Spling reviews News of the World, Official Secrets and One Child Nation as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.
Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…
This week, we’re talking about a western adventure drama, a political biographical drama and a startling documentary.
Starting off with a film on Netflix…
NEWS OF THE WORLD
A Civil War veteran turned news reader endures a perilous journey after agreeing to deliver an orphaned girl to her extended family.
Director: Paul Greengrass
Stars: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel and Tom Astor
– News of the World is a western adventure drama based on a novel with a reprisal of the Captain Phillips actor-director duo Tom Hanks and Paul Greengrass.
– The co-lead dynamic between a veteran and orphan is similar to the recent George Clooney film, Midnight Sky.
– Surprisingly in over four decades of acting, the “every man” actor Tom Hanks has never made a proper western.
– Toning down the Stetson, giving him a role as a travelling news reader and making him a retired Captain makes it work handsomely.
– Hanks and the convincing Zengel have a workable on-screen chemistry.
– Stumbling upon Johanna, one small rescue mission turns into a slightly bigger one as Captain Kidd becomes a father figure to the lost child.
– The drama is mostly driven by Hanks, who is used to carrying films and playing opposite “quiet” co-leads.
– Allowing Hanks to steer the emotional course, Greengrass plies himself with the adventure, whipping up a great deal of suspense and surprise.
– Made to look like everything simply exists, the film has weight backed by rich sound and aural environments that are so well-integrated you hardly notice them at all.
– It’s a fine production, led by a stalwart lead and a budding new talent, offering a thoughtful and unconventional western adventure drama for contemporary audiences. Playing into some stereotypes, yet nuanced enough to exist beyond them, News of the World continues to suggest that Greengrass is a solid bet and that drama thrillers are his strength.
– Dipping into some slightly more pensive dramatic territory, Greengrass never loses the reins and backed by Tom Hanks… even slightly wayward storytelling can’t derail this sturdy and handsomely mounted western.
A solid 7 on the splingometer!
Moving on to a film on Showmax…
The true story of a British whistleblower who leaked information to the press about an illegal move designed to sanction the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Director: Gavin Hood
Stars: Keira Knightley, Matt Smith and Ralph Fiennes
– South Africa’s Gavin Hood has proven himself as a versatile and reliable director after his days of Tsotsi, having delivered films such as Ender’s Game, Rendition, Eye in the Sky and now Official Secrets.
– His latest film is biographical in nature, dealing with Katharine Gun, a whistleblower whose stoic response to government bullying and legal tactics become central in this morality drama.
– Hinging on the bad intel that led to the search for weapons of mass destruction, it would help if you saw the satirical German political drama, Curveball.
– Highlighting key moments in the buildup of Gun’s legal proceedings, Official Secrets serves as a chronicle, gathering momentum by using dramatic turning points as footholds.
– While it starts off a little slowly, the film improves in direct proportion to Keira Knightley’s screen time, owing to a full-fledged performance.
– Not going for complete authenticity, the dramatic licence goes beyond the appearance of things to get to grips with the weight of one woman’s actions on behalf of the people.
– Hood’s drama is compelling thanks to his steady hand, a powerful and timely true story and a forthright performance from Knightley.
– This backroom politics drama isn’t flashy, opting to remain anchored in the corridors of justice with a solemn and thought-provoking mood.
A solid 7 on the splingometer!
And finally a documentary on Amazon Prime…
ONE CHILD NATION
A filmmaker uncovers the untold history of China’s one-child policy.
Directors: Nanfu Wang, Zhang Lynn
– Originally called Born in China, Nanfu Wang’s documentary deals with the legacy of China’s horrifying and controversial one-child policy.
– Taken from a Chinese filmmaker’s perspective, we get a fascinating, introspective and almost unfiltered view of China.
– This unique angle is almost enough to sustain the documentary even if it’s subject wasn’t so disturbing.
– Through the lens of her own biography, she investigates stories close to her family and how the policy affected their lives branching out to a wider national angle.
– Controlled through propaganda, enforced by family planning officials and carried out with a false sense of altruism, One Child Nation scratches the surface in an attempt to acknowledge the failings, relive the history and capture the mixed feelings over the policy’s efficacy.
– Interviewing family members, artists, former officials and mothers who had their children taken away from them before being sterilised, it’s a challenging documentary that recalls The Act of Killing.
– Blinded by entrenched propaganda or the country’s cultural obsession with continuing their family legacy through a son at all costs, it’s a heartbreaking and harrowing film where there are no winners.
– One Child Nation delves into the country’s sketchy adoption process history and underhanded orphanage transactions revealing many red flags.
– A harbinger of sorts, it reveals the catastrophic and unconscionable policy in a bid to commemorate the unborn and offer alarming context to their government’s not-so-new family planning agenda.
An excellent 8 on the splingometer!
So just to wrap up…
NEWS OF THE WORLD… a fine lead performance and immersive qualities anchor this suspenseful and contemporary if wayward western adventure… A solid 7!
OFFICIAL SECRETS… a thoughtful lead, an impassioned cast, steady direction and a powerful true story compel this important and stirring morality drama… A solid 7!
ONE CHILD NATION… a powerful and harrowing documentary that offers an intimate and overarching perspective on China’s diabolical one-child policy experiment… An excellent 8!
For more movie reviews, previous Talking Movies podcasts and upcoming Bingeing with Spling watch parties visit splingmovies.com.
And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!