Peter Watkins, The Universal Clock and The Monoform

First published on Spike Magazine (May 8th 2011) //

Writer and director Peter Watkins has dedicated his career to exploring the limits of docudrama filmmaking. After the BBC suppressed transmission of The War Game in 1965, most of Watkins work has been produced in Scandinavia and British interest in subsequent films has been curiously absent. Declan Tan investigates why

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Essential Killing (2010) Review

First published on Snipe //

Jerzy Skolimowski (writer of Knife in the Water, writer-director of Deep End, actor in Before Night Falls) is clearly not a bad sort. His credits speak for themselves. And on top of writing one of Polanski’s greatest hits, he’s won a Golden Bear, Special Jury prizes galore and was even in Eastern Promises, which wasn’t such a farce either.

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Route Irish (2010) Review

First published on Snipe //

Ken Loach’s take on Iraq was always going to be one to look out for. After In Our Name, Green Zone, The Hurt Locker and a slurry of others sent hot and steaming down the pipe of supposedly cantankerous cinema, Route Irish is a welcome return to veracity that has undoubtedly been amiss in previous war-film efforts. This isn’t to say that those other films aren’t sincere. Surely their respective producers think and believe the things they project up onto the screen, supposed wisdom in a blindfold, it’s just that no one as qualified or well-informed as Loach has bothered to make a mystery/thrillerama like this, until now.

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Howl (2010) Review

First published on Snipe //

As well as telling the story of the 1957 obscenity trial concerning City Lights Books’ publication of the seminal poem, Howl, Friedman and Epstein’s film attempts to navigate the murky juices of Allen Ginsberg’s life and work during the 1950s, with a little slick black and white reconstruction of some of 20th Century literature’s most seditious moments to boot. And it fails to do any of it convincingly.

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West Is West (2010) Review

First published on Snipe //

Starring: Om Puri, Robert Pugh, Jimi Mistry
Directed: Andy DeEmmony

As the long-awaited sequel to the 1999 breakout hit that was East is East, comes scribe Ayub Khan-Din’s West is West, a continuation of the Salford-set story of Sajid (Aqib Khan), jumping us forward five years to 1976. Except this time the plot moves the family (or at least 2 members of it, initially) out from the bleak chip chop and terraces of Greater Manchester to father George’s motherland, Pakistan.

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The King’s Speech (2011) Review

First published on Snipe //

Starring: Colin Firth, Helena Bonham-Carter, Geoffrey Rush
Directed by: Tom Hooper

Welcome to the throwback film of the century. You already know the story thanks to the BAFTA-soaked hype parade (and the ubiquitous trailers), and you’re vaguely familiar with the history, World War II and all that (though you won’t be too much the wiser by the end of this movie). On top of this, before even a single frame is set on the screen, prepare to be shunted into a retrogressive state of thinking: that the ruling of a pillaged Empire is something to take great patriotic pride in.

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The Fighter (2011) Review

First published on Snipe //

As unimaginative and uninvolving as it is, The Fighter still manages to (insert boxing pun) throw a few punches before (here’s another one) the final bell, though admittedly it’s identical to every other underdog boxing movie you’ve ever seen. It couldn’t be more predictable, even if you already know the tale of “Irish” Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), with the only element of this different to any other pugilistic picture being that there’s a crackhead or two involved. And a greedy mother. Which both seemed to have gotten this one fast-tracked into production.

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