FILM REVIEW: Taylor Sheridan’s ‘Wind River’

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – The bleak but beautiful frozen wilds of Utah substitute readily for Montana in Taylor Sheridan’s taut, violent and gripping crime drama “Wind River” in which Jeremy Renner is both cool and moving as a troubled hunter who helps Elizabeth Olsen’s plausible FBI agent on the trail of a murderer and rapist.

Sheridan wrote Denis Villeneuve’s pulsating border war thriller “Sicario” (2015) and David Mackenzie’s superior bank robbery tale “Hell or High Water”, one of the finest films of 2016, and his second film as director (“Vile” in 2011 was his first) has the same scintillating tension and depth.

The picture succeeds on many levels, not least as a human drama and exciting chase, but also as the rape and murder of a young Native American woman touches on serious issues that affect those who live on reservations across the United States.

Renner plays Cory Lambert, a skilled hunter whose job is to find and despatch beasts who prey on the local folk and their animals in remote and mountainous country. Haunted by personal loss and separated from his wife, he maintains a warm and caring relationship with his son and Renner shines in showing all sides of a complex character who also can be very dangerous.

Olsen does a sterling job as Jane Banner, summoned from the Las Vegas office to investigate the murder alone without much experience and with no winter clothes. Resourceful and commanding but smart enough to know she needs help, she recruits Lambert as clues lead to another murder and a crew of macho but miserable security men at a local mine.

Sheridan’s dialogue sparkles in the dynamic between the two and in scenes with disillusioned senior Native Americans including Graham Greene, as a local lawman, and Tantoo Cardinal as Lambert’s gruff father-in-law. Julia Jones, Kelsey Asbile, and Gil Birmingham make fine contributions as does Jon Bernthal, in a savvy bit of casting to which he brings his tyical menace.

Cinematographer Ben Richardson (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) captures the beauty and wildness of the remote locations while composers Nick Cave and Warren Ellis provide impressively mournful and reflective tones.

Released: US: Aug. 4 (The Weinstein Co.) / UK: Sept. 8 (STX Entertainment); Cast: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Gil Birmingham, Graham Greene, James Jordan, Jon Bernthal, Julia Jones, Kelsey Asbile, Martin Sensmeier, Tokala Clifford, Tantoo Cardinal; Writer, director: Taylor Sheridan; Director of photography: Ben Richardson; Production designer: Neil Spisak; Music: Nick Cave, Warren Ellis; Costume designer: Keri Perkins; Editor: Gary Roach; Producers: Basil Iwanyk, Peter Berg, Matthew George, Wayne Rogers; Executive producers: Erica Lee, Jonathan Fuhrman, Braden Aftergood, Tim White, Trevor White, Christopher H. Warner, Wayne Marc Godfrey, Robert Jones, Nik Bower, Deepak Nayar, Nicolas Chartier, Jonathan Deckter, Joni Sighvatsson, Vincent Maraval, Brahim Chioua, Agnes Mentré; Production: Thunder Road, Film 44, Savvy Media Holdings; Rating: US:R / UK:TBA; running time: 107 minutes.

Photos: Fred Hayes

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The night Jeanne Moreau and I had square bottoms

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Standing alone in the middle of the stalls before a concert in Ghent, I saw the petite figure of a woman enter the hall and stroll to the seat directly in front of me. She turned and put out her right hand. “Allo,” she said. “I’m Jeanne Moreau.” Continue reading

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FILM REVIEW: Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” is a spectacular fireworks show filled with exciting action but as a record of an iconic World War II event it falls short and as human drama it’s a damp squib.

When fighter planes are screaming, bombs are exploding and bullets are flying, it’s pulsating stuff with a gut-punching battle between sound effects and Hans Zimmer’s score, which the composer wins through sheer verve and ingenuity. Continue reading

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Do film critics matter any more?

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – When everyone is a critic, who needs critics?

It’s a question asked more and more in the movie industry as the ranks of mainstream critics dwindle and the tide of those with something to say online surges ever stronger.

The consensus is that some critics do still matter but their employers, the film industry and the general public hold them in less esteem than they used to. Meanwhile, everyone’s on Facebook. And Twitter. And YouTube. And Instagram. Continue reading

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FILM REVIEW: Vincent Perez’s ‘Alone in Berlin’

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – For those who have not read Hans Fallada’s terrifying novel “Alone in Berlin”, Vincent Perez’s film version is probably a mildly absorbing drama about two people bucking the odds. For those who have read it, the film is hugely disappointing. Continue reading

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Lalo Schifrin on his love of the music for ‘Tango’

By Ray Bennett

Argentinian composer Lalo Schifrin, who turns 85 today, is known for his concerts, recordings, film scores such as “Bullitt”, “Cool Hand Luke” and “Dirty Harry” and TV shows such as “Mission: Impossible” and “Mannix” but one of his most treasured works was for Carlos Saura’s Oscar-nominated musical “Tango”.

“I feel very proud of being involved in that movie,” Schifrin told me in 1998 just before the film had its international premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Continue reading

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Twenty of the best films of the century so far


By Ray Bennett

LONDON – The New York Times critics have named their choices of the best movies of the 21st century so far. They include titles such as “I’m Not There”, “L’Enfant” and “The 40-Year Old Virgin” but ignore fine films such as “Arrival”, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Inception”.

Any such list is, of course, subjective. We all can think of great films overlooked but here, in alphabetical order, are 20 more films that for me have been highlights of the century so far. All are available on Blu-ray and/or DVD except “The Sun Also Rises”. Continue reading

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A subjective list of movie scores that I like very much

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – “A good music score,” two-time Academy Award winner Randy Newman told me, “cannot turn a bad movie into a good movie but it can raise its IQ by a couple of notches.”

My friends at the World Soundtrack Awards in Ghent recently drew attention to a ranking of the best film soundtracks published sometime ago in The Guardian newspaper and when I said it was a terrible list, they asked me to make my own suggestions, so here goes. Continue reading

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Memories of KFMF’s brilliant 2017 birthday party

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Most big film shindigs including Festival de Cannes and events from Berlin to Venice are like being in a bubble. When you’re there, nothing else matters. As soon as it’s over, you forget about it. The Krakow Film Music Festival (KFMF) is the exception.

Every year, those lucky enough to be there continue to share memories long after it ends. KFMF’s principal organisers, Robert Piaskowski and Agata Grabowiecka oversee a dedicated team and a flock of volunteers each year to produce a festival that celebrates film and television music in the best possible way: they invite the best. Continue reading

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On the James Bond set with Roger Moore

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Roger Moore, who died on May 23 aged 89, told me that really he was a frustrated bank robber. “It’s only fear that’s stopped me from robbing banks, and that’s why I’m a movie actor. I’d get caught. I’ve never been caught acting.”

I spoke to him at Pinewood Studios on Dec. 10, 1984, on the set of his last James Bond picture, “A View to a Kill”. He had just been shooting an action scene with co-star Tanya Roberts. Unruffled, he sat on a director’s chair in the middle of a very cold soundstage smoking the first of several Davidoff cigars he would enjoy through the day. Continue reading

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