In most French dramas about the middle classes in crisis, the protagonists live in such idyllic houses that our sympathy comes mixed with the feeling that we wouldn't mind a crisis like that ourselves.
Full marks to Catherine Corsini, then, for highlighting the economic realities which her peers so often disregard with a Gallic shrug. Her new film, Leaving, stars Kristin Scott Thomas as a doctor's wife who lives in a chic villa in sun-kissed Nîmes. She's planning to resume work as a physiotherapist after 15 years of raising her children, so her husband (Yvan Attal) hires a swarthy handyman (Sergi Lopez) to build her a consulting room.
The two strangers are drawn to each other, and we're expecting a secret fling, but Scott Thomas announces to her husband almost immediately that she's moving out to be with her lover. This, though, is easier said than done. The vindictive Attal restricts her access to the family's assets, and having breezed through a life of bourgeois luxury, Scott Thomas is forced to grapple with the issues of where to live and what to live on. Love doesn't necessarily conquer all, not without a bank account to back it up.
Scott Thomas has had a remarkable career revival in France, and in Leaving, which earnt her a César nomination, she's better than ever. Layer by layer, her pristine surface is stripped away, first when the affair turns her into a grinning schoolgirl, and then when the battle with her husband twists her into a ferocious force of nature. As a whole, Leaving is a pointed, grown-up melodrama – although I wonder if the female writer-director would be so unjudgemental if it were the husband who deserted his spouse and children.
Say what you like about Predators, but you can't fault the opening: the hero, Adrien Brody, wakes up to find himself plummeting thousands of feet through the air with a recalcitrant parachute on his back. Seconds later, he lands in a jungle, and several other people fall from the sky in a similar manner. They're all soldiers or professional killers, but none of them know what's happening. Are they hallucinating? Have they been kidnapped? At a time when so many blockbusters open with minutes' worth of voice-over and captions spelling out what's going on, it's bracing to be thrown into a film where some suspense is allowed to build instead.
The title gives it away, of course: Predators dusts off the Predator franchise, which began when Arnold Schwarzenegger went toe-to-toe with a dreadlocked alien in 1987. Anyone who's seen that film or one of its many spin-offs will have some idea of what's in store, but if the rest of Predators is too familiar to be as effective as that skydiving opening, it's still far wittier than most recent action and horror reboots.
Produced by Robert Rodriguez, Predators has the romping vitality that Rodriguez's films tend to have, plus the tight focus they usually lack. In short, it feels like the start of a franchise, not the tail end of one.
Nicholas Barber sees whether Toy Story 3 lives up to the buzz
Also Showing: 11/07/2010
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (121 mins, 12A)
At the start of Eclipse, the third film to be adapted from Stephenie Meyer's vampire teen-romance novels, Bella (Kristen Stewart) and her undead boyfriend (Robert Pattinson) are lolling in a meadow, discussing marriage. At the end of the film, they're doing exactly the same. In the intervening two hours ... well, Bella graduates from high school, hangs around with a shirtless werewolf (Taylor Lautner), and attends lectures about how terrible it is to be an immortal superhuman. But that's about it until we get to an admittedly rousing fight scene later on. It's bizarre to hear that Meyer's final Twilight book is to be spread across two films, considering that this enervated instalment has scant material for one.
Gangster's Paradise: Jerusalema (118 mins, 15)
If you haven't seen enough of South Africa in recent weeks, don't miss this clumsily titled but exhilarating crime saga. It follows its charming anti-hero from hawking fake perfume in mid-Nineties Soweto to establishing himself as a racketeering kingpin in contemporary Johannesburg, a trajectory influenced by Hollywood gangster films and Donald Trump's autobiography. The spectacular shoot-outs are underpinned by wry satire on "the new South Africa": car-jacking is simply "affirmative repossession". It has a cracking soundtrack, vibrant colours, and only one mention of football.
The Seventh Dimension (90 mins, 15)
A gang of conspirators in a high-rise flat hack into secret Vatican archives in order to decrypt the Bible Code. This low-budget British supernatural thriller is hysterical in more ways than one, but despite being unreasonably incompetent, it buzzes with so much loopy ambition that it should appeal to bad film lovers everywhere.Reuse content