Film reviews: Jodie Foster's Money Monster, Bobby, The Daughter, The Trust

Jodie Foster’s drama tugs in far too many directions at once ever to be really satisfactory, whilst police thriller The Trust is on a road to nowhere

Geoffrey Macnab
Wednesday 25 May 2016 18:35
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Despite big-name talent such as George Clooney, ‘Money Monster’ lacks ambition
Despite big-name talent such as George Clooney, ‘Money Monster’ lacks ambition

Money Monster (15)
★★☆☆

Jodie Foster, 99 mins, starring: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O'Connell, Dominic West, Caitriona Balfe, Christopher Denham

Jodie Foster’s drama tugs in far too many directions at once to ever be really satisfactory. On the one hand, this is a film about corporate greed, income inequality and the contempt among the elite for the little man.

On the other, it’s a hostage saga set in a TV studio. As a satire on the media, it has echoes of both Sidney Lumet’s Network and of Martin Scosese’s The King Of Comedy but isn’t a patch on either of them.

George Clooney plays Lee Gates, a smug and abrasive TV personality with his own show, Money Monster, in which he offers stock market tips. Jack O’Connell is Kyle Budwell, the downtrodden American everyman who lost all his money following Lee's advice and who raids the TV studio in the middle of a broadcast to take Lee hostage.

Dominic West and Catriona Balfe are shadowy Wall Street types, senior executives at Ibis Clear Capital, whose stock price has mysteriously crashed. Julia Roberts is Lee’s tough and resourceful producer.

Foster does a fair job of cranking up the tension but the plotting here is very predictable. There is also the sense that punches are being pulled. Lee Gates initially seems cowardly and obnoxious but the character is softened by some of that familiar old Clooney charm.

O’Connell’s Kyle likewise becomes ever more sympathetic the longer the siege lasts. Money Monster is entertaining enough as a thriller. It is also strangely undercharged and lacking in ambition given the talent behind it.

Bobby (PG)
★★☆☆

Ron Scalpello, 95 mins, starring: Jeff Powell, Harry Redknapp, Tina Moore, Sir Geoff Hurst, Tony Carr, George Cohen, Gordon Banks

This hagiographical but very moving documentary celebrates (and laments) Bobby Moore, England’s World Cup-winning captain in 1966. For a more nuanced account of Moore’s life and career, it’s worth turning to Matt Dickinson’s recent biography of him or to Tony Palmer’s 2002 film.

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Beyond the fact that Moore was called “tubby” and “fatso” at school and didn’t always make the best business decisions later in his life, critical insights here are at a minimum. Moore is described as having “the aura of a prince”.

Ray Davies from The Kinks likens him to Roy of the Rovers and Dan Dare. Pele calls him “the most honest defender” he ever played against. Moore emerges as a thoroughly decent and admirable figure with a very English understatement about him (one reason he didn’t disclose the fact that he had cancer). He was selfless, dapper and charming.

As several of the interviewees, including current FA chairman Greg Dyke, point out, the governing body treated him after he retired with a negligence verging on contempt. Commentator Jonathan Pearce, who worked with Moore on radio, has a wonderful anecdote about the two of them crossing a square full of hooligans fighting after a World Cup match.

Pearce was Sancho Panza to Moore’s Don Quixote - and all the fans stopped their brawling to pay respects to Moore. The account of Moore’s untimely death, aged only 51, can’t help but bring a lump to the throat.

The Daughter (15)

★★☆☆

Simon Stone, 96 mins, starring: Geoffrey Rush, Anna Torv, Sam Neill, Miranda Otto, Paul Schneider

This very sombre Aussie drama, adapted from Ibsen’s The Wild Duck, sees Christian, a troubled man (Paul Schneider) returning home for his father’s marriage to a much younger woman after a long exile.

The father, Henry (Geoffrey Rush) owns a local saw mill that is now set to close, with a potentially devastating effect on the local community. Christian’s mother committed suicide many years before and he blames his father for the death.

Stone shoots the film in a dark and brooding fashion. Very little sunshine intrudes in this little order of rural Australia – and even when it does, the shadows are always accentuated. Christian is a recovering alcoholic who still can’t shake his appetite for the booze.

His arrival stirs up painful memories and secrets in the seemingly close-knit community. The younger generation is still suffering as a result of the greed, corruption and infidelity of its parents.

As drama, this is downbeat and depressive but Stone elicits committed and intense performances from an excellent cast and his low-key naturalistic approach is at least occasionally leavened by moments of lyricism.

The Trust (15)

★★☆☆

Benjamin Brewer, Alex Brewer, 90 mins, starring: Nicolas Cage, Elijah Wood, Jerry Lewis

This misfiring thriller follows two lowly Las Vegas cops (Nicolas Cage and Elijah Wood),‎ who stage their own Hatton Garden-style break-in to steal money and valuables from the mob. The filmmakers are aiming for a cynical and ironic tone akin to that found in Joseph Wambaugh stories about harassed and corrupt cops on the take.

Cage, wearing a big moustache, is a seemingly genial figure but one with a pronounced psychopathic streak. Wood, a very long way removed from his Lord of the Rings glory days, is a womanising, drug-taking small timer, essentially decent but easily led astray by his friend. They're on the road to nowhere and that's where the film is headed too.

Warcraft: The Beginning (PG)

★★☆☆

Duncan Jones, 123 mins, starring: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell

With millions of people having played Warcraft, there is likely a wealth of nostalgia-seeking players looking to relive their teenage adventures. Yet, it’s not just this select audience Universal are appealing to; Warcraft: The Beginning has a $160m (£110m) budget, suggesting the studio hopes families and other fantasy fans will venture out to see the film.

Unfortunately, Warcraft will do little to ensnare those not already enamoured by Azeroth’s long and complicated history. While visually spectacular – the CGI is phenomenal – attempting to understand this world and relate to these characters is something of a challenge.

The film opens with members of the Orcish Horde, led by the evil Gul’Dan (Daniel Wu), travelling through a large green portal to the aforementioned world of Azeroth. Soon after, a young mage named Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) incidentally discovers that a dark magic has manifested itself in the world, and with the help of a reluctant Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) informs King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper).

Eventually, we are introduced to Medivh (Ben Foster), the Guardian of Azeroth, who teams up with Anduin and Khadgar; their plan is to capture one of the monsters and find out where 'the Horde' came from. On their journey, the trio – along with some other canon fodder warriors – are quickly ambushed by Orcs in a wonderful set-piece, eventually capturing the half-Orc, half-human, Garona (Paula Patton).

She persuades the humans to meet Durotan (Toby Kebbell), the lead orc protagonist, who has hatched a plan to defeat Gul’Dan and usher in peace between humans and Orcs.

Of course, things don’t go as planned; characters die, two CGI battle takes place, and the audience is left wondering: “Wait, who is that again? Was their name Luther or Aragon?”

This is the main overarching plot, yet, somehow – in amongst the boardroom meetings and battles – a dire romantic subplot takes place, Medivh’s intentions are questioned, and Khadgar becoming the next “Guardian of the Realm” is hinted at countlessly.

It becomes almost impossible to keep up, not helped by the lack of individual character development. A quick example, concerning our lead human protagonist, Anduin. Both his relationship with his plot-device son and with Garona are rushed, underdeveloped, lacking nearly all emotional oomph (his apparent longstanding friendship with Medivh is non-existent).

Even with conversations attempting to give the film some emotional gravitas, there’s constantly a lack of personal conviction, leading to further stale meetings concerning unpronounceable locations and war strategies.

This isn’t helped by some lacking performances; many of the actors portraying humans are phoning it in. Conversely, it is those underneath the CGI who are most enjoyable; Kebbell’s Durotan expresses fantastic amounts of emotion through his Orc’s face while Wu’s Gul’Dan is genuinely menacing.

Undoubtedly, comparisons will be made to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, three films that gloriously show off a fantasy land (Middle Earth/New Zealand) while developing loving relationships between characters. What makes the heart sink is that Warcraft could do this – instead of wide shots of Shire-like locations, Warcraft is forever trapped inside castles, only giving the viewer glimpses of this magnificent world.

After all the plot building, it’s frustrating the film ends with no real conclusion. Warcraft so obviously wants a sequel (thus The Beginning tagline) and you can’t help but feel a little shortchanged. After two brilliant films (Moon, Source Code), it feels as though the fanboy within Duncan Jones got carried away with Azeroth's minute mythology, leading to a film filled with tonnes of references to the wider world but no real soul of its own.

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