Tag: Steve McQueen


Review: Mangrove [London Film Festival]

October 21, 2020
Mangrove - Steve McQueen

This year many industries had to make some (drastic) changes, and the film industry (and the whole entertainment industry) was one of them. Releases postponed, filming temporary suspended and film festival needing to adapt. Many film festivals went online, and some were cancelled entirely. The BFI Film Festival took it to another level as they decided to host a hybrid edition with both physical and online screenings. Despite all the changes, there’s still one thing you can count on, and that’s an impressive line-up. The opening night film Mangrove by director Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) is the perfect example of that. After his Widows in 2018, McQueen is returning to the festival with an even more impressive and extremely relevant movie.

Taking place in the ’70 but never as relevant as now

Today, on the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement, conversations and about injustice and racism are at the forefront of conversation, making Mangrove a very timely film. After having to close his previous bar, Frank Crichlow (Shaun Parkes) is now opening his Mangrove restaurant in Notting Hill. The restaurant isn’t only black-owned, but it’s also the place where the entire black community comes together to have a great time and enjoy Caribbean cuisine. The film does a great job of conveying the intimidation tactics and the Metropolitan Police used against the afro-Caribbean residents in Nottinghill, West London. As part of that, we see Frank’s friends and family are being harassed, and the numerous raids on his restaurant – and the burden that comes with this.

The more the police brutality increases, the more the black community stands up for their rights, and the more Mangrove becomes the place for activist meetings. Amongst the attendees are Darcus Howe (Malachi Kirby), Altheia Jones-Lecointe (Letitia Wright), Barbara Beese (Rochenda Sandall) and Frank himself. After many small riots, the black community organises a protest, on 9 August 1970, during which 150 people march to the local police station. Sadly, that results in a massive clash between the police and the Mangrove Nine, and that was the start of the 11-weeks lasting trial between Pc Frank Pulley (Sam Spruell) and the Metropolitan police and the “Mangrove Nine”. A trial that was a watershed moment in “race relations” within the UK.

Letitia Wright as Altheia Jones-Lecointe in Mangrove.
(Source: BBC)

Oscar-worthy film for many reasons

While Mangrove is being screened at film festivals around the world, it’s actually part of the BBC’s Small Axe series. We hope that the movies in that series will be eligible for the many award ceremonies because if so, Mangrove should be nominated in many Oscar categories.

The main categories would, without a doubt, be the acting ones. Wright (Black Panther) excels as Jones-LaCointe, the headstrong, feisty and supportive representative of the Black Panthers. Wright brings the dialogues with so much power and dignity that they will go straight to your heart. That protest speech is one we will never forget. Another standout in this movie is Parkes (Trick or Treat). Thanks to his performance, we feel the pain, the determination and the courageousness of Frank. The further the story goes, the more impactful the emotions become. His last scene in court will bring tears to your eyes.

The stunning cast of Mangrove
(Source: BBC)

They’re surrounded by an immensely strong cast of which every member brings raw emotions to the screen in his or her unique way. Spruell (Outlaw King) his performance as Pully is also on point. We feel the corruptive, violent and mischievousness characteristics of Pully coming through the screen. We also want to applaud the smaller but still memorable performances by from Llewella Gideon (Second Coming) and Jack Lowden (Dunkirk). Gideon’s portrayal as Aunt Betty, the witty, funny and blunt cook from the Mangrove, and Lowden performance as the barrister of the Mangrove Nine, bring a bit light to this extremely rough story.

We wouldn’t be surprised if the movie would also be selected in categories involving costume design, production design and original screenplay. Saying that McQueen and his crew bring such an authentic vibe to this movie would be an understatement. The real and genuine element is represented by the combination of the 35mm film shot by Shabier Kirchner (Only You), the brilliant period costumes designed by Lisa Duncan (Peripheral) and the fantastic production design provided by Helen Scott (Dark River). From the very first scene of the Rio, in which men are enjoying gambling, smoking and drinking, to the very last one, in which black and white people come together in the Mangrove, it all feels exceptionally authentic.

Impactful triumph

While Mangrove will be only available at the small screen for the moment, we hope that it finds its way to the cinemas. Not only because of its extremely relevance but also for the immense authenticity and strong performances.

Mangrove will premiere on BBC One and iPlayer on the 15th of November.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Mangrove (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Review: Kajillionaire [London Film Festival]

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Must-See Films at London Film Festival 2020

September 24, 2020
London Film Festival - Big Picture Film Club

The London Film Festival has announced its program for October 2020. And will be offering the opportunity for many new people to view their program. Because many of the festival selections will be available not only on BFI Player during the festivals run but also in cinema events across the UK.

But which films should you check out? Today I am going to suggest seven films on the festival roster to look forward to. And tell you why they should be on your watchlist. Let’s begin.

Another Round (Druk) (Drama)

Danish director Thomas Vinterberg has reteamed with The Hunt‘s Mads Mikkelsen for this drama about four high school teachers. Their aim – to see if life is improved by maintaining a consistent alcohol blood level. With a killer premise, helmed by a great director and one of today’s best actors, Another Round should be an interesting ride. And if it’s half as good as The Hunt, audiences will definitely be pleased.

Mads Mikkelsen getting drunk in Another Round [Source: IMDb]

The Cheaters (Classic Crime)

The festival also includes some restored and recovered films for classic film lovers. One of the more interesting ones being the oldest film at the festival. Made by filmmaking pioneers the McDonagh’s sisters and restored by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia; it follows the story of an embezzler’s daughter falling for the son of her father’s worst enemy. 1929s The Cheaters is one of Australia’s major surviving silent films. And audiences can now see it as originally intended.

The Cheaters restored at the London Film Festival [Source BFI]
Romance and crime in Australian classic The Cheaters [Source: BFI]

Friendship’s Death (Classic Sci-Fi)

Another older entry in the London Film Festival’s program is this science fiction film about an alien android named Friendship (Tilda Swinton). Who lands on earth in the midst of the Jordanian Black September War. And begins debating with a journalist about if humanity is worth saving. Swinton is one of the all-time greatest actresses. So the opportunity to see an early performance from her in even more detail, thanks to a restored print, is too great to refuse.

Friendship's death at the London Film Festival [Source: Mubi]
An early performance from Tilda Swinton in Friendship’s Death [Source: Mubi]

Mangrove (TV)

The latest project from Steve McQueen, the Oscar-winning director behind great films like 12 Years a Slave. Mangrove is part of McQueen’s Small Axe series. Which is based on the real experiences of the London West Indian community. It focuses on the trial of nine activists falsely accused of inciting a riot at Notting Hill’s Mangrove restaurant. With McQueen’s involvement and the current political climate regarding race and the police, this looks to be a hard-hitting; important watch.

Mangrove at the London Film Festival [Source Empire]
On trial in Steve McQueen’s Mangrove [Source: Empire]

Relic (Horror)

There has been a lot of buzz around Relic since its Sundance debut earlier this year. The film centres on a mother and daughter as they try to look after their grandmother. However, the grandmother’s house slowly begins to be infiltrated by supernatural forces that seemingly parallel the onset of the grandmother’s dementia. It has already been compared to Hereditary and The Babadook. So, if you’re looking for an atmospheric, symbolic horror film, Relic will be right up your alley.

Relic at the London Film Festival [Source Signature Entertainment]
The poster for Relic [Source: Signature Entertainment]

Ultraviolence (Documentary)

This documentary explores various deaths that have occurred at the hands of the UK police force. As well as the heart-break many families have suffered because of it. This doc may be too much for some. With a warning given on the festival website, due to footage of real violence. But in a year that has seen worldwide condemnation of police violence, Ultraviolence looks to shine a light on the dark side of UK law and order.

Ultraviolence [Source YouTube]
The movie that according to the trailer, “the police and politicians will not want you to see”. [Source: YouTube]

Wolfwalkers (Animation)

The latest offering from Cartoon Saloon, who previously made Oscar Nominee’s Song of the Sea and The Breadwinner; Wolfwalkers is the beautiful animated story of Robyn, who journeys with her father from England to Ireland to destroy the wolf population. But Robyn’s resolve is soon tested when she befriends Mebh, an Irish wolfwalker (someone who becomes a wolf when they sleep). With gorgeous designs, an intriguing story, and an acclaimed studio backing it, Wolfwalkers could be another awards contender in the making.

Wolfwalkers [Source Hollywood Reporter]
Robyn and Mebh in Wolfwalkers [Source: Hollywood Reporter]

So ends our list of London Film Festival films to look forward to. You can find more information about these and other festival film screenings on their online program. And lastly please share your thoughts on these films if you get the opportunity to see them.

Also Read: BAFTA: Steering Towards Greater Inclusion

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Breaking out of Typecasting

November 12, 2018

Steve McQueen has just released a heist thriller called Widows. This felt like quite a departure from his usual films and it piqued my curiosity immediately. McQueen normally makes “serious” films, they are about heavy topics with great dramatic performances from people like Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan and Chiwetel Ejiofor. A heist film, quite frankly, seems too fun for a McQueen film. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy his previous films, they’re great, but you don’t always enjoy them – 12 Years A Slave is full of genuinely harrowing scenes. Directors, like actors, often get pigeonholed for the things they can do e.g. Steve McQueen wouldn’t have been at the top of my list for a heist film. So what attracted McQueen to this project? Was part of it just to stretch his directing muscles by trying something new? Will we see a slew of McQueen action films? I think not, whatever else Widows is, it is still a Steve McQueen film.

Unbelievable Transformations

It must be very frustrating for people in Hollywood when they feel typecast and in recent years there have been some startling transformations as actors move away from what they’re known for. The two most striking being Liam Neeson and Matthew McConaughey. Not very long ago Liam Neeson was seen as a serious dramatic actor, Oscar-nominated for his role in Schindler’s List, taking on difficult roles like pioneering sexual behaviour researcher Alfred Kinsey or Irish revolutionary Michael Collins. And then Neeson’s career pivots and he becomes one of the biggest action stars on the planet. Neeson, a man in his fifties, is suddenly cast in Taken and The A-Team. Neeson might have actually jumpstarted a recent genre in “old action heroes”.

Matthew McConaughey in Killer Joe (IMDb)

Matthew McConaughey’s rise to Oscar-winning critical acclaim is even odder than Neeson becoming an action star. McConaughey was once a punchline, synonymous with starring in bad romantic comedies, and thought by many to be only getting by purely because he was a stunningly handsome man (this is literally a joke on Family Guy). Then came a transformation when McConaughey started taking on more serious roles and in a few short years became not only successful but one of the most respected actors working today. McConaughey’s change seems to have started around Killer Joe, a small indie film where he took the title role. I have not seen this film – partly because I derided it because it starred McConaughey – but it was well received by critics. McConaughey’s performance of what I’m reliably informed is a despicable and appalling character seemed to reinvent him and seemingly that’s all it sometimes takes.

The Rom-Com Trap

Women often find themselves trapped in romantic comedies. Jennifer Aniston and Katherine Heigl are seemingly cursed to repeat the same role over and over again in indistinguishable romcoms, like some modern Sisyphus endlessly pushing a rock up a hill, despite being talented and likeable actors. Will Zooey Deschanel ever not be the epitome of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl? Many of these actors seem to be looking for their Killer Joe role where they can break out of this pattern; Cake, and to a lesser extent, Horrible Bosses seemed to be Jennifer Anniston trying to change her image.

Cake (IMDb)

Decent Americans and Girls-Next-Door

Then there are actors who while not exactly typecast do have a type. Tom Hanks has taken on Jimmy Stewart’s role of decent American and Julia Roberts was the Girl Next Door and both of these actors seem to revel in roles that play against this type, Tom Hanks as the intellectual criminal mastermind in The Ladykillers or Julia Roberts as the sinister spy in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. I am borderline obsessed with the career of Ben Mendelsohn who has carved a career out of playing dirtbag villains. He has even been cast of the Sheriff of Nottingham in the new Robin Hood film; one of the classic villain roles. I can only presume his George VI from Darkest Hour is a dirtbag villain version of this king.

Directing Differences

There are seemingly some people who have always resisted the urge to do the same thing. The Coen Brothers’ career jumps from violent crime drama to knockabout comedy and back again easily and you never know what they will do next. Stanley Kubrick seemingly built his career on wanting to make the best film of every genre – 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining and Full Metal Jacket are often cited as the best sci-fi, horror and war films ever made. Some directors are so successful and consistent in their own films that they create their own genre – J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 was held up as a film belonging to a “Spielberg” genre. Many eyebrows were raised when people realised recent horror hit A Quiet Place had Michael Bay as a producer, a director who has as much as a distinctive style as Spielberg, and “quiet” is not part of that style.

For me, the greatest director changeup has been the career of George Miller. Miller made his name directing the Mad Max films, brutal Australian exploitation films, and then seemingly got bored of this and decided to direct the sequel to Babe (yes, that Babe about the talking pig) and the two Happy Feet films (yes, with the dancing penguins) before returning at the age of seventy to his Mad Max roots. The questions this creates are endless – what were the motivations behind these choices? Why did a producer hire Miller for Babe: Pig In The City? Is there a violent director’s cut of Happy Feet?

Mad Max (IMDb)

For most people in the film industry, you don’t have too much choice, there are very few people who can truly be picky about what jobs they accept and it would take a strong person to turn down a lucrative role just because it’s another ditzy best friend in a rom-com or megalomaniacal sci-fi villain.