Film reviews: Restrepo | Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow | Vampires Suck
Restrepo (15)**** Directed by: Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger
WITH Restrepo, a clear-headed and gripping account of a platoon of US soldiers deployed to Afghanistan's deadly Korengal Valley, documentary film-making appears to have achieved a level of visceral intensity that rivals the jacked-up, heart-in-mouth tension that was previously the preserve of the best fiction film-makers. Embedded in the most perilous place in the world with a crew of young soldiers inching their way towards minimal gains with maximum sacrifices, film-makers Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger's ability to immerse us in realities of the conflict in a way that captures at least some of the adrenaline-rushing thrill and fear of being caught in a firefight is a real boundary-pushing achievement. What gives the film added depth is the way they intercut the action (and the tedium) of day-to-day combat with raw, unsentimental, after-the-fact testimony from the surviving soldiers as they try to process what they went through and what their mission meant to them – both at the time and with the benefit of hindsight. The interview scenes tip their hat to the great documentarian Errol Morris and, juxtaposed with the astonishing war scenes, help generate a healthy respect for what these men have been through without promoting any kind of political agenda.
Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow (U)***
Directed by: Sophie Fiennes
Documentary maker Sophie Fiennes (Hoover Street Revival) has an unobtrusive directorial style that tends to avoid explanations about the subjects on which she chooses to focus, and instead seeks to create understanding or provide illumination by examining the spaces and the distances between people and their environment to reveal the story behind the story. Her latest subject is Anselm Kiefer, the German industrial artist who took over a derelict silk factory in the South of France in the early 1990s and proceeded to transform it into a bizarre and haunting alternate world with a series of remarkable sculptures, structures and huge wonky towers (among other things). Fiennes first introduces to these in an astonishing opening sequence that sees her camera drift ominously through this cavernous world uncovering its myriad treasures, all the while accompanied by a striking classical score that gives the film the epic feel of the start of 2001 or There Will Be Blood. From here the film proceeds to let us see the artist and his team at work. There's no running commentary about his place in the art world, but as the camera observes people smashing panes of glass or torching metal, the film does provide a surprisingly poetic picture of the inelegant process sometimes required to create beautiful things.
Vampires Suck (12A)*
Directed by: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer
Starring: Jen Proske, Matt Lanter, Chris Riggi
IT MIGHT seem like an impossible task to make a movie that's simultaneously more tedious and less funny than the last couple of Twilight films, but Hollywood chancers Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer – the cinematic karaoke merchants behind the non-joke Epic/Superhero/Disaster Movie franchise – have managed just that with this woeful parody of the tween vampire sensation. In taking aim at a series so sincere it practically has a "kick me" sign stuck to its back, Vampires Suck misses its targets in spectacular fashion thanks to the directors' usual approach of simply recreating scenes from the original movies without any real understanding of what to satirise or even how to go about it. The closest it gets to a joke is the way lead actress Jen Proske frequently brushes her hair behind her ear in mimicry of Twilight star Kristen Stewart's most egregious nervous tic, but any laughter dies in the throat the moment you realise that not only is this as good as it's going to get, but that this same joke is going to be stretched out for the film's 80-minute runtime. Never mind vampires, it's movies like this that really suck.
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