A dizzying survival thriller – and McDonagh’s darkly comical tale of morality

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The Forgiven. Pictured: Jessica Chastain as Jo Henninger.

AUTUMN (15, 107 mins)

Gravity kills in the aptly titled Fall, which suspends disbelief 2,000 feet in the air atop an abandoned TV turn, where two best friends get stuck just over half an hour into director Scott Mann’s dizzying survival thriller.

The stakes are high in a lean and ruthlessly effective script co-written by Jonathan Frank and Mann, which defies common sense to coax two female protagonists atop an eroded needle in the middle of a desert in memory of a fallen spouse. .

Once co-stars Grace Fulton and Virginia Gardner are done spouting platitudes (“You’re so much stronger than you think!”) and reality bites, Fall asks us to hang on as characters hit but ingenious devise ways to draw attention to their precarious perch.

As a thrill ride, Mann’s image maintains an assured grip through laughable interludes as a heroine instantly thinking about social media as the tower’s structure disintegrates (“Wish we had filmed that! “) Or the fleeting threat posed by a pair of ravenous vultures.

The swirling camerawork rattles the nerves of anyone with acrophobia and distracts from a storytelling sleight of hand that lands with a satisfying thump.

In a dizzying and coldly executed opening sequence, Becky (Fulton), her husband Dan (Mason Gooding) and her best friend Hunter (Gardner) go rock climbing when tragedy strikes.

Dan is startled by a bird nesting in a handful and collapses on solid ground.

Nearly a year later, widow Becky is an emotional, booze-soaked wreck, dodging phone calls from her deeply worried father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and considering an overdose of pills rather than endure another day without his soul mate.

Hunter has monetized her daredevil antics on social media under the gnarly moniker Danger D and she re-establishes contact with Becky on the anniversary of Dan’s death with a bold proposal to scatter his ashes from the top of the B67 TV tower , supposedly the fourth tallest structure in America.

Embracing her late husband’s absurd mantra (“If you’re afraid to die, don’t be afraid to live”), Becky attaches herself to Hunter with 50 feet of rope and the pals climb 1,800 feet on an internal ladder in the frame tower cage, followed by a 200 foot ascent of an external ladder to the summit.

The structure is fatally compromised, stranding Becky and Hunter at the top with no way down.

Fall does exactly what it says on the rusty tin, putting two barely sketched figures (who are entirely to blame for their high-rise misery) through the wringer with sadistic glee.

Sympathy is rare despite the best efforts of the mascara-coated Fulton and Gardner to strike a chord.

The logical base jumps before Becky and Hunter reach the top.

7/10

THE FORGIVEN (18, 117 min)

Bafta-nominated screenwriter and director John Michael McDonagh has an enduring fascination with characters in emotional, moral and spiritual conflict, who misbehave (sometimes abominably) in the name of self-fulfillment and self-preservation.

Punishments do not necessarily correspond criminality in the dark and comical world of McDonagh and few of its protagonists ask forgiveness for their actions.

Contrary to the title, adapted from Lawrence Osborne’s best-selling 2012 novel, The Forgiven does not grant absolution to any of the dastardly bodies gathering in the Moroccan desert following a cover-up fatal car accident with the complicity of the local police.

White privilege and Western superiority trump justice and McDonagh invites us to boil in disbelief when the driver of the vehicle sadly suggests that an Arab boy’s death can be erased from memory because “the kid doesn’t is nobody”.

He forgets that everyone is related by blood to someone. McDonagh no.

Anchored by a terrific lead performance from Ralph Fiennes as an acid-tongued, high-functioning alcoholic, this slow-burning tale of morality escalates as grief collides with guilt head-on and a quest nerve of atonement seems destined to end in dismal failure. .

The characters are distasteful by design, but it’s still possible to feel fleeting pangs of pity as McDonagh impales his loathsome creations on hooks and lets them squirm.

Richard Galloway (Matt Smith) and his foodie partner Dally (Caleb Landry Jones) invite a coterie of obnoxious and privileged friends to their Moroccan desert villa for a weekend of lavish revelry and self-gratification.

The guest list includes British aristocrat Lord Swanthorne (Alex Jennings), French journalist Isabelle Peret (Marie-Josée Croze) and American financial analyst Tom Day (Christopher Abbott).

The house staff led by Hamid (Mourad Zaoui) are horrified by the gratuitous displays of hedonism, drug use and sexual promiscuity.

British doctor David Henninger (Fiennes) and his American writer wife Jo (Jessica Chastain) get lost en route from Tangier.

He blames his map navigation skills. “It’s Morocco, not Milton Keynes!” she is bubbling.

They are embroiled in another argument when young fossil dealer Driss (Omar Ghazaoui) drives down the desert road ahead of their high-speed car to get some groceries.

The Henningers arrive late at Richard’s party, claiming the boy’s death was an accident.

Driss’ father, Abdellah (Ismael Kanater) materializes with an English-speaking associate (Said Taghmaoui) to claim his son’s body.

The grieving patriarch insists that David attend the teenager’s funeral and the pompous Brit reluctantly obliges.

Boasting finely calibrated performances, The Forgiven is most compelling when Fiennes is on screen, marinating in his character’s discomfort.

The pacing is icy, and each time McDonagh cuts through the multiple transgressions within the villa, the two-hour running time seems to stretch, without the reward of emotional gain.

6.5/10

THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF DESIRE (15, 108 min)

George Miller, director of the Mad Max saga, trades automotive carnage for quiet contemplation in a fantasy tale featuring a spirit romanticized in Middle Eastern folk tales.

Freely adapted from AS Byatt’s short story The Djinn In The Nightingale’s Eye by Miller and Augusta Gore, Three Thousand Years Of Longing takes place with Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton).

The quietly independent scholar arrives in Istanbul for a lecture, armed with her passion for the history of storytelling and the traditions of the art form.

Alithea discovers an antique bottle and when she tries to polish the glassware to a chandelier, an ancient Djinn (Idris Elba) goes on a rampage.

The genie promises to grant three life-changing wishes, but Alithea has studied many tales in which these blessings are a curse and she shrewdly refuses to accept the Djinn’s offer until he answers her questions. thorough.

As the liberated spirit weaves bizarre threads outside its glass prison, Alithea ponders missed opportunities and unfulfilled desires.

IT’S SNOWING IN BENIDORM (15, 117 min)

Retirement unexpectedly brings an oppressed man back to life in Spanish director and screenwriter Isabel Coixet’s crime novel.

Bank clerk Peter Riordan (Timothy Spall) is stuck in a rut in Manchester, arguably more interested in the daily weather than the late repayments and financial difficulties of his customers.

When a clash of workplace cultures forces Peter into early retirement, he decides to broaden his horizons by visiting his expat brother Daniel, who now resides in Benidorm.

Curiously, Daniel seems to have disappeared so Peter searches for clues, encountering a motley crew of colorful characters, including club interpreter Alex (Sarita Chaudhury).

Peter feels like a fish out of water, but the awkwardness and confusion of his situation forces him to engage with strangers and forge unexpected bonds.

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