Films of the week: A subtle study of injustice and oppression


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The Independent Culture


A Separation

11.50pm Sky Movies Premiere

(Asghar Farhadi, 2011) Applying a line from Jean Renoir, "the real hell of life is everyone has his reasons," to faultlines in Iranian society, Asghar Farhadi mounts a rigorous study of class, gender and religious tensions on the back of a marital and courtroom drama. Moral certainties fluctuate but emotional wallop and resonance are sustained by Farhadi's aim to give everyone their due. Peyman Moadi and Leila Hatami star.*****


Mesrine: Killer Instinct

9pm BBC4

(Jean-Francois Richet, 2008) It's best viewed alongside its follow-up, Public Enemy No 1, but the first half of this firecracker true-crime two-parter still delivers a horribly gripping account of how Jacques Mesrine gained notoriety in France. Vincent Cassel blazes with charisma as the feral felon; the plot powers through the atrocities that made him infamous. There's no time for reflection, but that's what part two is for.****



7pm Film4

(Henry Selick, 2009) Based on Neil Gaiman's novella, this gleefully warped stop-motion animation offers darker stuff than sugar, spice and all things nice. A bored girl finds a mirror world of her imagination, but entry comes at a cost: its "Other Mother" wants her eyeballs. Twisting worlds of wonder into gnarled shapes, Selick's cute-free vision gives children's imaginations their wild due: think Alice in Guillermo del Toro-land.****


The Wicker Man

11.45pm ITV4

(Robin Hardy, 1973) Teasingly scripted by Anthony Shaffer, Robin Hardy's slyly satirical cult classic probes a clash of faiths via the tale of a copper investigating a missing child on remote Summerisle. A lively Britt Ekland, a lordly Christopher Lee and some lewd locals aren't all that await Edward Woodward: the more he probes, the more his piety entangles him in the threads leading to one of cinema's grimmest twists.****


Slumdog Millionaire

9pm More4

(Danny Boyle, 2008) Mimicking Tigger, Danny Boyle bounded on to the stage to accept his Oscar for this pell-mell, picaresque fairytale. Its "feelgood" pitch seems a bit rum for a film involving forced prostitution, poverty and police violence. But Boyle found a lust for life on Trainspotting's mean streets – and he does something similar here, only more so, fuelling a Mumbai-set rags-to-riches romance with irrepressible verve.****



1.35pm & 9pm Sky Movies Sci-fi & Horror

(Christopher Nolan, 2010) "You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling," says Tom Hardy. Chris Nolan's head-space anti-heist thriller doesn't. Hired to "plant" an idea in Cillian Murphy's mind, Leonardo DiCaprio's dream-plunger navigates multiple dream-levels and set-pieces; meanwhile, Nolan grafts mayhem to a meditation on memory, mourning and the architecture of movies. Hollywood rarely dreams so big.*****


The Tree of Life

1.15pm & 7.30pm Sky Movies Indie

(Terrence Malick, 2011) Terrence Malick's cogitation on creation sounds trite on paper, not least if you were to describe its climactic, bathetic vision of heaven. But his magnetic command of his medium is hypnotic. Never mind the afterlife: Malick conjures a poetic-realist sigh of wonder at life's joys and agonies, his raw material luminous images and performances so natural that even Brad Pitt seems human.*****