Review: Jimmy’s Hall

Jimmy’s Hall (dir. Ken Loach, 2014) 

Jimmys Hall

Nuance might be a feature of Ken Loach’s work that has long since left the building, but that’s not to say his latest work doesn’t fail to charm. The story of James “Jimmy” Gralton, the only Irishman to be deported from his own country, has Loach on tempestuous, didactic form, parleyed by sensitive performances from its cast that give more depth than Paul Laverty’s agitprop script seems to give. Jimmy’s Hall, like the second half of its closest Loach relative, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, pits itself in the aftermath of the Irish war of independence and the awkward political situation of Ireland in the early 1920s, where the progressive branches of republicanism were just as buried as they were under the British.

Read the rest of the review at CineVue

#Venice2013: Locke

Locke (dir. Steven Knight) 

Tom Hardy stars as a man on a car journey from hell in Locke, a real time thriller that never leaves the front seat of a BMW. It also happens to – probably – be the best film ever made about concrete.

Hardy has his best roles to date as Ivan Locke, a well-meaning and sensible site manager on a huge construction project in Birmingham, a role markedly different from his beefed up efforts in The Dark Knight Rises and Bronson. On the night before a vital concrete delivery, Locke receives a call from Bethan (Olivia Colman), who tells him she’s just gone into labour. We soon learn that Bethan is not his wife, but in fact a 43 -year-old woman he slept with on a job in London. She’s “not exactly an oil-painting” says Ivan (poor Olivia Colman!), and he claims to only have slept with her once, but over the course of the next 84 minutes, as Locke clocks down the M1 to join her - very much at the speed limit – his career, and his rock solid, if you like, solid concrete family life falls apart.

Along the way, Ivan conducts a vast number of phone conversations on his car’s speakerphone, not just with his wife, but his assistant from work (a chirpy Andrew Scott, Moriarty from Sherlock), various doctors and nurses, (including Sightseers’ Alice Lowe), and his kids who’re waiting for him to return for the big match on TV. The camera never leaves the car, and all we see of Hardy’s muscular frame is his upper body, but it doesn’t have the claustrophobic guise of Buried, the Ryan Reynolds thriller set in one box, instead embracing cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos’ cool night-time visuals.

It’s well put together for the most part by writer-director Steven Knight, most famous for scripting Stephen Frears’ Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises for David Cronenberg, with just about the right notch of tension as Ivan tries to juggle all his bitter moral troubles. Much of it zings along, and my worries of it feeling like a stage, or worse, a radio play proved unfounded as Hardy’s measured performance has enough complexity t o savour at. But too often the script slumps into contrivance, in particular an extended answer phone message towards the end from his son that descended into unnecessary mawkishness.

Still, the star here is Hardy who carries Locke’s pain with grace and poise, and a Welsh accent that wasn’t necessary, but very welcome. In a way it’s a pity Locke plays out of competition here – he’d have a chance at the best actor prize if it was.

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