Film reviews: Nope, Bullet Train, Where is Anne Frank

Daniel Kaluuya in Nope, written and directed by Jordan Peele.

Daniel Kaluuya in Nope, written and directed by Jordan Peele. - Credit: Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Nope (15)

****

Nope by Jordan Peele stars Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, and Brandon Perea

Nope written by Jordan Peele stars Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, and Brandon Perea - Credit: 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Nope. Yep. Maybe. Probably. Hard to say. Peele's third film, after Get Out and Us, is an exquisitely made piece of cinema with spectacular images, great performances and fantastic ideas.

While you are watching, it thrills, grips, provokes, mystifies and after a summer of old hat it feels like a blessed burst of originality - yet you may have to force yourself not to pick it apart on the way home.

Nope is just another one of those everyday run-of-the-mill modern-day cowboy UFO showbiz horror satires. OJ (Kaluuya) is a struggling Hollywood horse wrangler who lives on a ranch in a remote valley outside LA. His only neighbour is a Wild West Theme park, run by a former child star (Yuen) still traumatised by an incident with a berserk monkey on set (more work for Terry Notary, the new Andy Serkis).

When his sister (Palmer) comes to visit, they realise that something in the clouds is picking off the horses and make a plan get some indisputable photographic evidence

The film is rooted in the very first piece of cinema; Eadweard Muybridge's two-second clip of a horse in motion ridden by a Black jockey. Kaluuya is marvellous as the embodiment of  a taciturn cowboy. Christopher Nolan’s preferred cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema (Dunkirk, Interstellar, Spectre) makes the valley the dusty equivalent of the landscapes Spielberg would fill with UFOs and invite his characters to watch the skies. The figure of the genius cameraman (Wincott) provides a meta-parody of their demanding perfectionism, always waiting for the perfect light to get the shot. Threaded through is the notion of a Black man having to avert his eyes to avoid trouble.

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The problem is that this is just a little bit too cool for school. Ambiguity is built into the script, but there are often moments when you think something should have been made a bit clearer. Though you are probably given enough information to process what is going on, there is the constant worry that you've missed something, or wondering if it will be explained later. While this seems wonderful in almost every aspect, it's hard to shake a fear that it could just be a load of hot air.

Directed by Jordan Peele. Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott and Keith David. In Cinemas. 130 mins.

Brad Pitt in Bullet Train

Brad Pitt in Bullet Train - Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing

Bullet Train (15)

***

A bunch of assassins on a high speed overnight train from Tokyo to Kyoto, each with different missions and objectives that are all interconnected.

This bloody exercise in murder, deception and decapitation is non-stop and aggressively, confrontationally larky. Everything is fun and nothing will be taken seriously to ensure that your enjoyment of the violence isn't impinged upon. This is the kind of film where audiences applaud, even whoop, over a particularly well-executed execution.

Brad Pitt is an assassin who has stepped away from the profession to reassess his values and work on his personality. Obsessed with the idea that he is unlucky, a karmic, considerate, personal space respecting hitman is a very Brad Pitt kind of a role.

The problem with keeping it light and emotionally inch deep is that the thrills and jokes have to be spot on, but the film is so busy that it goes for quantity over quality. There's some beautifully executed gags and physical humour, but there’s always something coming along to spoil the buzz. A bellowing version of Japanese novel, Maria Beetle, Bullet Train is full of good gags and pieces of invention, which tend to get lost in the frantic pace. It’s a bumpy ride but one I imagine most audiences will be on board for.

Directed by David Leitch. Starring Brad Pitt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Joey King, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji and Hiroyuki Sanda. In cinemas. 126 mins. 

Ruby Stokes as Kitty and Emily Carey as Anne Frank in Where is Anne Frank by Ari Folman

Ruby Stokes as Kitty and Emily Carey as Anne Frank in Where is Anne Frank by Ari Folman - Credit: Blue Whale Films

Where is Anne Frank (PG)

***

No question mark; wonder why. Presumably, because the answer is; here is Anne Frank. In revisiting a book which everybody knows whether they have read it or not, writer/director Folman tries to shake the Diary free of the monument that has encased it.

Frank called her diary Kitty and in this magic realism animation it comes to life in the form of a red-headed teenager. Appearing inside Amsterdam’s Anne Frank House, she goes in search of her old friend, only to discover Frank’s name everywhere in the surrounding streets. The house where she hid from the Nazis for years has become a museum and tourist attraction; people queue up from early morning to visit, while outside refugees from war zones are arrested and threatened with deportation.

The film brims with anger and has some startling images whose power is dissipated by the unwieldy structure. You can see the need for a modern-day perspective, but the whole Book turned Girl conceit and a subsequent love story, seem too trivial and irrelevant. The film is on its surest footing when it is an animated version of Anne's diary.

Directed by Ari Folman. Featuring Ruby Stokes, Emily Carey, Michael Maloney, Sebastian Croft, Skye Bennett and Ari Folman. In cinemas or on demand. 99 mins.

Go to http://www.halfmanhalfcritic.com/ for a review of the Blu-ray release of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Memoria.