Film reviews: Thirteen Lives, Eiffel, Nightclubbing NYC

(L to R) Viggo Mortensen as Rick Stanton, Joel Edgerton as Harry Harris, Tom Bateman as Chris Jewell

(L to R) Viggo Mortensen as Rick Stanton, Joel Edgerton as Harry Harris, Tom Bateman as Chris Jewell, Colin Farrell as John Volanthen, and Thiraphat 'Tui' Sajakul as Capt. Arnot Sureewong in THIRTEEN LIVES - Credit: Vince Valitutti / Metro Goldwyn

Thirteen Lives (12A)

***

Hollywood is always looking out for a great true story. Thirteen Lives has one of the very best - the one about the rescue of the Thai football team that got trapped in a flooded cave system.

It’s got everything: instant global recognition; genuine heroics; human nature at its very best; triumph over impossible odds, and a happy ending. Ron Howard’s dramatization does something that these films never do – it actually tells the story.

I’m not pretending to be an authority on events at the Tham Luang cave in 2018, but I have seen the splendid documentary on it, The Rescue, and Thirteen Lives covers the same events with admirable restraint. Thousands of people, mostly volunteers, contributed to the operation, but ultimately the key to success was a group of oddball British cave divers and an Australian anaesthetist who came up with a plan that none of them believed would succeed.

In Howard’s film everybody’s contribution is recognised and nothing is sensationalised. The problem is the film knows what it isn’t but is less sure of what it is. Much as one might approve of its stick-to-the-facts approach, the result is a rather dry procedural. There are so many moments which should have more impact. For example, the discovery that the boys are still alive is oddly humdrum. Though everybody is always telling us how treacherous the dives were, the film doesn’t really give you a sense of its menace. The underwater footage is so murky that the visual impact of the compressed space is reduced. I kept comparing it to the horror film The Descent, about women being menaced in a cave system, where the claustrophobia was so intense it was sickening.

And for all its desire to be straight and real, it still has the cliched Eureka moment where one of the divers, Rick Stanton (Mortenson) announces that he’s got a crazy idea and his partner John Volanthen (Farrell) proclaims it brilliant. That said, the acting is top-notch throughout. Farrell and Mortensen both overdo the authentic English accent, but they nail the authentic English level-headed cussedness. You can imagine both of them being bitter and curmudgeonly hagglers at a Sunday morning boot sale.

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Directed by Ron Howard. Starring Colin Farrell, Viggo Mortensen, Joel Edgerton, Tom Bateman, Sahajak Boonthanakit and Pattrakorn Tungsupskul. In cinemas and available on Amazon Prime from August 5th. Partly subtitled. Running time: 147 mins.

(L to R) Thira ‘Aum’ Chutikul as Commander Kiet, Popetorn ‘Two’ Soonthornyanaku as Dr Karn, Joel Edg

(L to R) Thira ‘Aum’ Chutikul as Commander Kiet, Popetorn ‘Two’ Soonthornyanaku as Dr Karn, Joel Edgerton as Harry Harris, Colin Farrell as John Volanthen and Viggo Mortenson as Rick Stanton in Thirteen Lives - Credit: Vince Valitutti / Metro Goldwyn

Eiffel (15)

***

This made up from a true story tells of the tragic love triangle behind the erection of Gustav’s big tower.

Having been made an honorary US citizen for his part in the building of The Statute of Liberty, Eiffel (Duris) is determined to get his design for a 300-metre tower approved and built for the 1889 World Fair. But when he gets an eyeful of Adrienne (Mackey), his passionate past with the wife of his one of his main backers threatens to derail the project.

It's a trifle this Eiffel; a frisky, frivolous, handsomely mounted endeavour with impressive CGI that keeps itself busy; everything and everyone is always on the move. It's like a musical without songs.

In the title role, Duris is a great showman, the charismatic unconventional genius never more than a few steps away from a grand gesture but still overshadowed by Mackey as the love of his life. She's has been instructed to be vivacious and, though in her first scene some unflattering make-up and lighting make her look like Hinge or Bracket, she provides more than enough vivacity to keep this Tour Eiffel on high.

Directed by Martin Bourboulon. Starring Romain Duris, Emma Mackey, Pierre Deladonchamps, Amanda Boulanger and Jeremy Lopez. French with subtitles. In cinemas from August 12. Running time: 108 mins.

Romain Duris as Gustave Eiffel in Eiffel 

Romain Duris as Gustave Eiffel in Eiffel - Credit: Blue Fox Entertainment/Antonin Menichetti

Nightclubbing: The Birth of Punk Rock in NYC

**

NY punk rock: that’ll be legendary Manhattan club CBGBs? Ah, but according to the opening titles, “the story of Punk Rock in New York is mainly the story of two clubs.” This is the story of the other one: Max’s Kansas City, a downtown Manhattan landmark from the mid-sixties to the start of the eighties.

Its story is that of Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Malcolm McLaren, Sid and Nancy, Debbie Harry and Patti Smith, Joey and Dee Dee of the Ramones. Sadly, their contributions to this documentary are restricted to scratchy, grainy VHS recordings of their performances. Those appearing to chat about the old days are a less celebrated selection: there are no Talking Heads among the talking heads.

Directed by Danny Garcia. Featuring Alice Cooper, Jayne Country, Alan Vega, Billy Idol, Peter Crowley and Elliot Murphy. At the Rio Dalston from Friday to Sunday. Running time: 85 mins.

Nightclubbing spotlights legendary New York venue Max's Kansas City

Nightclubbing spotlights legendary New York venue Max's Kansas City - Credit: Supplied

Go to http://www.halfmanhalfcritic.com/ for review of Eureka Masters of Cinema Blu-ray release of Johnnie To's Running Out Of Time Parts 1&2.