Decision to Leave (15)


Before there was a Korean wave, there was Park Chan-wook. His Vengeance trilogy, particularly Oldboy, led the west to believe that Korea was a land of incredibly sadistic, but beautifully shot and elliptically arranged violence.

His latest is a crime melodrama in which a gentle, upright, meticulous detective (Park Hae-il,) finds himself falling for a Chinese femme fatale (Tang Wei) whose Korean is “insufficient” and who is suspected of murdering her much-older husband. The insomniac detective goes above and beyond the call of duty, putting in all night surveillance duties watching her sleep. It's a masterful rejigging of Film Noir cliches, replacing sweaty desire with wet wipe reserve and calm fortitude.

In Decision To Leave, Park has moved back from the visual opulence of films like The Handmaiden and Lady Vengeance. The look is more naturalistic but still incredibly detailed. He packs so much information into each frame you need eyes everywhere. This is not a film you can go into halfheartedly. Close attention must be paid. But it flows so beautifully. Always there is some visual link or association to smooth you into the next scenes, or get you making a connection to something you’ve seen previously. It’s extraordinarily assured filmmaking, surely as good as anyone in world cinema, though you may wonder if the film is just Basic Instinct with bells on.

It’s a very fine cop drama, with a plot that springs plenty of surprises and twists on its way to a truly startling ending.

But we have been down these roads before, if rarely quite so smoothly. Park Hae-il is excellent as the haggard, sleepless detective, a figure of indomitable shagged out fortitude. Just as he makes for an odd detective hero, Tang Wei is an against-type femme fatale. In the few performances of hers that have made it into western cinemas – Ang Lee's Lust, Caution; Gan Bi's Long Day's Journey Into Night; Michael Mann's Blackhat; – she has always been cast as a figure of desire.

Here, they are an odd couple but together they generate one of the year's most potent screen romances.

Directed by Park Chan-wook. Starring Tang Wei, Park Hae-il, Go Kyung-pyo, Yung Yi-seo and Park Yong-woo. In cinemas. In Korean and Mandarin with subtitles. Running time:139 mins.

Vesper (15)


There’s nowt new at the end of the world, but this week's post-apocalyptic dystopian vision – eco-collapse, domed cities for the lucky, scavenging in the wilderness for the rest – offers the novelty of a British cast transplanted into a Lithuanian low-budget sci-fi film.

Overall, I’d say the procedure went well. Vesper (Chapman) is a 13-year-old bio-hacker trying to survive out in the woods with her bedridden father (Brake), who sees her chance to change their situation when someone from the Citadel crash lands in the forest nearby.

The striking, derelict War of the Worlds-style metal mushrooms feature more in the posters and trailers than the film itself and suggest something a little more action-packed than the reality. The film is more low-key and contemplative but still absorbing. Its vision of the New Dark Ages mixes medieval imagery into a landscape where the flowers and fauna have mutated into a much more overtly menacing presence. The film often looks like the work of agriculturally-orientated David Cronenberg.

Directed by Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper. Starring Raffiella Chapman, Eddie Marsan, Rosy McEwen and Richard Brake. In cinemas and streaming. Running time: 114 mins.

The Banshees of Inisherin (15)


McDonagh's fourth feature reunites him with the stars of his first In Bruges.

It's a good deal he's got going with Farrell and Gleeson; his scripts give them some of the best roles of their careers, and their majestic performances help disguise how contrived and superficial his dark tragi-comedies are.

Though many of his plays are set there, this is his first Irish film. On a remote island off the west coast, one friend, Gleeson, tells the other friend, Farrell, that he doesn't want to be his friend anymore, and takes ever more drastic steps to enforce this separation. It's roaringly funny, beautifully shot (by Ben Davies) and poignant, but I'm wary.

About a year after writing a gushing rave about his Oscar winner Three Billboards I watched it on TV, mortified. "How could you give this 5 stars?" my wife demanded. The answer is, very easily. McDonagh is a skilled crowd-pleaser, and if you see one of his films early on with a large, receptive audience, the bigger the better, it will look very much like marvellous, meaningful entertainment. Seen later, this may well play as a series of empty gestures, given depth by uncommonly skilled performers.

Directed by Martin McDonagh. Starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan, Pat Shorrt and Gary Lydon. In
cinemas. Running time: 109 mins.

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