The Unfettered Critic – October 2017

Okay, we’ll admit it. We haven’t reviewed much cinema this year. Frankly, we weren’t inspired by Hollywood’s offerings in 2017. Yes, we liked Wonder Woman (a lot) but many of the other films left us—hmm—we believe the correct word in the current parlance would be “meh.” Look it up.

Until recently, even the trailers for upcoming movies failed to move us. But something strange happened last week. We saw trailers for three films that looked as though they might be good. In fact, they looked sensational.

Disclosure: they’re all biographical. As you may have noticed, we’re suckers for a good biopic, and all of these were inspired by Important Historical Events. But before you say “History? Meh!” and move on to a different page, let us remind you that those who don’t care to remember the past are doomed to repeat it. Also, that some of these films, when juxtaposed with current events, are frighteningly timely.

That said, let’s take a peek:

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House (September 29): If the name Mark Felt doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps the name “Deep Throat,” which Sony apparently (and smartly) opted not to call this movie, will. The identity of Deep Throat, the government insider who provided Washington Post reporters with critical details about the Watergate scandal that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation as President, was a closely held secret for over three decades. Although Felt acknowledged his role in 2005, the public is largely unfamiliar with what drove him—once the FBI’s second in command—to risk his reputation and his career by assisting the Post’s Bob Woodward. This film—starring a grim, tough-talking Liam Neeson as Felt—promises to fill in the gaps.

Darkest Hour (November 22): Winston Churchill was not his own party’s first pick as Prime Minister of England in the turbulent days preceding World War II, but he was the only conservative candidate of whom the opposing party approved. Thus, just a few ticks of the clock before France and Belgium were about to yield to an onslaught of Hitler’s troops, the new Prime Minister faced an extremely tough decision: negotiate a peace treaty between England and Nazi Germany—or declare outright war against der Führer during a period when Churchill’s countrymen had not yet recovered from the physical and psychological wounds of the Great War two decades earlier. You probably know what the Prime Minister decided, but the performance of actor Gary Oldman as Churchill—almost unrecognizable beneath stunningly realistic prosthetic makeup designed by Kazuhiro Tsuji—should be a revelation.

The Current War (November 24): Brilliant inventors—particularly those with competing ideas—don’t necessarily rise to prominence because they play nice. The Current War isn’t about our present conflicts with Iran or North Korea. It’s about an earlier battle between the men competing to establish an electrical system that soon would power the modern world. You likely know about the sizzling rivalries between men like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, and even Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. But do you know the story of the cutthroat competition waged between Thomas Edison (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) over the long-term superiority of direct current (favored by Edison) versus alternating current (favored by Westinghouse and backed by inventor Nikolai Tesla)?

If we haven’t convinced you to delve into the past, we also recommend an offering that’s dramatically futuristic: Star Wars: The Last Jedi debuts December 15. We saw a trailer for that too—and predict it will sell a few tickets.

Featured image: Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)