Talking Movies: Elvis, Horisonne and Operation Mincemeat

Spling reviews Elvis, Horisonne and Operation Mincemeat 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 music biopic, a mystery thriller and an espionage war drama.

Starting off with a film now on Showmax…


Elvis Presley’s life, from boyhood to becoming a rock and movie celebrity in the 1950s, under the watchful eye of an overbearing manager.

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Stars: Austin Butler, Tom Hanks and Olivia DeJonge

Elvis Presley is an enigmatic music icon whose pomp, hype and legacy has made him a myth… unknowable to some extent. World famous before the Internet, journeying back in time to his heydays is a welcome blast from the past that will add some nuance to the performer’s meteoric rise to fame. Under the thumb, this vivid tale zooms into the uneasy tension between the star and his equally mysterious manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Elvis plays like a comic book with a swirling edit that recalls Romeo & Juliet, summoning up a youthful energy and zest that makes it ooze with cool in the here and now. Beautifully manicured from hair and wardrobe to production design, Luhrmann’s windswept epic looks and feels lavish in its attempt to capture snapshots from the King’s extraordinary life. This exquisite tapestry is almost seamless, moving like a dream and capturing life-like performances that recreate classic Elvis moments from his Christmas special to the International Hotel in Las Vegas. Swathing audiences in the zeitgeist, uncovering Presley’s rebellious side and immersing us in the socio-political context of the Elvis effect, this is a sensual, surreal and wildly entertaining spectacle. A feast for the eyes, it’s guided by a star-making performance from Butler who captures the essence of Elvis from his dazzling stage presence to monumental turning points. Unfortunately, a distracting performance from Hanks as the Colonel, disguised by prosthetics and an awkward accent, steals some of Elvis’s thunder when Jim Broadbent of Moulin Rouge fame, would’ve made more sense. In spite of this sideshow, Elvis succeeds as an entertaining, moody visual extravaganza. It did just enough to score…

An excellent 8!

Moving on to a movie now on Showmax…


A psychotherapist puts her life in danger to release her daughter from the grip of a cult leader.

Director: André Velts

Stars: Elma Postma, Chris Chameleon and Deoudoné Van der Merwe

Horisonne (or Horizons) is a mystery thriller that could be described as a blend of Midsommar and The Silence of the Lambs. Taking place at a cult complex masquerading as a wellness centre, the folk horror element seems to be a direct influence from Ari Aster’s popular take on Wicker Man. The Silence of the Lambs style oversight from an imprisoned serial killer adds a fresh spin, even if not entirely necessary, coming to serve as a neat entry and exit point. Taken from the perspective of a psychologist going on an undercover mission into a sketchy mindfulness retreat, Horisonne threatens to become something substantial and suspenseful but continually stops short. Leveraging a short-lived flashback for impetus, the family dynamics and motivations are muddled as the horror drama unravels. As a modest TV movie, it’s largely restrained and stifled – unable to fulfill its potential with truly cinematic moments. While the cast are earnest and present, operating in safe mode undermines the folk horror and blunts the suspense. Cutting away too soon, there’s an attempt to activate imagination but without finesse, these easy outs prevent any cumulative tension. This inconsequential free-range state doesn’t have enough obstacles or restrictions imposed on its characters who rarely seem under duress. The building blocks of the cast, location, style and mood are there but Horisonne lacks the suspense, focus, flair and inspiration to truly set it apart from its overbearing influences.

A flimsy 4!

And finally a film now on Showmax…


During World War II, two intelligence officers deceive German troops with a corpse and false intel.

Director: John Madden

Stars: Colin Firth, Matthew Macfadyen and Kelly Macdonald

Operation Mincemeat’s title and cast may not be all that enticing if you don’t like old maps but this isn’t simply some starchy prestige war drama. Having had a successful outing with Miss Sloane, Madden’s latest film keeps the director in the game with another solid entry. The cast is emboldened by the presence of Firth, Macfadyen and Macdonald, who muster the kind of dependable performances we’ve come to expect. Operation Mincemeat’s historical significance gives it a similar edge to The Imitation Game and Darkest Hour, where critical decisions and high risk gambles threaten to turn the tide of World War II. While there are definite story and tonal parallels, this World War II drama infuses a number of genre elements to keep you guessing as it ranges from war drama to espionage thriller, dark comedy and romance. These genre twists are a gentle distraction from the main plot but help keep things curious and upbeat. The central concept is an ongoing echo and perhaps these subplots serve as a way to muddle an otherwise simple deception. There’s a tension to proceedings as stakes are raised with what’s considered one of the greatest deceptions in history. Fighting the hidden war, Operation Mincemeat ties into our current age of misinformation and spins an entertaining and handsomely mounted yarn.

A solid 7!

So just to wrap up…

ELVIS… a strong lead, exhilarating music, lavish and a seamless edit overpower a miscast co-lead in this lively chronicle… An excellent 8!

HORISONNE… a game cast compel this safe and uninspired folk horror mystery thriller blend of The Silence of the Lambs and Midsommar… A flimsy 4!

OPERATION MINCEMEAT… a smart cast, genre twist subplots and high stakes enliven this war drama’s intriguing, simple and true espionage plot… A solid 7!

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