Film: Also showing...Spellbound

The Crucible Nicholas Hytner (12) Mars Attacks! Tim Burton (12) Bound Larry and Andy Wachowski (18)

In one of our first glimpses of John Proctor, the tragic martyr of The Crucible, he is padding away from his fields, a scythe resting at his shoulder, its blade curving behind his head like a slipped halo. Nicholas Hytner's film of Arthur Miller's enduringly disturbing play (which Miller himself has adapted) doesn't go in for prescient imagery, but that shot is a chilling introduction to a man whose momentary loss of judgement, and his own shame at that loss, effectively commits the ink to his death certificate. Proctor has had an impetuous dalliance with a local girl, Abigail, who is one of a group of youngsters caught fooling around with supposedly magic potions in the midnight woods of Salem, Massachusetts. Terrified of the wrath that their nonsense has inadvertently caused, Abigail and her friends find a scapegoat: The Devil.

A witchcraft expert, Reverend John Hale, is called in to confirm it. Hale does so, employing careful judgement - oh, and a few brutal beatings administered to a suspected witch until she relents and implicates others in Salem, exposing an apparent epidemic of evil. Add to these false confessions the fabrication of evidence and you can see why dust never settles on The Crucible for long.

But topicality is not the key to the picture's fierce power, as it might have been when Miller wrote the original play, with its pressing allegorical overtones. Cinema has already begun processing McCarthyism in movies like The Front and Guilty by Suspicion. Perhaps understanding the distance that these fictional interpretations have created, The Crucible seems to invite a moral and emotional, rather then political reading. Proctor has been made more complicit in his relationship with Abigail, and there is a daring moment when he playfully warns her: "You'll be clapped in the stocks before you're 20," and she swoons absentmindedly as though yielding to secret sadomasochism. Winona Ryder feels very reckless as Abigail, her bulging eyes and gulping mouth conveying desperate hysteria so potently that the swooping camerawork used to illustrate her madness is superfluous.

Hytner could have trusted his actors, and his text, a good deal more than he does. Daniel Day-Lewis has indignation rippling through him as Proctor, and his scenes with Joan Allen, who plays his wife, are the quietest in the film - which, with its chaotic chorus of wannabe-witches, can resemble two hours stuck on the Stock Exchange - yet also the most affecting. And there is excellent work too from Paul Scofield as the judge, his cruel voice as silvery as his hair, and George Gaynes in a small but poignant role as Scofield's assistant, the only mournful face among a rabid crowd who cheer every neck that breaks in the noose.

With this cast, you might have thought that Hytner didn't need to emphasise anything, but he does a lot of damage to the film's final half-hour by sending the camera off on wild, skyward missions, or slapping George Fenton's score on to the soundtrack with a trowel. In the last minute he repents for his sins, permitting us to leave the cinema with only the creak of rope and wood in our ears.

The science-fiction comedy Mars Attacks! is a contrived B-movie pastiche with some spicy ingredients alien to other Tim Burton films: attitude, cynicism, misanthropy. As someone who had grown weary of Burton's coy, misunderstood heroes, it's a relief to see him ridicule one of his own beloved idiot savants - the teenage slacker who watches a Martian draw a circle in the air to symbolise earth, and gasps, "It's the international sign of the doughnut!" Burton's films have often been blithely funny. Now he's learning to laugh at himself. It's a step up.

He takes a typical Fifties science-fiction plot - little green men invade earth, motivated by a desire to shrink our population rather than expand our knowledge - and invests it with a twisted, despairing world-view. The aliens themselves are hyper-intelligent beings who use all the technology at their disposal to lark about like schoolkids: they play mid-massacre pranks on terrified earthlings, and sew the head of reporter Sarah Jessica Parker on to the body of her Chihuahua, though Parker does later go on to have a touching romance with an equally incapacitated Pierce Brosnan. If it sounds like the product of a drug-addled mind ... well, that's how it looks. It's all riotously puerile stuff, with beautifully judged turns from Jack Nicholson as the President, Glenn Close as the icy First Lady and Tom Jones as one of the unexpected saviours of mankind, a role we always knew he was destined for.

In the flashy new thriller Bound, you get two femmes fatales for the price of one. Violet (Jennifer Tilly) lives with the mobster Caesar (Joe Pantoliano). She has a wandering eye, but it wanders where you'd least expect it - no sooner has she laid eyes on her new neighbour, an ex-con named Corky (Gina Gershon), than she's popping round to her place, offering Corky the old "would-you-like-to-see-my-tattoo?" come-on. Their relationship moves fast, like the film. One moment they're exchanging bodily fluids, the next they're plotting to steal $2m of mob money from Caesar.

Bound is modern noir, with the obligatory iconography and a plot you need a flashlight to find your way out of. But it's hard to put your faith in film-makers whose Year Zero is Blood Simple. Everything here exists only in the eye of the camera. The directors, Larry and Andy Wachowski, keep interrupting the narrative to demonstrate the clever tricks they've learnt. Here's the camera following the kinks and curls along a telephone wire. Here it is emerging from the barrel of a gun. In fact, the only hole the camera doesn't do a slow zoom into is the one up which the Wachowskis have disappearedn

All films go on general release tomorrow

Ryan Gilbey

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Australia's Eurovision contestant and former Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian

Eurovision 2015Australian Idol winner unveiled as representative Down Under

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable