FILM REVIEWS: Argylle, American Fiction, The Zone of Interest, and Migration

There’s something for everyone at the movies this week – mirrored in real life by Westside’s attractions ranging from seeing ducks on the canals to climbing thrills at Rock Up Birmingham. Our man GRAHAM YOUNG reports.

ARGYLLE (12A, 139 mins). Thriller writer Elly Conway becomes the heart of a cliff-edge espionage plot far beyond her stifled literary imagination. Directed with extraordinary brio by Matthew Vaughn (Kingsman), Bryce Dallas Howard more than holds her own alongside Henry Cavill (Agent Argylle) and Sam Rockwell (Aiden) playing fictional and real versions of her novel’s ‘leading men’.  The strong supporting cast includes John Cena, Dua Lipa, Richard E Grant and Samuel L Jackson.

The verdict: **** This movie has bright colours, fabulously-lit action scenes, great soundtrack and audacious if increasingly convoluted storytelling with a backpack cat. Argylle’s crazy mixture of James Bond, John Wick, Kill Bill, Bullet Train and even the yellow-dress dancing of La La Land is a must-see on Westside’s best screens – the ultra-vibrant Dolby Screen 3 at Odeon Broadway Plaza and IMAX at Cineworld Broad Street.

Bryce Dallas Howard wows far beyond Sandra Bullock’s back catalogue, with the ageless Three Billboards’ star Sam Rockwell (now 55!) rocking as well as peak Nicolas Cage. Argylle is at least 20 minutes too long and stupidly has knives galore in a 12A certificate film, but there are some tremendous set pieces. 

Twenty years ago, Vaughn’s Layer Cake propelled actor Daniel Craig into 007 territory, but Argylle quite possibly means the director won’t follow suit. Mr Bond would have loved his kinetic energy.

AMERICAN FICTION (15, 117 mins). Jeffrey Wright plays a black writer called ‘Monk’. Hating the way stereotyped literature can be successful, he stops trying to do things the ‘write’ way. But when he quickly knocks something up in the style of something less worthy, Monk gets more than he bargained for – and in a quite different way to the author in Argylle!

The verdict **** Like last’s month’s Paul Giamatti film The Holdovers, this is an equally intelligent, properly-filmed drama with five Oscar nominations of its own – Wright for best actor and Sterling K Brown for best supporting actor, plus nods for best picture, score and adapted screenplay.

American Fiction thankfully eschews real-life cancel culture excesses in favour of humour and a family having to care for mother. Debut writer-director Cord Jefferson’s introduction of bloody violence is all the more memorable for being so brief.

THE ZONE OF INTEREST (12A, 105 mins). German actress Sandra Hüller returns in The Zone of Interest as the wife of a commandant working in Auschwitz just beyond  their garden wall. Not only does Sandra have a best actress nod for last autumn’s Anatomy of a Fall but both films have been deservedly Oscar nominated for best picture as well as best director and best screenplays. She is a talent!

The verdict **** A nightmare film about evil lurking in plain sight, its dispassionate nature leaves viewers to imagine the horrors beyond the wall. Based on the revered Martin Amis novel, the film’s pacing won’t be to all tastes but scenes including a tour of the household’s vegetable garden and the fate of some luxury possessions of the fatally dispossessed are unforgettable.

For adults, this is very different to the likes of Schindler’s List, The Pianist, The Lives of Others and Downfall. Parents could introduce the subject via The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008) or John Boyne’s source novel about a young lad who discovers what his dad does.

MIGRATION (U, 91 mins). Following a short Minions cartoon, a family of New England ducks fancy Jamaica if their overprotective father will embrace adventure, not fear. Voice talents include Elizabeth Banks and Awkwafina.

The verdict: *** Colourfully bright and breezy to appeal to youngsters, this Illumination animation even plays it safe in the air – composer John Powell previously scored How To Train Your Dragon.

PICTURE CREDITS. Argylle, Universal Pictures. American Fiction, Curzon. The Zone of Interest, A24. Migration, Universal Pictures.

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