Verbal grenades explode with devastating impact
93 mins. Director: Roger Michell. Starring: Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan, Jeff Goldblum, Olly Alexander, Brice Beaugier
Life begins and also falls apart at 60 in the cinematic collaborations of director Roger Michell (Notting Hill) and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette). In 2003, they sensitively explored the spiky issue of romance across the generational divide between grandmother (Anne Reid) and her grown-up daughter's hunky beau (Daniel Craig) in The Mother. There was a similar lightness of touch in the Oscar-nominated 2006 film, Venus, in which a septuagenarian thesp (Peter O'Toole) gets a twinkle in his eye around his 20-something carer (Jodie Whittaker).
Laughter and heartbreak walk hand in clammy hand in Michell and Kureishi's latest confection, Le Week-end, an elegiac portrait of a married couple testing the robustness of their relationship during a celebratory weekend in Paris.
The French capital looks glorious and provides a suitably swoonsome backdrop to Kureishi's verbal grenades that explode with devastating impact.
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Regret hangs in the air like parfum and amorous advances ("May I touch you?") are swatted away with a casual indifference ("What for?") that cuts to the bone.
Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan, who played onscreen spouses in the 2006 TV movie Longford, spare themselves and each other few blushes as the husband and wife, who have watched their brood fly the nest and must now contemplate spending their twilight years solely in each other's company.
"Once the kids have gone, what's left of us?" wonders Meg (Duncan), who has chosen to celebrate 30 years with husband Nick (Broadbent) by revisiting old haunts in the city of amour.
Festivities start on a sour note when the two-star hotel that Nick has chosen turns out to be a dog-eared vision in beige. "I knew this trip was going to be a disaster!" snipes Meg.
She takes charge and they move into a plush suite with a balcony view of the Eiffel Tower that is clearly going to test their credit card to its limit.
Walks around arrondissements are accompanied by occasional bickering and one evening, the couple cross paths with Nick's university pal Morgan (Jeff Goldblum), who invites them to a dinner party.
"They're French. I'm sure their lives are terrible too," whispers Nick as they enviously survey a room festooned with well-heeled intelligentsia.
Le Week-end doesn't indulge in Nick's habit of rose-tinting the past, which compels Meg to sigh, "You always did edit out the arguments and misery."
Kureishi rubs salt into every open wound, while Michell elicits powerful performances from his leads as they dance awkwardly around the possibility they might be happier apart.
Pacing meanders like Nick and Meg during their sojourn, and the narrative diversion with Goldblum and his neglected son (Olly Alexander) doesn't ring entirely true. Yet the raw emotional honesty of Broadbent and Duncan shines through this fleeting fog of contrivance.
128 mins Director: Bill Condon. Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Carice van Houten, Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci, David Thewlis, Peter Capaldi, Dan Stevens, Moritz Bleibtreu.
During a pivotal speech in Bill Condon's contentious film about the rise of WikiLeaks, founder Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) paraphrases the words of Oscar Wilde as justification for using whistleblowers to shame governments into transparency.
"Give a man a mask and he'll tell you the truth," drawls Assange to a hall of potential acolytes.
Whether there is absolute truth in The Fifth Estate is debatable. Based in part on Daniel Domscheit-Berg's unflattering book Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange At The World's Most Dangerous Website, Condon's film has been denounced by the website, which insists "most of the events depicted never happened".
There are certainly elements of The Fifth Estate that beggar belief, including the central relationship between Assange and Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Bruhl). On screen, the white-haired Australian founder is depicted as manipulative, self-serving and bullying. He treats everyone, particularly nice guy Daniel, with lip-curling disdain which forces us to question why the two men would continue to work together when one is painted as a monster.
"Remember Daniel, courage is contagious," Julian instructs his awe-struck protege, who learns to make calls on disposal mobile phones and to always look over his shoulder in case he is being followed.
Cumberbatch's portrayal of Assange is mesmerising. The vocal patterns and mannerisms all seem polished to perfection but the cold blackness in his eyes refuses to let us in, even for a second.
The film opens in London, July 2010, in the offices of The Guardian. Editor Alan Rusbridger (Peter Capaldi), Deputy Ian Katz (Dan Stevens) and reporter Nick Davies (David Thewlis) are poised to publish their front page story about the Bradley Manning leaks in tandem with The New York Times and Der Spiegel.
The film rewinds two years to sketch the relationship between Julian and Daniel, who meet at a conference and embark on their quest to expose corruption within the upper echelons of power. Julian demands absolutely loyalty, which puts intolerable strain on Daniel's relationship with his girlfriend, Birgitta (Carice van Houten). Meanwhile, Deputy Under Secretary Of State, Sarah Shaw (Laura Linney), becomes increasingly concerned by the power wielded by WikiLeaks.
The Fifth Estate repeatedly sticks the knife into Assange, like when one character tartly quips: "Only someone so obsessed with his own secrets could have come up with a way to publish everyone else's."
Cumberbatch's theatrics are bolstered with solid support and Condon demonstrates directorial brio to realise the virtual world for the cinematic medium.
Every character except for Assange abides by a moral compass through thick and thin, including the British media, painting the world as black and white. We don't need WikiLeaks to tell us that's an illusion.