Jackie – Review

With the Oscars now on everyone’s mind, a movie comes along with an unexpected bang. Jackie is the biopic that gives perspective on Jacqueline Kennedy’s struggle following the assassination of JFK. Director Pablo Larraín and leading lady Natalie Portman combine to produce a film that is destined to take awards.

Straight out of the blocks, this becomes obvious. There should never be any doubting Natalie Portman’s ability. Her Academy Award for Black Swan was deserved, but after a minute of seeing her as the title lead, it’s clear she is about to scale new heights. She really is that good here. To say “engaging” is an understatement. Playing the woman that was once above every female on earth, she steals the big screen and makes a world that is all hers.

The narrative follows suit. Jackie is sat with an unnamed journalist, pouring her heart out while strictly editing what is permissible to print. This interview then cuts between events, before and after the death of her husband, even from one interview to another. It is cleverly edited to create a cohesive stream of consciousness.

It does make you wonder if it is a work within a work. We see her retell the story as she wants it now, laid bare, revealing her historical interview to be a fictional tale. It begs the question: is this just a new fiction, shaped by the passage of time?

If it is a less-than-true account, it doesn’t matter. The power of the ideals and ideas deserve this platform.

Watching it, you feel as if it is the sixties. Clever cinematography and an aspect ratio that won’t leave borders when it anamorphic widescreens to your telly to create the illusion. The performers use the canvas well. Any danger the attempt to make the past feel alive at the expense of a modern big movie experience is cancelled out by Mica Levi’s score.

A feel that is pounding with drama and driven by Jackie’s heartbeat is taken to a dramatic high with the soundtrack. Which is no mean feat when the leading lady delivers so much.

Portman gives a decade defining, generation setting, career high performance.

It’ll be a matter of opinion if the graphic scenes are gratuitous. The horror is at first hinted, then after living Jackie’s pain (through Portman’s perfect performance), finally revealed in full. Did we need to see it? Perhaps. Why should the viewer be shielded from that haunting vision after being an emotional vampire on Jackie’s neck?

The most famous assassination in history now has a story that isn’t interested in any conspiracy. It’s about what the focus should have been all along: real people coping with loss.

Surprisingly, the film is a 100/1 shot for Best Picture at the Academy Awards and Pablo Larraín isn’t even getting a mention for Best Director. Natalie Portman is currently second favourite behind Emma Stone for Best Actress. If she doesn’t take the award, it will be a travesty. Whether or not the film sits right with you, is paced correctly, or has the intended impact, is subjective.

What is factual is how Portman’s performance surpasses anything else we’ll see this year – potentially this decade.

9/10

Legend (2015) – Review

Everyone loves a gangster flick. The Americans have a plethora to choose from. It’s debatable if Goodfellas bests The Godfather, or maybe Scarface is more your thing. British efforts are a bit more wide boy and in your face. So what happens if you take a real life British gangster crime story and turn it into a movie?

If you choose to dabble with the most famous of all British gangsters you are dealing with the Kray twins, Ronnie and Reggie. The film you’ll end you with is The Krays from 1990. Hold yer horses, guv. What if we want to make the Krays fit into an Americanised biopic? Ah, should have said. Then you’ll end up 2015’s Legend.

Director Brian Helgeland is better known for his writing credits (L.A. Confidential) but did direct Payback (you may have missed that corker). He has taken the history of the most notorious London criminals and decided the truth shouldn’t get in the way of a good story. Unfortunately, the story of The Krays is good enough. Instead, his fictionalised version of events lacks direction and purpose.

Key moments, like the murders that eventually convicted the twins, are shoehorned into a story narrated by Emily Browning’s Frances Shea. Yeah, that’s right folks, the story is told from the perspective of a ghost whose real life interactions vary depending on which person’s account you believe.

It’s a shame to degrade her input when Browning’s performance is so strong. That is a running theme of the film, cracking performances hidden in a below average flick.

Christopher Eccleston, as always, proves what a versatile actor he is. His hunting as Scotland Yard’s Nipper Read deserved more screen time.

The true star of the show is Tom Hardy. So powerful and diverse are his turns as both twins, it has you believing two separate actors are playing the roles. His appearance here further underlines his place as one of the best performers of this generation.

If only the script could have given Hardy the platform he richly deserved. Instead the movie labours through cockney narration plastered onto a disingenuous wannabe Hollywood background. The result is something that could easily drift to TV movie, if not for the star power on display.

The story only charts the peak years of The Krays’ rule, from cutting deals with Las Vegas bosses to ruling London without opposition. Their downfall was portrayed as an inward problem rather than being taken bested.

Sadly, that sums up the film. It should have been the peak of the boys on camera, an all-star cast and decent budget. Instead it moves them into mediocrity. Often gangster films are criticised for glamorising the lifestyle. No such problem here. It looked pretty mundane through the eyes of Brian Helgeland.

Worth watching to enjoy Tom Hardy, but have a crossword puzzle or a Sudoku on the go for (the many) sections where the film stutters along.

5/10