Crime discs dissected
A look at the latest movie releases, including Nocturnal Animals and Jack Reacher 2.
You expect high style from a film by a fashion designer, but Tom Ford also brings substance to Nocturnal Animals, adapted from Austin Wright’s novel Tony And Susan. When struggling writer Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) sends his novel to his successful but neurotic ex, Susan (Amy Adams), we’re plunged into a deep-noir nightmare of murder, revenge and marital-meltdown metaphors. Jigsaw plots like this often emerge disjointed or stifled from within, so it’s to Ford’s credit that his layered, lushly mounted meta-mystery packs its themes tight with suspense, feeling and tension.
drive Jack Reacher: Never Go Back... Tom
Cruise mangrapples again with the role of Lee Child’s exmilitary hero. Being Cruise, he also grapples with superiors over a conspiracy, helped by the woman ( Cobie
Smulders) in his old job and his maybedaughter (sparky support from Danika Yarosh). Ed Zwick’s sequel lacks a villain to compare with its predecessor’s Werner Herzog, but it benefits from a quasifamily dynamic, chase-setting pacing and several amusing variants on Cruise’s default mode of running while wearing a grimly dogged expression.
Cruise’s co-lead in Edge Of Tomorrow is the best reason to catch marriage’n’murder mystery The Girl On The Train. Given strong support from Haley Bennett and Rebecca Ferguson, Emily Blunt stars as Rachel, a window-watching commuter
entangled in murder enquiries. The Help’s
perhaps wasn’t the best director to adapt Paula Hawkins’ novel – damning comparisons with David Fincher’s slickly scalding Gone Girl are unavoidable. But Blunt’s empathetic study of an off-therails alcoholic makes the trip worthwhile.
Another week, another “girl” mystery, this time arthouse heroes the Dardenne
brothers’ socialrealist amateur’tec yarn The Unknown
Girl. Adèle Haenel is note-perfect as Jenny, a guilt-racked doctor investigating a girl’s murder; she didn’t let said girl into her practice after hours, so takes responsibility for finding her killer. The mystery is middling and the plot loose, but the Dardennes’ subtle insights into character and community take up any slack.
Subtlety dies hard in Mesrine director JeanFrançois Richet’s pleasingly trashy Blood Father,
Mel Gibson’s return to the raging patriarch frontline. As a trailer-dwelling ex-con protecting his estranged daughter from gangbangers, Gibson attacks his comeback like a starving Rottweiler unleashed in an abattoir. Richet marshals the mayhem with muscular swagger.
For gentler fare, warm your hands over a Blu-
ray reissue of The Blue Lamp from 1950. Basil Dearden’s Ealing pic reinvents Dirk Bogarde as a hoodlum who shoots a policeman – not just any copper but Jack
Warner’s George Dixon (of Dock Green). A manhunt follows but Dearden’s drama is more persuasive as a tea-cosy homage to British bobbies, a feelgood portrait made yet cosier by the knowledge of (spoiler!) Dixon’s revival for TV’S Dixon Of Dock Green.
The mink-clad pinnacle of recent re-releases is Criterion’s reissue of 1945’s Mildred Pierce, a noir-ish melodrama of mother love and murder. Casablanca director Michael
Curtiz and lead Joan Crawford whip up a froth of highstyle soap from a flashback-driven tale of motherdaughter conflict, complete with smoking guns and hot pies.
Finally, anyone still suffering from Heisenberg withdrawal can try Brad Furman’s tight-paced, terrifically played thriller The Infiltrator. Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston makes layered work of Bob Mazur, a fed working undercover against Colombian drug cartels. John Leguizamo
and Diane Kruger provide terrific back-up, but Cranston steals it with his portrait of a good man struggling to stay clean (and alive) in a life-ordeath situation.