Sunday, 21 June 2009

Fest Day 5: A life of crime

Kerry Fox, Frank Langella, Sara Langella and Alan Cumming attend the gala dinner at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Saturday - a star-studded event also attended by the likes of Sean Connery, Joe Wright and Lord Puttnam. Meanwhile in Los Angeles, a similar range of stars is parading down red carpets and posing for the paps. Here are a few films showing today - the first three in Edinburgh and the last one in L.A.

Mesrine: Killer Instinct
dir Jean-Fran├žois Richet, 08/France ***
The first half of this epic biopic about the notorious French criminal Jacques Mesrine centres on the 1960s, and the film is made in that style, with split screens, groovy action and a rip-roaring central performance by Vincent Cassel as the flambouyant bank robber. The film is energetic enough to keep our attention, even though it never seems to get beneath the surface of the central character. The story continues in Mesrine: Public Enemy No 1, which we'll cover tomorrow.

Fish Tank
dir Andrea Arnold, 09/UK *****
With her second film (after 2006's award-hoovering Red Road), Arnold won a second prize at Cannes. And you can see why: this is fiercely assured filmmaking, telling a story about a struggling 15-year-old teen from her perspective, which adds astonishing resonance. It's a haunting, unforgettable film, made all the more powerful by the star-making central performance by Katie Jarvis plus terrific roles for Michael Fassbender and Kierston Wareing. And it's packed with brittle wit and unnerving suspence.

dir Fabrice Du Welz, 08/France **
There's a terrific sense of atmosphere in this creepy thriller, which is set in Thailand after the tsunami, where a grieving couple (Rufus Sewell and Emmanuelle Beart) goes upriver into Burma in search of their missing son. So far, so good - with strong emotional resonance and simply spectacular scenery. Then the film devolves into a crazed jungle horror movie that seems far more interested in creepy and grisly imagery than the fate of the characters.

dir Nicolas Winding Refn, 09/UK ***
Thomas Hardy gives an outrageous tour-de-force performance as Britain's most notorious criminal Charles Bronson (he named himself after the actor), who has spent virtually his entire adult life behind bars, where he continues to cause havoc. The film is an artful concoction, with some very clever gimmicks that add interest to what's otherwise just a story about a brutal thug. But he's such a magnetic bundle of energy that the film has a Chopper-like feel to it, with a bit of A Clockwork Orange stirred in as well. > FULL REVIEW

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