the en­tire of­fice build­ing, which must now be quar­an­tined for eight hours. To­gether with Me­lanie Cross (Sa­mara Weav­ing), who is caught up in the quar­an­tine af­ter com­ing to Tow­ers & Smyth to dis­pute a fore­clo­sure no­tice, Cho must fight his way through a fi­nal boss-like se­ries of ex­ec­u­tives and cor­po­rate cronies, each more de­praved than usual thanks to ID7.

May­hem takes a while to get go­ing, set­ting up an elab­o­rate cor­po­rate scan­dal that’s a lit­tle too on the nose to be satire. It’s sly enough to keep the mo­men­tum go­ing, though; Machi­avel­lian cor­po­rate schem­ing doesn’t re­ally start to feel high-stakes un­til mur­der by power tools is in­volved. To its credit, this premise fur­ther sets May­hem apart from the mul­ti­tude of other in­fec­tion movies, jux­ta­pos­ing the starchy cor­po­rate world with the an­i­mal­is­tic loss of in­hi­bi­tion and id that comes with the virus. It’s about as sub­tle as a kick to the gut, but once the movie fully em­braces its sense of fun, it’s free to lux­u­ri­ate in its over-the-top per­for­mances, best among them Caro­line Chikezie as the mas­ter­fully ma­nip­u­la­tive exec “The Siren.” It all cul­mi­nates in a glee­fully bloody, of­fice-wide brawl that’s lack­ing in chore­og­ra­phy but has manic en­ergy in spades — a fit­ting coda for a tech­ni­cally im­per­fect, deliri­ously fran­tic film like May­hem. (RLJ En­ter­tain­ment, rl­jen­ter­tain­ Three Bill­boards Out­side Ebbing, Mis­souri

Di­rected by Martin McDon­agh

Over the past decade, Bri­tish/Ir­ish play­wright-turned-film­maker Martin McDon­agh has shown he can milk lev­ity out of even the dark­est sub­jects with his jet-black crime come­dies ( In Bruges, Seven Psy­chopaths), but he’s out­done him­self with Three Bill­boards Out­side Ebbing, Mis­souri. It’s a vi­o­lent, vis­ceral drama that sets up as a rape re­venge thriller, but re­ally acts as a fe­ro­cious med­i­ta­tion on po­lice ac- count­abil­ity, racism, sex­ism and the pa­tri­ar­chal con­fines of ru­ral Amer­ica. Frances McDor­mand plays Mil­dred Hayes, a griev­ing mother who, fed up with lo­cal law en­force­ment’s in­abil­ity to cap­ture the man/men who raped and mu­ti­lated her teenage daugh­ter, rents three bill­boards on the out­skirts of her small town. On them she plas­ters: “Still No Ar­rests?” “How Come, Chief Willoughby?” and “Raped While Dy­ing.”

That gets the at­ten­tion of the lo­cal me­dia and po­lice force — namely Willoughby ( Woody Har­rel­son) and Of­fi­cer Dixon (Sam Rock­well). But as we, and Mil­dred, get to know them, it be­comes clear that things aren’t so black and white. That doesn’t stop the town’s frus­tra­tions from boil­ing over, as lo­cal busi­ness­men are thrown out of sec­ond-storey win­dows, den­tists have their thumbs drilled in and streets are set ablaze. Early on in his film ca­reer, McDon­agh gar­nered com­par­isons to fel­low foul-mouthed film­maker Quentin Tarantino, but Three Bill­boards is more Coen Broth­ers, with McDor­mand as its lead, tense, small-town ac­tion sim­i­lar to Blood Sim­ple, and the ways McDon­agh lays out the facts and rev­els in the on­screen ab­sur­dity. By film’s end, not much of a res­o­lu­tion has been made. But if the re­cent suc­cess of movies like Get Out and Os­car-win­ner Moon­light are any in­di­ca­tion, au­di­ences need movies that re­flect Amer­ica’s grow­ing so­cial di­vide more than ever. Three Bill­boards doesn’t have all the an­swers, but it gets the feel­ing right. (Fox Search­light)




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