Thrill Strand 2015
Whether its sleepy, coastal Nordic towns, Eval Kineval jumping buses, corrupt Spanish bankers getting their comeuppance, or Steve McQueen risking it all to make the ultimate racing movie, if you like “nerve-shredders that’ll get your adrenalin pumping and keep you on the edge of your seat”, then you’ve come to the right place with this year’s London Film Festival Thrill Strand.
Beeba Boys (Deepa Mehta, Canada, 2015)
Headlining this year’s Thrill Strand is Beeba Boys, the latest film from critically acclaimed Indo-Canadian director Deepa Mehta (Elements Trilogy, Midnight’s Children). This energetic gangster film explores Vancouver’s drug cartels, its Sikh immigrant community, and South Asian family values, and how all can (or can’t) co-exist.
Suited and booted gang the Beeba Boys are led by Jeet Johar, and they’re on the rise. In their attempts to take over the local drugs market they have left a trail of blood, death and destruction. However, Jeet is leading something of a double life, as when he’s not managing his gang of well dressed thugs, he’s doing his best to be the respectful son his mother expects, follow his religion as closely as his job will allow, and trying to keep his family from completely falling apart. When the Beeba Boys try to muscle in on local Don Robbie Grewal’s turf, he isn’t happy, and the fallout threatens to rip apart the lives of all the families involved, as well as teach Jeet and his boys the true meaning of betrayal, in the film’s spectacular showdown. Accompanied by a high energy Bhangra hip-hop soundtrack, and sharp comedy resonant of Tarantino, Beeba Boys explores if and how a gangster can also be a man of faith, in a way that can only be done by Deepa Mehta.
Thrill Strand 2015
Assassination (Choi Dong-hoon, South Korea, 2015)
Taking the spirit of Quentin Tarantino and his historical revisionism of Inglorious Basterds, and skilfully blending it with grit and thrills typical of the Korean film genre, Choi Dong-hoon creates this colourful period drama about a nation out to change their own fate and the course of history.
During the 1930s and the Japanese occupation of Korea, the exiled Korean government in Shanghai are devising a plan to send three assassins in to kill two specific Japanese targets. But Japanese spies are on to them and now the enemy is one step ahead, hiring mercenary Hawaii Pistol to dispose of the trio. Playing fast and loose with history, sending his men, and woman, on a mission to change the future, Choi creates a smart, witty tale of subterfuge and double dealing, with a killer twist.
Being Evel (Daniel Junge, USA, 2015)
There are few names are as recognisable in the world of sports history as Evel Knievel and today, long after he hung up his famous white leathers his name is still synonymous with the dangerous lifestyle he lead. After its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in February, Being Evel has gone on to receive praise from critics, filmgoers and motorbike fans alike. Rather than documenting the countless ramp to ramp to jumps, and attempts at jumping London buses, Being Evel, co-produced by stunt man Johnny Knoxville, takes a look behind the superstar, death-defying motorcyclist, at a young boy named Robert Kinevel from Butte, Montana, his teens plagued with petty theft, but his sights set on superstardom.
Guilty (Meghna Gulzar, India, 2015)
Based on the controversial Noiba Double Murder Case that shook India to its core in 2008, Guilty is a gripping ‘whodunit’ film telling the story of the murder of a 14 year old girl, believed to have died at the hands of her parents in an ‘honour killing’. When local police have no luck determining the killer, a top detective is brought in to solve the case, but as he starts to uncover new evidence and discovers disturbing facts about the original investigation including forensic evidence destroyed by the local police force, pointing to a new and previously unsuspected culprit.
As these scandalous new findings spread like wildfire via the sensationalist world press, the case quickly switches to a trial by media (as the 2008 case has been heavily criticised for) and becomes a game of politics and betrayal, as the lone detective must decide whether to play the game, or risk everything and fight for the truth.
The Ones Below (David Farr, UK, 2015)
Cleverly exploring the issues and fears surround expectant parents The Ones Below follows the lives of Kate and Justin, a successful and wealthy couple, and those of their new downstairs neighbours Theresa and Jon. After discovering their new neighbours are also expecting a baby Theresa and Kate strike up a tentative friendship, but while Kate is filled with fears and doubts about her pregnancy and impending motherhood, Theresa on the other hand is filled with joy and excitement at the prospect of her new arrival.
When Kate and Justin invite their new friends over for dinner one evening things take an unexpected twist, and a tragic accident ruins the evening and threatens life as they know it.
Rattle the Cage (Mijid-Al Ansari, UAE-Jordan, 2015)
Rattle The Cage is a spectacular, inventive and fast paced directional debut from Emirati filmmaker Mijid-Al Ansari. When Talal wakes up in a jail cell battered and bruised and with no ID, he waits helplessly for his situation to be solved, but as he discovers he is merely a pawn in a much bigger, messier and bloodier game being played by mysterious linchpin Dabaan. Taut and refreshing this film defies what we have come to expect from Middle Eastern cinema in recent decades in the most delightful and thrilling ways possible.
Remember (Atom Egoyan, USA, 2015)
In this stunning study of the nature of evil Christopher Plummer plays Zev, an elderly German Jew who made a pact with his best friend Max to hunt down and kill Nazi commandant Otto Walisch, the name who ordered the deaths of both his and Max’s families. Following his wife’s death Zev sets out to pursue four men, all German immigrants matching Walisch’s description who relocated to the USA shortly after the end of the Second World War.
As Zev hits the road, his need and desire for justice far outweighs his fear, but already succumbing to Alzheimer’s disease, this road movie follows a man struggling to come to terms with his present at the same time as facing the ghosts of his past.
Retribution (Dani de la Torre, Spain, 2015)
Dani de la Torre’s suspenseful directional debut Retribution is the stuff of high-concept Hollywood action movies but without the usual clichéd macho man dramatics. Investment banker Carlos is having second thoughts about his involvement in a scam involving thousands of Euros worth of junk bonds, but it seems his doubts are too little too late. On the school run Carlos receives a phone call informing him his car is rigged with explosives that will go off if any of the passengers leave their seats – that is unless a very expensive ransom is paid.
With all the usual dramatics striped back, this single location thriller becomes about a troubled and vulnerable man who will do anything to save his family.
Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Berthelet, USA, 1916)
Previously thought to be a lost film, it was announced by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF) and La Cinémathèque Française on October first 2014 that a nitrate negative print version of Arthur Berthelet’s Sherlock Holmes has been found in La Cinémathèque’s collection. Restored by La Cinémathèque and SFSFF, the film received its world restoration premiere in France in January of this year, and is also part of the ‘Treasures Collection’ at this year’s London Film Festival, but more on the Treasure Collection next week.
Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans (Gabriel Clark, John McKenna, UK, 2015)
A must see for all Steve McQueen and Le Mans fans out there. In the early 1970s Steve McQueen was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, following his successes in films such as The Sand Pebbles, The Thomas Crown Affair, and Bullitt. McQueen attempted to capitalise on this success with his 1971 racing film Le Mans, a project expected to the ultimate racing film. Although the film was and still is popular amongst racing fans, it was commercial flop at the US box office, due in part to the USA’s obliviousness to what Le Mans 24 Hours actually is, and also due to following in the wake of the hugely successful 1966 film Grand Prix, which won 3 academy awards and was one of the top grossing films of 1966.
Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans takes a look behind the scenes of Le Mans and examines the struggles and drama both on and off the track that accompanied the making of the film, including previously unscreened archive footage and contemporary interviews.
The Survivalist (Stephen Fingleton, UK, 2015)
Post apocalyptic films have become a regular feature on cinema screens over the past decade, but Stephen Fingleton’s first feature film is a bit more than just your average, barren CGI landscape, special effects and power-hungry leaders. Set in Northern Ireland, Martin McCann (’71) plays a lonely forest dweller whose solitary existence is disturbed by two starving women played by Mia Goth (Nymphomaniac) and star of stage of screen Olwen Fouere. As relations become primal, trading sex for food and shelter, and external forces threaten their existence, The Survivalist cleverly examines the basic human needs and qualities of love, compassion and trust, and how these ultimately destroy chances of survival.
Victoria (Sebastian Schipper, Germany, 2015)
Sebastian Schipper’s one shot sensation Victoria gives the audience the feeling of being high and then takes them on a tour through after hours Berlin, watching to two meet and fall in crazy love, before they end up being kidnapped and forced to participate in a bank robbery. No cuts, no chopping and changing camera angles, Victoria’s single shot narrative is like hopping on a wild and illicit fairground ride, leaving you hanging on for dear life experiencing the same euphoria, pain and exhaustion as the characters.
Warlock (Edward Dmytryk, USA, 1959)
In the small Utah mining town of Warlock, the residents have grown tired of the local cowboys and outlaws coming into town and running amok, assaulting and killing at will, humiliating the townspeople. The citizens committee decide to hire renowned gunslinger Clay Blaisedell, played by Henry Fonda, as the town marshall. Adapted from the 1958 novel of the same name by Oakley Hall, Warlock is another thriller from the Treasures Collection, Warlock has been restored by 20th Century Fox, Cinema Inc and Deluxe Media.
The Wave (Roar Uthaug , Norway, 2015)
Nordic noir disaster movie The Wave follows world leading geologist Kristian as he prepares to leave his life in the remote Norwegian coastal town of Geiranger, to start a new life in the big city with a top job at an oil company. Setting off with his children, leaving his wife to follow later, recent unexplained power outages in the nearby mountains are playing on his mind, and if his suspicions of a landfall are correct, the residents of Geiranger will have only 10 minutes to escape the 80 foot tsunami that will be heading their way.
Wednesday 04:45 (Alexis Alexiou , Greece-Germany-Israel, 2015)
The current financial crisis in Greece has had quite an effect on the country’s film industry, but perhaps not in the way you would expect, the economic crisis has brought about a thriller subgenre all of its own, which Wednesday 04:45 is a perfect example of.
Stelios Mainas plays Stelios, who is the owner of a jazz club in Athens and one night his failing club is visited by his old friend Vassos. Stelios is taken by Vassos to meet his boss, a Romanian gangster who has been loaning Stelios money for the best part of ten years. Vassos’s boss demands Stelios repay him in full within 48 hours, or else he will turn up at the club and take over. Blending an intelligently thought out plot and characters, with the soundtrack of cool relaxed jazz and pulsing techno to create as suspenseful, nerve jangling thriller as the film hurtles towards a bloody showdown and Stelios does everything he can to survive.
Flight or Flight (Various, 2014-2015)
Fight or Flight is a compilation of seven short films from the UK, Columbia and the USA, ranging from 6-20 minutes in length, and featuring adrenaline fuelled responses to the extreme situations the characters find themselves in.