Review of the week
Film: Doctor Strange
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Benedict Wong, Benjamin Bratt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Michael Stuhlbarg, Rachel McAdams, Scott Adkins, Tilda Swinton
Director: Scott Derrickson
Reviewer: Peter Feldman
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has pitched another one of their characters into mainstream cinema. This time it’s Doctor Stephen Strange, an arrogant, ego-driven neurosurgeon who discovers that there is more to heaven and earth than meets the eye.
British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, one of cinema’s most versatile players, assumes the mantle of Doctor Strange. Adopting an American accent, he takes the character through all the bizarre twists and turns that the story demands as it embraces the mystic arts and alternative dimensions that go beyond human understanding.
After a tragic motor accident, Doctor Strange discovers that his hands are no longer the instruments of healing upon which his career was built. He must now seek an alternative cure to get his lucrative career back on track. He travels to Kathmandu in Nepal seeking this miracle cure and ends up at the feet of a Celtic mystic known as The Ancient One (a shaven-haired Tilda Swinton) who has the psychic power to open his mind to alternative realities. He needs to believe in the otherworldly, even though his natural intellect dismisses it as ridiculous.
Through sweat and toil, Strange eventually discovers his inner truth and embarks on a spiritual journey that will transform him forever and give him untold powers.
The first half of the film, with its compelling argument on alternative realities, certainly grabs one’s imagination, but director Scott Derrickson then embarks on a psychedelic journey that blows the mind. The constant action sequences explode in your face and a great deal of the carefully orchestrated build up is dissipated by a surfeit of giddy surrealist images.
The Marvel Comic Universe has never shied away from psychedelia, from ‘Ant-Man’s’ voyage into cosmic inner space to the progressive-rock cityscapes of Thor. This escapade, however, takes the genre to a whole new level. It’s a freaky, eye-popping extravaganza. Christopher Nolan’s dreamscapes in ‘Inception’ look amateur in comparison as cityscapes are folded, bended and upended to stupendous effect
The supporting cast works hard, too, with Mads Mikkelsen as the evil Kaecilius, the villain of the piece; Chiwetel Ejiofor, as Mordo, who helps guide Strange in his new world; and Rachel McAdams as Dr Christine Palmer, a fellow doctor and ex-girlfriend, who worked side-by-side in the hospital with Strange.
Vividly depicted in 3D, ‘Doctor Strange’ certainly has its moments, but its freewheeling, gravity-defying buoyancy in the end becomes far too overwhelming and you will leave the cinema positively reeling from this total onslaught on the senses.
By the way, don’t leave before the credits are over because there is a nice little exchange between Doctor Strange and the god Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth, whose glass of beer seems to have a life of its own.
Other releases (synopsis)
FILM: HELL OR HIGH WATER
CAST: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster Gil Birmingham
DIRECTOR: David Mackenzie
A story about the collision of the Old and New West, two brothers – Toby (Chris Pine), a straight-living, divorced father trying to make a better life for his son; and Tanner (Ben Foster), a short-tempered ex-con with a loose trigger finger – come together to rob branch after branch of the bank that is foreclosing on their family land. The hold-ups are part of a last-ditch scheme to take back a future that powerful forces beyond their control have stolen from under their feet.
Vengeance seems to be theirs until they find themselves in the crosshairs of relentless, foul-mouthed Texas Ranger Marcus (Jeff Bridges) looking for one last triumph on the eve of his retirement. As the brothers plot a final bank heist to complete their plan, a showdown looms at the crossroads where the last honest lawman and a pair of brothers with nothing to live for except family collide.
The suspenseful heist thriller has a storied history that hurtles way back to 1903’s ‘The Great Train Robbery’ – and since then, it seems every generation has produced its own revealing visions of the often coolly atmospheric genre. Like many of its predecessors, Hell or High Water builds to a showdown between lawmen and outlaws in the desolate borderlands of America’s extreme Southwest. But that’s where the comparisons end. For this is not your father’s bank-robbing saga of black-hatted bad guys and upstanding sheriffs. This is the Western re-jiggered as morally complex, bitingly humorous and set in a new West where the very banks getting raided are now the most degenerate and cruel of villains themselves.
The film is the ninth feature from award-winning UK filmmaker David Mackenzie – whose body of work also encompasses ‘Starred Up’, ‘Hallam Foe’, ‘Asylum’ and ‘Young Adam’ – and one that has taken him new places, geographically and cinematically.
“As a filmmaker I’m always drawn to stories which are not black and white in terms of their moral shades, so one of the elements I was interested in of this film was this thing that I call ‘redemptive criminality’, where good people do bad things for good reasons. I think there’s something really interesting about that balance, and that is definitely an area of attraction for me as a filmmaker, and in particular in this film,” says Mackenzie.
FILM: HATCHET HOUR
CAST: Erica Wessels, Petronella Tshuma, Adam Croasdell
DIRECTOR: Judy Naidoo
In this South African feature, a fiery lawyer mistakenly believes her gardener Amos to be an assailant, and shoots him dead. Belle (Erica Wessels) decides not to report the accident and take her chances avoiding the legal system. She thinks that her brilliant career, as well as that of her legendary lawyer father, will be ruined if the courts find against her and charge her with manslaughter. She must get rid of the body and all evidence of the crime. She turns to her best friend to help her destroy Amos’ body. Their actions set in motion a destructive chain of events that spiral out of control.