Room

This review was originally written for Blueprint: Review.

Today is Jack’s birthday, he is five years old. To him, the whole world is Room, an 11×11 foot enclosure outside of which he has never been. He lives with his mother, Ma, plays with Egg Snake under Bed, eats with Meltedy Spoon and sometimes, when Old Nick visits, Jack has to sleep in Wardrobe, counting the groans before Old Nick falls asleep. The stuff on TV is all fantasy, things that don’t exist in real life. Jack’s world ends at the walls, the floor, the ceiling, the skylight and the heavy metal door, locked with a keypad combination. Beyond that, there is nothing.
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Face/Off

FBI Agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) has been on the hunt for career criminal Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) for years, a search that was intensified six years previously when Castor accidentally killed Sean’s young son whilst trying to kill Sean. Finally, Sean has managed to catch and apparently kill Castor and incarcerate his brother Pollux Troy (Alessandro Nivola), but not before the pair have planted a bomb somewhere in L.A. With only a few days before the bomb is due to explode in an unknown location, the only way Sean can discover the location is to talk to Pollux, but the only person Pollux will trust is his brother. So, the only logical solution is for Sean to remove his own face and replace it with Castor’s, going undercover as the man he’s spent the past few years despising.
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Manhunter

Will Graham (William Petersen) is a profiler for the FBI who, after getting too close to his previous case, has taken a leave of absence, or possibly even retired, to recuperate and get his head back together with his wife (Kim Greist) and young son. However, his former boss Jack (Dennis Farina) has a case he can’t crack, and must pull Will out of retirement for one last job. A serial killer, dubbed the Tooth Fairy because of the bite marks he leaves behind, has so far massacred two families with several young children each, but he only strikes on the full moon. With the next one a few weeks away, time is running out for the FBI to find the guy, and with no leads to go on it is up to Will to get into the criminal mindset, and to do that he must meet with a former conquest of his, the incarcerated, highly intelligent but ruthlessly vicious mass murdered Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox).
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The Ice Storm

Joan Allen’s Elena has been married to Kevin Kline’s Ben for 17 years. Ben is sleeping with Sigourney Weaver’s Jane, who is married to James Sheridan’s Jim. Jim and Jane have two sons, the creepy pyromaniac Sandy (Adam Hann-Byrd) and Elijah Wood’s more normal Mikey, who is sort-of dating Elena and Ben’s genitalia obsessed daughter Wendy (Christina Ricci) who, it transpires, is also the object of Sandy’s affections. Meanwhile, Wendy’s virginal brother Paul (Tobey Maguire) is desperately in love with his college classmate Libbets (Katie Holmes), and vies for her attentions with his much more confident roommate Francis (David Krumholtz). This ridiculously fractured love-dodecahedron forms the plot of this multi-stranded slow-boiler from Ang Lee, director of Brokeback Mountain and Hulk. Both sides of him are shown here, from his delicate handling of love stories to Maguire’s Paul discussing the depths of the Fantastic Four, and he ably handles all the aspects of the plot. There are many similarities with Todd Solondz’ Happiness, most notably the stellar ensemble cast and hard to watch yet easier to recognise situations the characters find themselves in. The film takes place over a relatively short period of time, with all the aforementioned relationships coming to a head during the particularly heavy ice storm of the title, with consequences both small and disastrous, yet a sense of humour is retained throughout, particularly during the swinging party.
Choose film 7/10

The Bourne Trilogy

Back in 2002, the espionage genre must have felt a little like Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne at the start of this trilogy, floating unconscious in the Mediterranean Sea with a bullet in the back after the abysmal CGI tsunami of Die Another Day and the shallow, clichéd hotchpotch of Mission Impossible 2, although they may have envied Bourne’s lack of memory. Thank the heavens then for the metaphorical fishing vessel of star Damon, director Doug Liman and writer Tony Gilroy for bringing this energetic affair to the screen, both setting up Damon as a bona fide action star and throwing the gauntlet at the feet of Bond and Ethan Hunt to step it up a gear (both of whom willingly accepting the challenge with Casino Royale’s gritty realism and MI3’s intelligent action).