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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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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Stranger Than Fiction (dir. Marc Forster, 2006) – When Harold Crick hears a voice narrating his life in his head, he is determined to find who the author is, to prevent his potential death.
While reminiscent of Adaptation., Stranger than Fiction holds its own as an inspirational dramedy, full of warmth and enchantment.
There are two things in life for certain: death and taxes. No one knows this better than Harold Crick (Will Ferrell). The skilled auditor goes about his ordinary routine of his numbers trade, until the day that an author’s voice in his head foretells his imminent death.
This pitch may seem like Charlie Kaufman’s territory, but writer Zach Helm’s enchanting meta-fiction has its own charm. Taking a light approach akin to The Truman Show, Stranger than Fiction still draws upon thoughtful philosophy, as its leading man grapples with his new understanding of reality.
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Elizabethtown (dir. Cameron Crowe, 2005) – When Drew Baylor gets a call about his father’s death, he puts his suicide attempt on hold and returns to his home in Elizabethtown.
A thoughtful and moving mix tape, for those who care enough to roll down their windows and have a listen.
Over the years, Cameron Crowe has brought us on personal and inspiring voyages through adolescence (Almost Famous), first love (Say Anything), and second chances (Jerry Maguire). With Elizabethtown, he has written an ostensible romance story that is more than anything, a probing journey into the hearts of adulthood.
This one belongs to Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom), who has invested his whole life into what he believes to be his big break. But dreams can take no more than a second to shatter. When hit by a fiasco in his career, he sees his only way out in a despondent suicide attempt.
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