The Siege of Jadotville (dir. Richie Smyth, 2016) – In 1961, Irish commandant Pat Quinlan led an army against mercenaries during a peacekeeping mission in the Congo.
A riveting true story. The little-known Siege of Jadotville gets a deserving tribute, if lacking in historical context.
In 1961, 155 Irish soldiers stood their ground on the battlefield against a 3,000-strong Kantangese army, backed by European mercenaries. Following the six-day siege and a month spent as prisoners-of-war, they suffered zero fatalities. If you have never heard of this extraordinary battle, you are not alone.
For decades, The Siege of Jadotville remained unwritten history. None of the young Irishmen were recognised for their military valour. Instead, they were humiliated with the term “Jadotville Jack”. This was invented as a derisive label for their forced surrender, a sensible move that was dismissed as cowardice.
It took 40 long years before the veterans were finally cleared of misconduct. This came nine years too late for Commandant Pat Quinlan, who died in 1997. The tragedy of which makes The Siege of Jadotville an especially powerful story and an essential watch.
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In Hollywood, Ridley Scott can hear you scream. After backlash against his ambitious prequel Prometheus, he admitted that he knew how the fans “were really frustrated” and “wanted to see more of the original [Aliens]”. And so in Alien: Covenant (review), he ensures more monstrous terror and less philosophising.
Still, not everyone is enamoured with his latest venture. For all that is flawed with Alien: Covenant, many complaints fall upon a single point of contention: the flute scene. The strange insert has since baffled many. In it, David (Michael Fassbender) places a recorder/flute in his doppelgänger’s hands.
“Watch me, I’ll do the fingering,” he says to Walter, teaching him the art of music in an intimate test of his loyalties.
But is there something more in this act of eroticism than pure evocation? I find it interesting, and have decided to take a closer look. If you haven’t seen the film, there will be spoilers, so come back later. If you have, let’s discuss the “controversial” scene.
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Alien: Covenant (dir. Ridley Scott, 2017) – The crew of a colony ship decides to abandon route in favour of an uncharted planet, where they encounter a fatal parasitic threat.
Alien: Covenant strikes a neat balance between Alien’s horror entertainment and Prometheus’ conceptual ambitions.
Fifteen years after Alien: Resurrection ended the well-loved franchise, Ridley Scott took a bold chance. With Prometheus, he reinvented his familiar story with provocative revelations, complicating a slash-and-dice formula with layered, philosophical mythology.
This alienated some fans, who baulked at reduced body horror and potential answers to the unknown. Mysticism is after all, what had made Alien terrifying in the first place. Others find joy in dissecting theological implications, savouring consequent food for thought.
For a fan who stands in the middle, Alien: Covenant feels like a satisfying compromise. Harmony is attained between the best of both worlds, as the original’s blood fest is dished up with the prequel’s intellectual fodder on the side. An elegant opening plays to the latter, reiterating the complex dynamics between man and machine.
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Mercy (dir. Chris Sparling, 2016) – Four estranged brothers return home to visit their dying mother, but are thrust into a fight for survival of their own.
Bungled execution takes the spark out of an ambitious film, where potential sadly peters out.
Netflix original Mercy is a risk-taker. Lavish with twist and turns, the film leaves conventions at the door and provides little clue as to where the plot is heading. Such unpredictability can often make a mystery gripping. Frustratingly, unwieldy execution leaves us with nothing but a thoroughly perplexing enigma.
Things start off slow in the familial affair, where four brothers convene in their old home. Their mother Grace is dying. A visitor shows up with a mysterious bag, urging the family to end her suffering. Speculations lead to an ensuing moral dilemma of euthanasia. But that theory comes to naught as masked men intrude and threaten a restless night ahead.
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Small Crimes (dir. E.L. Katz, 2017) – Having served his sentence for attempted murder, disgraced former cop Joe Denton seeks redemption but finds himself trapped in the mess he left behind.
A healthy amount of cynicism will ensure an easier wade through this weary dark comedy.
Small Crimes centres on disgraced cop Joe Denton (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who is having a hard time making amends to his estranged family, and a former colleague scarred in the line of duty. But if you think this is a redemption story, you’ve got another think coming.
After all, his chink in the armour runs deep. The corruption-prone ex-con takes no time to dismantle his second chance. Blackmailed by Lt. Pleasant (Gary Cole), he is forced into protecting dirty cops by killing a cancer-stricken mob boss Manny Vassey (Shawn Lawrence). Caving to the pressure of his past, he invites fatal danger back on his trail.
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Rooster’s Blood / La Sangre del Gallo (dir. Mariano Dawidson, 2015) – Beaten and bloodied, Damian is unable to remember how he got there, or why.
This moody kidnap thriller is as much an engaging mystery as it is, visual panache.
If you have a thing for gritty thrillers from the independent scene, La Sangre del Gallo will be right up your seedy alley. A promising directorial debut by Mariano Dawidson, the Argentinian film foregrounds the dark brutality of criminal underworld, uncompromising in its show of violence from the get-go.
The opening introduces Damian (Santiago Pedrero) in a bad place, captive and bloodied during an iron-fisted interrogation. Questions and punches rain without relent. Still, his past remains a blur. As he struggles to recall painful memories, the age-old narrative device of flashbacks serves well to unravel the mystery at hand.
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