Christopher Nolan’s Best Closers

Zachary Cruz-Tan

Since the black-and-white beginnings of Christopher Nolan’s hefty career, he has taken sadistic pleasure in leaving us with closing scenes that have been specifically designed to drive us mad with speculation long after we’ve staggered out of the cinema.

Of course, not all his endings have been confounding. Some have simply been utterly brilliant. With Dunkirk opening this week (bets, anyone, on how it ends?), let’s revisit some of Nolan’s epic denouements.

5. Memento (2000)

07 July - Nolan Memento

How do you end a movie with no beginning? By giving it no ending. Memento is one big WTF moment, with the past and present carved to shreds and spliced back together with a kind of madness only Nolan (and perhaps Michel Gondry) could subdue.

And what better way to keep a lid on the crazy than to have Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) restart his arduous, but ultimately futile quest for justice by arriving at the scene that kicks the entire plot into gear and firmly questioning “So, where was I?”. Leonard’s memory loss has driven him in circles, caused him to commit murder and steal, and now provides his life with an endless cycle of delirium. It’s a perfectly sharp and maddening close.

4. The Dark Knight (2008)

07 July - Nolan Dark Knight
The Dark Knight’s ending upholds the moral integrity of its mysterious hero by confirming once and for all that Batman serves no one else but the entire city of Gotham. Unlike Superman or Marvel’s Iron Man, the Caped Crusader isn’t concerned with fame or recognition, and proves his loyalty to the people by taking the fall for a series of murders he didn’t commit, all in an attempt to salvage the pristine reputation of the victims’ true killer. It’s this kind of self-sacrifice (rare for a superhero of any kind) that prompts Commissioner Gordon’s immortal words “He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him, because he can take it”. And take it he does.

3. The Prestige (2006)

07 July - Nolan Prestige
If The Dark Knight’s ending was tragic, the final shot of The Prestige is like the discovery of a mass grave (which it kind of is). Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale), two outstanding stage illusionists, have engaged in a deadly cold war, until Alfred unveils an impossible new act that has Robert reeling in the aisles. Robert descends into the murky depths of obsession and devises a solution that’s even better than Alfred’s humble trick, except no one, not even Robert, could’ve predicted the enormity of its consequences. The film closes with a gruesome exhibition of the scale of Robert’s sacrifice: He has to die every night for a few rounds of applause.

2. Inception (2010)

07 July - Nolan Inception
Whether you treasure or despise Inception, you were probably writhing in frustration when it ended. The top wobbled! It did! And yet no one knows for sure, maybe not even Nolan, if Dom Cobb’s climactic redemption and return to his children was all just another dream layer.

Inception’s classic ending works because we buy the rest of the movie and are literally begging for Dom (Leonardo DiCaprio) to succeed. We learn that the top spins eternally in a dream, and so when that final shot lingers painfully on that irritating totem, our eyes are peeled and our senses heightened. It’s masterful manipulation from a truly devilish filmmaker.

1. Batman Begins (2005)

07 July - Nolan Batman Begins
Batman Begins ends in complete perfection, not just as an origin story for the Dark Knight, but as the first chapter of a brilliant trilogy. Set on the rooftop of Gotham’s police department, it introduces the Bat Signal, teases The Joker, establishes the fragile but necessary relationship between James Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Batman (Christian Bale), and sublimely encapsulates all that Batman stands for when Gordon confesses “I never said thank you”, to which Batman simply says “And you’ll never have to” before the music swells and he leaps off the ledge into obscurity. Perfection.

Images courtesy of Buena Vista International & Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Roadshow Films & Warner Bros Entertainment Australia 

Films You Probably Didn’t Know Were Based on Shakespeare

Corey Hogan

Great stories are passed down, retold and endlessly given new life from generation to generation, and perhaps none have been so influential throughout history than the masterworks of 16th century poet and playwright William Shakespeare. Eternally considered the greatest writer in the English language, he entertained the world centuries before the invention of film and television, creating acclaimed theatre pieces that remain studied and performed to this day.

Shakespeare’s stories form the basis and inspiration of so much of the media we continue to consume. Though there are hundreds of straight adaptations of his plays, there are a great number of directors and screenwriters who have been inspired to give his old-timey stories their own unique and creative twist, and they’ve proven that the tales of the bard can live in just about any era and situation. Here’s a few films you may not have known were based on or inspired by Shakespeare.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

07 July - Shakespeare 10 Things I Hate About You
Gil Junger’s much-loved 90’s teen romance that launched the careers of Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a modern take on Shakespeare’s second play, The Taming of the Shrew. Transposing the aristocrats of the Middle Ages to a modern American high school, the “shrew” in question is Stiles’ Kat, the antisocial eldest Stratford daughter with little interest in dating. Her younger (and much less prudish) sister Bianca is forbidden by their overprotective father from seeing boys until Kat does, much to the detriment of Cameron (Gordon-Levitt), who has his eye on Bianca. He hires a suitor, Patrick (Ledger), to woo Kat, which of course goes awry when he actually falls in love with her. Save for the traditional marriage of the original switched out for contemporary dating, it’s a largely faithful adaptation. Ironically, for all his praise and historic recognition, Shakespeare was basically paving the way for the genre of teen angst comedy and coming-of-age.

My Own Private Idaho (1991)

07 July - Shakespeare My Own Private Idaho
Gus Van Sant’s follow-up to his breakout hit Drugstore Cowboy combines multiple source texts – including several of Shakespeare’s – to create a timeless odyssey of youth, class, sexuality and family ties in contemporary America. We meet street hustlers Mike (River Phoenix) and Scott (Keanu Reeves), who have sex with men for money but wouldn’t consider themselves gay. Taking cues from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2, Van Sant makes Scott’s arc mirror that of Prince Hal’s journey towards kingship – associating with lowlifes until he comes of age to inherit his father’s wealth (as opposed to the crown). Finally, Van Sant’s own original short screenplays form the narcoleptic Mike, who longs to find his estranged mother and a sense of purpose. Paraphrasing Shakespearian dialogue, it’s a masterclass in acting and a haunting experience.

Ran (1985)

07 July - Shakespeare Ran
Hailed by Steven Spielberg as the “pictorial Shakespeare of our time”, the legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa is no stranger to putting his own spin on the bard’s stories; both Throne of Blood and The Bad Sleep Well transposed Macbeth and Hamlet respectively. His final epic to be considered a masterpiece, Ran, adapts King Lear; the tragedy of an aging monarch dividing his estate between his daughters based on their flattery of him. Ran reimagines this as a Japanese warlord handing off his empire to his three sons, and noticeably parallels the events of Shakespeare’s with a distinctly different gender-specific dynamic that has been the subject of extensive discussion. Most glaring is the replacement of the test King Lear imposes upon his daughters, in using their linguistics to profess their love to him; in Ran, it’s the physical challenge of breaking a bundle of arrows, to prove the boys’ strength and worthiness to Lord Hidetora. It’s hard to know whether modern critics would side with Kurosawa or Shakespeare on this.

The Lion King (1994)

07 July - Shakespeare Lion King

Hakuna Matata? Yes, even a beloved Disney animated classic has its roots in Shakespeare, putting a colourful spin on Hamlet – albiet with much less violence, more musical numbers and a much happier ending. While Shakespeare didn’t quite invent the “evil uncle” trope, and Denmark is altered to the animal kingdom of the African savanna, the parallels are pretty clear. A proud king (Mufasa) is murdered by his brother (Scar), who covers this up and assumes his position ruling the land. After some time away from the kingdom, the prince and rightful heir (Simba) returns to bring truth and restore it to glory. Even the smaller details of the play are recreated – Mufasa appearing to Simba as a ghost as Hamlet’s father did, and the befriending of a pair of fast-talking stooges (Timon and Pumbaa, standing in for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern). Thankfully, Disney scrapped Shakespeare’s ending in favour of a far more uplifting one; it’s unlikely the film would remain a childhood treasure had it contained Nala drowning and Simba accidentally murdering Zazu, then committing suicide.

Images courtesy of:
Buena Vista International Australia & Walt Disney Studios Home

Entertainment Newvision Film Distributors Pty Ltd & Roadshow Entertainment
Universal Pictures Video
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures 

Movie Review – The Beguiled

Sexuality turns sinister in Sofia Coppola’s bewitching return to a more savage era.

 ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan 

A girls’ seminary stands isolated in rural Virginia during the American Civil War, where several young women and their teachers remain sheltered from the violence raging on outside. While roaming the fields one day, one of the youngest girls stumbles upon a wounded Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell) and helps him back to the school. The proprietor, Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman), is wary of helping an enemy soldier, but eventually gives in to the girls’ pleas to nurse him back to health. The house is soon in disarray as everyone’s fascination with the soldier turns into obsession, and sexual tension and rivalry swells as both the teacher Edwina (Kirsten Dunst) and eldest student Alicia (Elle Fanning) make known their attraction to him. Pressures boil and erupt, and things soon take a dark and unexpected turn.

Though technically a remake, or a new spin on the same source novel (the original, weirdly enough, was by the Dirty Harry team Don Siegel and Clint Eastwood), the notorious Sofia Coppola’s take on The Beguiled is her freshest and most interesting film in years. It’s without question her most thrilling film, and marks a slight departure from her signature dressy drama style – at least in the film’s second half.

Curiously, it also feels somewhat like a return to the dynamic of her debut feature, The Virgin Suicides. In a similar vein, it lures us into a mystifying group of women and their sexual frustrations and relationships with one another. But we’re never quite given all the pieces of their puzzle, so they remain enticingly mysterious – beguiling, if you will.

It’s a slow burner, but also a wickedly entertaining ride, balancing its flirtations with a welcome helping of humour. The older actors – Farrell, Kidman and Dunst – are on typical good form, particularly Farrell, who’s given great opportunity to exhibit a descent from charming larrikin to unhinged madman.

But it’s the younger actresses who really excel and make an impression here. The always excellent Elle Fanning doesn’t get quite as much screen time to flaunt herself as usual, but she’s mastered the art of the temptress, oozing sexuality like a walking aphrodisiac with her endlessly breathy vocals and seductive looks. Australia’s own Angourie Rice could very well be the next Elle Fanning with her naturally distinctive looks and charisma. The most junior member Oona Laurence runs away with the most laughs, unafraid to voice her thoughts on her innocent fixation with the Corporal.

The inclinations, intentions and morality of these characters becomes extremely hazy, so it’s difficult to know who to root for, if anyone at all. Like Lady Macbeth, the alleged “pro-feminist stance” this has been said by some to take is debatable, given the disturbing nature through which it is triumphed; nonetheless Coppola’s return to fine form is a terrific, beguiling achievement.

The Beguiled is available in Australian cinemas from July 12 

Image (c) Universal Pictures 2017

Free Fire – Revelation Perth International Film Festival

Ben Wheatley tries his hand at aping Reservoir Dogs to riotous effect.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Graeme-Drury

One of the most dexterous and consistently interesting directors to emerge from Britain in the last decade, Ben Wheatley’s latest film Free Fire sees the filmmaker transition into old fashioned shoot ‘em up territory for a gleeful celebration of gunplay.

Set in Boston in 1978, Free Fire sees a duo of Irish terrorists, Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley), employ the help of local fixers Justine (Brie Larson) and Ord (Armie Hammer) in organising a secretive docklands exchange with wildly unpredictable kingpin Vernon (Sharlto Copley).

Naturally, the deal soon goes south as hired goons on both sides decide to settle a standing grudge in the midst of an illegal arms deal. What follows is a protracted melee of ricochets, expletives and blood-soaked shoulder pads. Wheatley and his charismatic cast wholeheartedly embrace the zaniness of the premise as they fling dust, shrapnel and sly barbs across the screen. Copley is the star of the show, his larger-than-life character an absolute hoot as he tries (and fails) to hit on Justine and weasel his way out of getting a slug to the head.

Larson, Murphy and Hammer are also excellent; the irreverence with which they approach the chaos never undercuts the serious moments and everything knits together for an effective character-driven 90-minute actioner, even when the bare bones plot is scarcely enough to keep the thing anchored during the second half.

Unquestionably light on plot, Free Fire instead chooses to focus on genuinely enthralling action. The editing, cinematography and sound mixing all work in tandem to create something rather special. Wheatley displays an unrivalled aptitude for staging that makes Free Fire easy to follow and enormously engaging to boot.

Free Fire is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July)

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures & Revelation Film Festival

Wiener-Dog – Revelation Perth International Film Festival

An impressive cast doesn’t save Todd Solondz from drowning along with his wiener-dog.


Zachary Cruz-Tan

I don’t know Todd Solondz nor am I acquainted with his body of work, but after seeing Wiener-Dog, his latest black comedy about a wandering dachshund, I believe a successful career is still far ahead of him. This is an awkward, at times frustrating film in which no one utters a single line of credible dialogue and every performance – except Danny DeVito’s – is tuned to the frequency of a shock therapy patient.

DeVito plays Dave Schmerz, a failed screenwriter working for a prestigious film school. His story is one of numerous, vaguely interconnected tales about different bunches of people and, of course, a wiener-dog that somehow finds its way into their care. “A dachshund passes from oddball owner to oddball owner, whose radically dysfunctional lives are all impacted by the pooch”, states the film’s IMDb synopsis, and yet I don’t recall the dog doing a single thing of value except providing the film with an excruciatingly overdrawn shot of faeces. Its owners could’ve been lugging around an old toilet and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Sad, then, that the movie is called Wiener-Dog. Solondz, who wrote and directed, must feel affection for canines, but it is lost in his screenplay, which frowns upon them ambivalently with a truly disturbing conclusion, and Julie Delpy having to constantly remind her son that “Dogs are not humans!”. Everyone’s so stunted by the strange dialogue and bizarre staging that the entire picture becomes a distraction of itself. It might also be the only movie under 90 minutes to have an intermission. Gives us the perfect opportunity to walk out, I suppose.

Wiener-Dog is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July) 

Image courtesy of Transmission Films & Revelation Film Festival

Top Knot Detective – Revelation Perth International Film Festival

Riotously funny, Top Knot Detective is what happens when you watch too much late-night SBS.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Michael Philp 

It’s hard to describe Top Knot Detective to the uninitiated. Its list of influences includes Power Rangers, midnight SBS insanity and legendarily bad films like The Room. Imagine a mockumentary retrospective on Kung Fury, and you’ll have some grasp of what you’re in for. If those things don’t float your boat, the exit is to your right. For everyone else, Top Knot Detective is brilliant and it deserves to be on your must-see list.

Top Knot details the rise and fall of fictional 90’s Japanese TV show Ronin Suiri Tentai (Deductive Reasoning Ronin), zeroing in on the show’s creator/director/star/writer Takashi Tawagoto (Toshi Okuzaki), who is described as “Errol Flynn without the STD’s or the talent”. Through interviews with his co-stars and the show’s crew, the film builds a fascinating and hilarious portrait of a young man swept up in the creative process.

There are so many things to love about Top Knot. The number of jokes per minute is phenomenal, and just about each one lands perfectly. On top of that, the level of care on display is remarkable. From the acting to the background details, everything around the show is on-point. Even the tie-in advertisements and archive photos feel beautifully real, and you’ll often forget that everything you’re seeing has come directly from the minds of directors Aaron McCann and Dominic Pearce. Top Knot Detective isn’t just a send-up of cheap, over the top Japanese cinema, it’s McCann and Pearce’s love letter to the genre. Theirs is a world of giant penis monsters, talk shows with cats, and gloriously ridiculous (and ridiculously gory) action scenes. If that sentence interests you, Top Knot Detective cannot be recommended enough.

Top Knot Detective is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July)

Image courtesy of Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) and Revelation Film Festival 

Descent into the Maelstrom – Revelation Perth International Film Festival

Descent into the Malestrom is a high energy journey into the success, and failings, of 70’s Aussie rock’n’roll band Radio Birdman.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Elle Cahill 

In 1974 in Sydney, a young American man named Deniz Tek formed the band Radio Birdman with Rob Younger. Following the recruitment of four other members, Radio Birdman went on to cause a stir in the Australian music scene, with their unconventional take on rock’n’roll and their determination to stay true to their original brand of music. Whilst the band had a short run of success, with the members of the band choosing to part ways in 1978, they became the influence for many mainstream Australian bands.

The genius of Descent into the Maelstrom lies in director Jonathan Sequeira’s complete understanding of the band. There are so many elements at play that are carefully hidden behind the guise of a historical documentary as Sequeira explores the band’s rise to fame. But this documentary offers so much more, and much like the music of Radio Birdman, it refuses to stick to traditional documentary conventions.

The first half of the documentary is littered with wild tales as retold by the band members, now well into their 60’s, and discusses their struggle to be taken seriously in the music scene. There is an incredible archive of footage and photos from Radio Birdman’s performances, which makes up the majority of the visual content for the documentary, but it’s the clever use of storyboard animations that help to fill the gaps in the footage that adds a little extra something, and makes the documentary slightly unusual.

The second half of the documentary takes on a quiet, reflective state as the band are picked up by a label and begin touring internationally in 1977. The more they tour, the more the cracks in the group become irreparable, and this is supported with a definite change in mood in the present-day interviews as the band members become more solemn and disgruntled about how Radio Birdman ended.

Descent into the Maelstrom does well in immersing the audience into this world of rock’n’roll, but there’s also a certain amount of assumed knowledge that is expected of the audience. Knowledge of the state of the Australian music scene at this time is helpful, as well as knowing a bit about the punk scene, both on an international scale, and on a more local, Australian scale. There’s a lot of reminiscing about forgotten bands and pubs that no longer exist, which can leave you missing the significance of these details if you’re just that bit too young.

Descent into the Maelstrom, much like Radio Birdman’s music and band ethos, is raw, gritty and unorthodox, but it’s the honest portrayal of the highs and lows of Radio Birdman’s short rise to fame, and subsequent conflict within the band, that makes this documentary so interesting.

Descent into the Maelstrom is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July)

Image courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment & Revelation Film Festival

Watch The Sunset – Revelation Perth International Film Festival

Watch the Sunset is a remarkable achievement that maintains a gripping momentum… almost until the end.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Michael Philp

The one-take genre of drama is small; its most oft-cited works being Victoria and Russian Ark. It’s a format that lends itself to intense realism, but is also hampered by logistical constraints. Watch the Sunset, filmed over the course of an afternoon in Kerang, Victoria, delivers the former in spades, but fails to overcome the trappings of its genre.

The film opens with a brief montage of documentary footage on the drug ice, giving context to the film’s first scene: a man, Danny (Tristan Barr), driving a devastated young woman, Charis (Zia Zantis-Vinycomb) to a motel and locking her in a room. From here, Danny abandons her to attempt to reconnect with his ex-wife and daughter. For good reasons, the former doesn’t want a bar of him, and her reservations are proven legitimate when things take a turn for the worst.

For the vast majority of the film, the camera sticks to Danny like a small child, allowing the audience a stomach-churning view of the proceedings. There is a remarkable level of authenticity on display: every actor nails the realism and depth necessary to breathe life into the single take, and the camera is there at every step to unflinchingly capture their performances. Better still, it manages to pull off the impressionistic angle just as well, with several clever uses of reflection elevating Damien E. Lipp’s cinematography.

Sadly, the film goes off the rails near the end. A brief monologue on “what separates us from the animals” comes off as egregiously empty philosophising, and the film never recovers enough to deliver the rousing finale you want. If this were a normal film, the editing bay might have caught that and cut the scene down, but the single-take genre allows no such leeway.

Watch the Sunset is a powerful film: its performances are devastatingly real, and its achievements are awe-inspiring. Every member of the crew deserves commendation; they have pulled off one of cinema’s most daring feats with aplomb, producing a film that will keep you on the edge of your seat almost until the very end.

Watch the Sunset is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July) 

Image courtesy of BarrLipp Productions and Revelation Film Festival 

Becoming Bond – Revelation Perth International Film Festival

Becoming Bond is a candid behind-the-scenes look at the career of George Lazenby, an Australian model who was suddenly thrust into the limelight as one of the most iconic characters ever.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½ 
Rhys Graeme-Drury 

After five hugely successful and popular entries, Sean Connery passed on the opportunity to star in further Bond films, leaving the studio with the precocious proposition of replacing a man who had come to personify his character. They settled on George Lazenby, a mechanic/car salesman/male model from rural Queensland who just so happened to conflate his resume and blag his way through the audition process.

After scoring the role, Lazenby swiftly announced midway through the shoot of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service that he wouldn’t be returning to the role a second time, turning down a tabled offer of £1 million and a seven-picture deal – a decision that seemed baffling both at the time and in hindsight.

Becoming Bond is a feature length documentary/biopic from writer/director Josh Greenbaum that intends to untangle this perplexing series of events – just how did Lazenby waltz into the most lucrative role of a lifetime? And why did he choose to walk away when so many other actors would have killed to be in his position?

The film melds talking heads – well, one talking head from Lazenby himself – with archival footage from the era alongside lengthy re-enactments from a cast of actors; Australian writer/director/comedian Josh Lawson plays Lazenby, Home and Away actress Kassandra Clementi plays Belinda, the love of his life, and Jeff Garlin plays Harry Saltzman, amongst others.

It’s an amusing approach that is mainly played for laughs – Lazenby’s narration of events is often lip-synched over the actors and you get the sense that the whole affair is an embellishment of the past, kind of like how stories get exaggerated over time. Again, this is played for laughs, and the film is an effervescent look at show business and how Lazenby’s round peg didn’t fit into the square hole he was offered.

Lawson has charisma to spare, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Jake Johnson is fun and Lazenby’s narration is direct and doesn’t lack clarity. It’s the pacing where this film falls down – quite simply, the entire first half is dedicated to charting Lazenby’s childhood and formative years as a young larrikin. No offence, but is this what we came to see? Clearly there are events here of importance to the man himself, but the most important stuff – the making of his sole Bond film – takes too long to come to the fore. Alas, the film still carries weight, and the message – to stay true to who you are and know yourself – is impactful to say the least.

Raunchy, irreverent and brimming the same irresistible cheekiness that has defined Bond over 50 years of films, Becoming Bond elevates a relative footnote in his history to a starring role, turning Lazenby’s career from a pub trivia question into something quite profound.

Becoming Bond is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July) 

Image courtesy of Madman Entertainment

 

Movie Review – Baby Driver

Edgar Wright’s sixth film is a complete delight, packed with music, action, and revved to the brink.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

Baby Driver is a slam-bam roller-coaster ride filled with pop tunes, screeching tyres, machine guns and, of course, lots of kisses. It’s the kind of heist movie that isn’t so much about the heist as about the people who execute them. They’re a mishmash of assorted character types, some deluded, some tragic, some just plain nuts; but they’re all necessary. This is a crazy, thoroughly enjoyable movie by a director who’s in full command of his craft and totally revelling in it.

It starts with a bang: a high-speed getaway after a bank robbery. The driver is none other than Baby (Ansel Elgort), a sunglasses-wearing, jacket-loving young chap whose motor skills are so good he makes the Fast & Furious crew look like L-platers panicking at a roundabout. He also has a thing for music. Lots of music. 24/7. It is the beat to which his life grooves.

Much is made of the soundtrack – indeed, it punctuates just about every line of dialogue, every scene change, every gunshot – but I was more enthralled by the sheer audacity of Wright to marry so many influences into a bubbling cauldron of cinematic delight. Like all his movies, Baby Driver is written with meticulous precision. It draws its narrative from Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (2011). It steals romance from Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Baby has mummy issues, just like Peter Quill from the Marvel movies. And yet none of it feels unoriginal. By rooting the character drama so firmly in the innocence of its leading couple, Baby Driver becomes something uniquely its own. A kind of modern day fairy tale told through a lens of crime.

Kevin Spacey plays Doc, the chauffeured gangster who recruits Baby and orchestrates his devilish schemes; he is reliably intimidating and droll. The two best performances belong to Jamie Foxx as Bats and Lily James as the diner waitress Debora. Foxx eerily blurs the line between acting and real life. His trigger-happy, psychotic thief is so convincingly bonkers I suspect Elgort and the rest turned up to work each day wearing Kevlar. He is the volatile variable Wright flings into the cauldron, content to let him steer the story as he sees fit. Next to him, the vengeful Buddy (a manic Jon Hamm) seems almost domesticated.

But it’s not enough that these characters are broadly drawn and impressive; what they say and how they say it is often what keeps the entire machine oiled. Wright has a knack for words, not in the same way as, say, Quentin Tarantino or Wes Anderson, but his dialogue has a way of kidding itself. Watch how a conversation in a car about code names and real names becomes almost poetic. Or another in which three bad guys have to wear Halloween masks of Mike Myers instead of Michael Myers. Or how Wright shrewdly slips in a reference to Monsters, Inc. (2001). It’s kinda bewitching.

I have enjoyed all of Wright’s pictures. There’s an energy about them. A certain charm that runs from the page to the screen. It is clear he is a visual storyteller, a director not content to explain his ideas but to showcase them through cinematic technique. He is the grand puppeteer. He has all the strings. He knows exactly what they do, and not for a second does he ever tug the wrong one.

Baby Driver is available in Australian cinemas from July 12

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures