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last update 5.May.13
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A Hijacking
3.5/5   Kapringen
dir-scr Tobias Lindholm
prd Rene Ezra, Tomas Radoor
with Pilou Asbaek, Soren Malling, Roland Moller, Abdihakin Asgar, Gary Skjoldmose Porter, Keith Pearson, Dar Salim, Amalie Ihle Alstrup, Linda Laursen, Amalie Vulff Andersen, Ole Dupont
asbaek release Den 20.Sep.12,
UK 10.May.13, US 14.Jun.13
12/Denmark 1h39


A Hijacking Adept filmmaking and a clever two-perspective approach make this film urgent and involving, even when the narrative structure falters. It's a story taken from the headlines, told with a documentary-style attention to detail and character. So it's a little frustrating that the timeline is so naggingly implausible.

On their way to Mumbai after a long voyage, the seven-man crew of an empty container ship is looking forward to flying home to Denmark. Then Somali pirates strike, taking the ship hostage. The pirate negotiator Oscar (Asgar) forces the cook Mikkel (Asbaek) to help communicate with the company director Peter (Malling) back in Copenhagen. But as Peter consults with an expert (Porter), the negotiations slow to a crawl. The situation on the ship gets increasingly tense over the following months, while in Denmark the executives try to keep a level head.

The parallel structure works cleverly to let us see events from various perspectives, so we don't necessarily have all the information until the point of view shifts again. Sometimes this feels a bit gimmicky, but the real problem is the way it messes with the pacing, as two or three weeks often pass between a simple question and its answer. These anachronisms continually throw us out of the situation, making us question the on-screen realism.

And it does look extraordinary, shot on a freighter as well as the actual offices of a shipping company. The actors never seem to be performing: interaction is awkward and strained, with moments of humour and terror along the way. Watching the hostages interact with their captors, we can see creeping camaraderie despite the fact that there are ill-trained fingers on the triggers. And tempers fray in a more psychological way back home, as executives carry on running a company and living their lives while their colleagues are suffering at sea.

Filmmaker Lindholm holds everything together cleverly, using gritty authenticity and a variety of plot twists to keep us gripped. He probably could have made it hang together a bit better if the ordeal was one month long, instead of nearly five. And as the final act begins to feel somewhat movie-like, we know there will be at least one shocking turn of events. But for sheer acting and filmmaking bravado, this is well worth a look.

15 themes, language, violence
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I’m So Excited!
3.5/5   Los Amantes Pasajeros
dir-scr Pedro Almodovar
prd Agustin Almodovar, Esther Garcia
with Javier Camara, Carlos Areces, Raul Arevalo, Cecilia Roth, Lola Duenas, Antonio de la Torre, Hugo Silva, Guillermo Toledo, Jose Luis Torrijo, Jose Maria Yazpik, Miguel Angel Silvestre, Paz Vega, Blanca Suarez, Nasser Saleh, Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz
camara, arevalo and areces
release Sp 8.Mar.13,
UK 3.May.13, US 28.Jun.13
13/Spain 1h30
I'm So Excited! Almodovar goes retro on us, veering back to the luridly colour-drenched style of his 1980s comedies. And beneath the almost overpoweringly cheap and goofy surface, he's undermining stereotypes and exploring complex matters of the heart, body and soul. Although most of the jokes are aimed at a gay audience.

Peninsula flight 2549 is on its way to Mexico when the pilot and copilot (de la Torre and Silva) are forced to consider an emergency landing, due to a problem caused by amorous ground crew members (Banderas and Cruz). On board the plane is Bruna (Duenas), a virginal psychic who sees death ahead. This causes everyone to start reconsidering their lives, as three stewards (Camara, Areces and Arevalo) try to distract their passengers from impending doom using choreographed dance numbers and mescaline-infused cocktails.

With the economy cabin knocked out for the trip, we only meet the first class passengers, each of whom has his or her own issues. Norma (Roth) is a famous dominatrix who services the country's most powerful men; Ricardo (Toledo) is running from his suicidal girlfriend (Vega); Mr Mas (Torrijo) is a businessman trying to find his missing daughter; Infanta (Yazpik) is a shady character; and a just-married groom (Silvestre) prefers his bride asleep. There are also romantic entanglements between the pilots and flight attendants.

All of these stories knot together like some sort of wacky 1970s Mexican telenovela, complete with broad performances and a wacky mariachi score by Alberto Iglesias. The densely coloured sets look flimsy and the pacing is extremely uneven, pinging around between nutty slapstick, sex-fuelled mayhem and more issue-based melodrama (Mr Mas has been caught in a very public corruption scandal). So the biggest laughs come from the barbed dialog between the three queeny stewards, whose snappy observations and eye-rolling interaction are genuinely hilarious.

Even so, those looking forward to Banderas and Cruz will be disappointed that they only appear in the brief prologue. While there are some provocative comments on sexuality, political hypocrisy and the darker sides of romance, the script breezes past these things with a knowing smirk. But audiences who appreciate Almodovar's dedication to re-creating the tackiness of a very specific genre may find themselves giggling helplessly.

15 themes, language, sexuality, some violence
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Mixed Kebab
dir-scr-prd Guy Lee Thys
with Cem Akkanat, Simon Van Buyten, Gamze Tazim, Lukas De Wolf, Ergun Simsek, Karlijn Sileghem, Tanja Cnaepkens, Hakan Gurkan, Recep Yagizoglu, Gokhan Girginol, Rudolph Segers, Alev Doruk
van buyten and akkanat release Bel 18.Sep.12,
UK 29.Apr.13
12/Belgium 1h40
Mixed Kebab While this film has the structure of an elaborate culture-clash comedy, the themes it churns up are very serious indeed, especially as it explores darker issues like radical religion and violent bigotry. But filmmaker Thys manages to maintain a light hand until things turn disturbing in the final act.

Bram (Akkanat) has an identity problem: he's both Turkish and Belgian, Muslim and gay. So his life in Antwerp is a whirl of transgression. He works as a waiter with a side business in selling drugs, and subtly flirts with Kevin (Van Buyten) even though he's promised to to marry his cousin Elif (Tazim) back in Turkey. But he doesn't know that she has the hots for local boy Yusuf (Gurkan). And as Bram considers coming out and pursuing something with Kevin, he knows he's opening Pandora's box.

The plot takes a farcical twist when the still-closeted Bram invites Kevin to travel to Turkey with him to meet Elif. As they begin to fall for each other, they're staying in a spa hotel where the photo-snapping Yusuf works. Meanwhile, Bram's teen brother Furkan (De Wolf) abandons his life of crime for radicalised Islam, encouraging their European-born Turkish parents (Simsek and Cnaepkins) to condemn Bram for his sexuality. The way all of this plays out sometimes feels contrived, but there are moments of real tension and emotion.

The film's tone is light and relaxed as it continually plays on culture clashes: gender politics, religious issues, homophobia, Turkish parents fretting over the libertarian Belgian school system, adults paying the price for their children's identities, and second-generation kids with no respect for either their heritage or the laws of their own country. As Bram is pushed into an increasingly nasty corner, he must decide whether he will live honestly or force himself to live up to his father's demands.

Intriguingly, all of this is played in a gently realistic way that sometimes feels a little underdeveloped. The actors all take a low-key, genuine approach to their roles, creating believable people we can identify with even when they do stupid things. And by refusing to drift too far into either wacky slapstick or overwrought melodrama, Thys leaves the themes hanging in the air for us to think about.

18 themes, language, violence, drugs
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Something in the Air
3/5  Après Mai
dir-scr Olivier Assayas
prd Charles Gillibert, Nathanael Karmitz
with Clement Metayer, Lola Creton, Felix Armand, Carole Combes, India Salvor Menuez, Hugo Conzelmann, Martin Loizillon, Mathias Renou, Lea Rougeron, Simon-Pierre Boireau, Paul Spera, Andre Marcon
metayer release Fr 14.Nov.12,
US 3.May.13, UK 24.May.13
12/France 2h02


Something in the Air Sharply well-made, this authentic, intelligent 1970s political coming-of-age drama is simply too dense. It's essentially a series of black-out scenes tracing the lives of young activists who grow and change before our eyes. And while filmmaker Assayas and his fine cast convey that beautifully, they never properly engage us.

Just outside Paris in 1971, Gilles (Metayer) is a teen art student who is actively involved in the anarchist movement with his friends Alain (Armand) and Jean-Pierre (Conzelmann), sneaking around printing fliers and lashing buildings with graffiti. After a caper goes violently wrong, they are forced to hide out for the summer with fellow activists in Italy. And since his girlfriend (Combes) has moved to London, Gilles starts seeing Christine (Creton). But she leaves too, forcing Gilles to re-evaluate his future.

The film is fast-paced and packed with ideas as the characters continually read from highbrow books and attend lectures while producing politically aware music and art. It's certainly not easy to join their intense conversations. These are unusually sober teens who don't indulge in very much youthful hedonism (the Americans they meet along the way are better at that). Even their approach to music, art and sex seems urgent and serious, perhaps due to the impact of much bigger student uprisings three years earlier.

Even so, Gilles' journey is intriguing as he struggles to find his voice as a painter and eventually turns to filmmaking instead. Along the way, he maintains his awkward relationships with both ex-girlfriends. Meanwhile, Alain runs off to Afghanistan to develop as a painter, and Jean-Pierre's run-in with the law changes him dramatically. As the characters evolve, the actors all catch tiny telling details in their performances.

Assayas recreates the period impeccably, with Eric Gautier's sunny cinematography and lots of groovy music. The clashes between students and police are extremely realistic, and the film continually uses fire to make its point, as everything seems to be going up in flames. And the students are the ones igniting the spark. But the plot is badly diffused over the long series of events, cutting away from Gilles to dip into other characters' stories as well. So in the end, it's more informative than entertaining.

15 themes, language, violence, nudity, drugs
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