Movie Review – Cargo

In a post-apocalyptic Australia, Martin Freeman plays Andy, a man roaming the outback desperate to find sanctuary for his daughter before he turns into a zombie. Along the way, he encounters Thoomi a young girl who agrees to help Andy if for nothing more than the company in a vastly decreasing population of unaffected people.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Elle Cahill

Cargo, from first time filmmakers Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke, follows the story of Andy as he desperately tries to make his way across the outback in a post-apocalyptic Australia to try and get his one-year-old daughter to safety before he succumbs to a zombie virus. Along the way, he meets Thoomi, a young girl who is to protect her zombified father from being killed and who may just be able to help lead him and his daughter to safety.

Zombie films are hard sells nowadays, and a zombie film in the outback an even harder one. With the ever growing list of zombie franchises such as the popular TV series The Walking Dead, iZombie and Santa Clarita Diet, and the endless Resident Evil films, not to mention the standalone films Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead and World War Z (just to name a few), there are few angles left to take.

Surprisingly, Cargo manages to carefully straddle the line between formulaic and unique to present a film that is recognisable enough in its themes and plot for audiences to understand they’re watching a zombie film, but its careful characterisation and location choice ultimately present a different take on the whole zombie epidemic.

Martin Freeman is brilliant as the helpless Andy who’s just trying to keep his family safe. His paternal protectiveness of his young daughter Rosie is his drive throughout the entire film, and is played to such precision that it gives the whole film purpose, that is often missing from traditional zombie films. Newcomer Simone Landers is wonderfully strong and insightful as Thoomi. Her powerful belief in her culture’s traditional rituals is never portrayed as naïve but instead is a sliver of hope in a largely doomed world.

Ultimately this film isn’t about a zombie-virus invasion or white vs. Indigenous culture; it is simply a story of survival, where the outback is no longer a dangerous environment but actually a sanctuary, and where the people remaining are trying to survive in any way they know how. Whilst the film contains the necessary drone shots of the Australian outback for the international viewers, it portrays the outback in a completely different way as well, almost as Australians see it rather than something to be feared.

I’d definitely recommend giving this film a watch, if not for a different take on Australian culture in cinema or a unique offering to the zombie genre, then at least for Martin Freeman owning this role like a boss.

Cargo is available in Australian cinemas from May 17 

Image courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment

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Movie Review – Tully

Tully will no doubt aggravate many, but Jason Reitman once again delivers domestic drama at the highest level

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

The partnership of Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody is one that works because they share the natural instinct to get underneath their characters and turn them into everyday heroes. They partnered on Juno (2007) and again on Young Adult (2011), which also stars Charlize Theron. In both films, they treated very real issues with a bit of whimsy and a bit of elegance, but never lost that human touch. Tully, their latest collaboration, carries on in their grand tradition.

The movie is very much a one-woman show, with Theron playing Marlo, a mum of two with an unplanned third on the way. Her younger son, Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica), is a behavioural deviant and may soon be dismissed from kindergarten. Her older daughter questions everything. Every day Marlo does the mothering while her husband, Drew (a terrific Ron Livingston), supplements his working days with video-gaming nights. Now a third child has arrived and it seems like her world has become a top spun upside-down. Help must come!

And come it does, in the stunning shape of Mackenzie Davis, who plays the night nanny, Tully. Tully is young and beautiful, with a keen sense about human feelings. It’s like she knows at once how to fix problems you didn’t even know were there. She strides into Marlo’s life and takes the reins, caring for the baby, baking cupcakes, cleaning the house, giving Marlo much needed breathing space. She even offers to help out in the bedroom. Things pick up. Drew grows closer. Dinners are actually cooked. And then…

Well, I won’t spoil what happens. Tully has a twist, which you will either see coming or despise if you don’t. Or both. Many will say it’s a twist that’s been done before in greater films, but I believe neither Cody, the writer, nor Reitman, the director, feels cheaply about the decision. Could the film have benefited from an alternative? Perhaps. There are always ways to work around obstacles. But because Marlo is so spectacularly herself, it is the fitting, logical call.

Reitman’s films have a way of establishing themselves firmly in a world that looks and feels right. He also seems to possess a natural relationship with Theron, who is given two notes to play (manic and exhausted) but somehow makes Marlo a robust, fully empathetic matriarch. Davis, too, is supremely effective as Tully and has many more strings to play, all of which she does with the tenderness of a maestro. I said the movie is a one-woman show, which it is, except when Marlo and Tully share the screen and completely absorb us in their chemistry. There’s not a lot that goes on here, but the little that does takes us right into the heart of a well-formulated screenplay and a cast of outstanding performers.

Tully is available in Australian cinemas from May 17 

Image courtesy of Studiocanal 

 

Movie Review – Chappaquiddick

Bleakly exposing a dark chapter in political history, Chappaquiddick spins an ambiguous moral compass that refuses to let us land anywhere comfortably.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan 

Senator Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) has spent his life in the shadow of his brothers, Bobby and John F. Kennedy. Seeking to forge his own glory and make his father (Bruce Dern) proud, he follows in their political footsteps on a far less successful presidential campaign. After leaving a party on Chappaquiddick Island with a former staff member of Bobby’s (Kate Mara), an accident submerges their car in a river and drowns the girl. Escaping unscathed, Ted resists his lawyer’s (Ed Helms) pleas to report the incident, and instead follows his father’s advice to conjure an alibi.

John Curran’s (The Killer Inside Me, Tracks) latest and possibly best film Chappaquiddick dramatises the scandal that nearly buried Teddy Kennedy. Ultimately, it leaves us with the realisation that a loud news cycle and press circulation can manipulate final feelings on a subject, and even will us to forgive and forget some of the things people in power have done. Did somebody say fake news?

Curran reels us in by making Teddy a largely likeable and admirable figure, then reveals his flaws and frustrations at being unable to reach his family’s high standards. Following the death of Bobby’s former staff member, Teddy deviates between coming clean of his guilt and doing the right thing, and covering up the incident to keep his political ambitions intact. It’s a complex and layered role that Jason Clarke brings to life perfectly. He seamlessly shifts between charm and dutifulness, to some downright cold and calculated damage control. It’s easily one of his best performances.

Refreshingly, some of his co-stars are also given the chance to shine by playing against type. Kate Mara unfortunately checks out early, but she creates a tragic character in the limited screen time she has. Likewise, Ed Helms, whose name is synonymous with goofball comedy, offers great restraint in a performance that shows he has some very capable dramatic chops.

Chappaquiddick’s producers reportedly received pressure from some very powerful political figures and friends of the Kennedys to not release the film, while other associates lambasted it as an “outright fabrication” and “trafficking in conspiracy theories”, which really only makes it all the more interesting. It can’t answer questions for us, but it does present us one thrilling bucket of worms. Like it or not, sometimes truth can get in the way of duty, and if Chappquiddick’s detractors are to be believed, truth can most definitely get in the way of a good yarn.

Chappaquiddick is available in Australian cinemas from May 10 

Image courtesy of Transmission Films

Movie Review – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Big in title, big in heart

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Elle Cahill

The title might be a bit of a comical mouthful, but The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (GLPPS) is actually quite a sombre film that looks at the impact of World War II on smaller communities in the UK. Through the eyes of young author Juliet Ashton (Lily James), we are shown a war-torn London under repair, and the tragic, lasting effect of war.

After corresponding with member of the GLPPS Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman), Juliet heads to Guernsey Island to meet the book club’s members and find inspiration for her next novel. What she finds, however, is a group struggling to recover from German occupation. She must decide whether her story is worth pursuing, or if she should leave the members to their mourning.

Based on the novel of the same name, Mike Newell’s latest film is supported by an extremely talented and well-known cast, including Matthew Goode as Juliet’s publisher and confidante, and the ever-brilliant Tom Courtenay as the eldest member of the GLPPS. The three standouts, however, are all key members of the book club, including Huisman (Game of Thrones), Katherine Parkinson (The IT Crowd) as the eccentric Isola and Penelope Wilton (Downton Abbey) as the grief-stricken Amelia. All three bring a unique quality to their idiosyncratic characters and express how each character has been changed in irreparable ways by the deep trauma they have endured.

What lets down this strong ensemble is its lead in Lily James (Cinderella, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). James’ Juliet is reminiscent of Kristen Stewart’s turn as Bella in Twilight. Her character is supposedly a distinguished author who has suffered significant tragedy at a young age, which completely jars with James’ girlish, slightly immature delivery. It only becomes even more noticeable in contrast with Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey), who’s similarly aged character is miles ahead of Juliet in terms of her maturity and ability to show compassion to others.

Overall, however, GLPPS is a sensitive character study and a well-devised adaptation. While the ending leaves a little to be desired, the core of the film is worth investing your time and money into.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is available in Australian cinemas from Thursday 19 April 

Image courtesy of Studiocanal

Movie Review – Love, Simon

A film about a gay people struggling to come out the world… wait, is this Brokeback Mountain? Nope. Blue is the Warmest Colour? Keep going…

⭐ ⭐
Josip Knezevic

When it comes to pleasing the politically correct (PC) crowd, never has there been a more contrived example than Greg Berlanti’s Love, Simon. Set as a coming of age romantic love story, we examine the life of closeted gay teenager Simon (Nick Robinson), as he falls hopelessly for an anonymous classmate he has met online. Their “relationship” is constrained when Simon is blackmailed into balancing his friend’s love interested in each other, or face his secret being exposed. It’s up to Scooby-doo and the clan to hunt down the identity of his mysterious lover before the curtains close on our beloved gay hero.

If you can’t tell; I wasn’t a fan of America’s latest twist on the PC Agenda. And no this isn’t because I hate movies about romance – She’s The Man is one of my all-time guilty pleasures. It’s more about the fact this film is constantly pushing its agenda. When you have a gay Jewish black guy, and the film is already about a closeted teenager, I don’t even know what the hell is even going on anymore. I mean, this new wave of politically correctness is slowly getting out of hand.

If you can move past all that nonsense, therein lies an enduring love story. The only problem is, you’ll have to continue to filter out all the absolute ridiculousness that happens in the background. It’s downright laughable; I  kid you not, there is a scene of Simon walking through the hallway, hi-fiving kids that look like they are well below his year, whilst others around him simply give the thumbs up or a spunky finger point. This. Does not. Happen. Add in the predictable plot devices aimed at trying to throw the audience off the secret lover’s identity and I’m done.

I doubt much of what I’ve said will change anything as I expect Love, Simon will be a sure hit at the cinemas. Hopefully this review lowers your expectations so in turn you can have a better time watching it, because sure enough I know that many will. Now, where’s my popcorn…

Love, Simon is available in Australian cinemas from March 29

Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox 

Movie Review – Red Sparrow

Jennifer Lawrence seems content with scaring away her legions of fans lately – and it’s probably the best career move she’s ever made.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Corey Hogan

After a disastrous leg injury ends her career as a renowned Russian ballerina, Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) is propositioned by her uncle Vanya (Matthias Schoenaerts) – a member of the Russian intelligence – to undertake a dangerous job in exchange for her mother’s medical care. The task – seducing a politician and stealing his phone – goes horribly wrong when he rapes Dominika and is slaughtered by a fellow operative. With no witnesses permitted to this murder, Dominika is given two options; face execution, or train to become a Russian agent known as a Sparrow, using her beauty to seduce her targets.

We’ve entered a new phase of J-Law’s career and boy, is it interesting. Gone it seems are the safe, crowd-pleasing days of The Hunger Games and David O. Russell Oscar-bait. In two foul swoops, she’s alienated her legions of adoring fans and divided critics right down the middle; first with last year’s harrowing mother!, now with the equally challenging espionage thriller Red Sparrow. Neither film does what a standard Jennifer Lawrence vehicle says on the tin, but frankly, it’s the most exciting work she’s done since entering the public eye with Winter’s Bone all those years ago.

Anyone entering Red Sparrow expecting a female-friendly spin on Bond or Bourne is in for a rude shock. It’s slow-paced, talky, and drawn-out in its unravelling plot across two-and-a-half hours, punctuated with tough-to-watch scenes of graphic torture and sexual violence. Director Francis Lawrence, also taking a sharp 180 turn after helming three quarters of The Hunger Games franchise, is gritty and completely uncompromising in his raw on-screen brutality that will no doubt put many off. It’s extreme, but it’s not excessive; it’s always at the service of the dense story.

Refreshingly, it’s also perhaps the only major release film in recent history to present and handle sexuality confidently and maturely. After too much of the childish antics of Fifty Shades, it’s rejuvenating to see a blockbuster unafraid to embrace its sexual themes and show-all, from the unflinching nudity to the realistic and often taboo desires of its characters. Some of the best moments take place as Dominka is conditioned to become a Sparrow in the classroom of Headmistress “Matron” (Charlotte Rampling), who is clearly having a blast as she ruthlessly orders her students to bare all and perform acts one would normally keep private.

Lawrence herself may not be the most convincing Russian girl at surface-level, but she does well to maintain an accent and mannerisms, and her consistently fringed hair certainly helps complete the illusion. One could consider her performance to be brave – and not just because she bares her naked body full frontal. Given the trauma she must have faced with her privacy invaded a few years back (yes, I’m talking about the nude photo leak again), it’s surprising how confidently she embraces a role that objectifies her body in tight outfits and sees her beaten, bruised, raped and pummelled, and that she can still make her character seem powerful. It’s sinister stuff.

Of course, these positives can’t distract from a few glaring flaws, as entertaining a ride as it is. The plot isn’t as complex as it thinks it is or wants to be. It also suffers as it grows progressively ludicrous, with one far-fetched betrayal and plot twist after the other in the third act. Tonal issues aside, this is token dark, oppressive cinema that knows no boundaries in an age of juvenile, Disney-fied multiplexes; it’s wickedly confronting. Let’s pray J-Law continues to give her sensitive fans and critics the middle finger.

Red Sparrow is available in Australian cinemas from March 1

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Movie Review – Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool

There’s a new Mrs. Robinson in town – Annette Benning and Jamie Bell make for an unusual coupling, but they’re still one hundred times more convincing lovers than the Fifty Shades pair.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Corey Hogan 

Aspiring young actor Peter Turner (Jamie Bell) discovers that his former lover, fading and aging Academy Award-winning actress Gloria Grahame (Annette Benning) is back in his home town of Liverpool. He soon learns she’s hidden from him the fact that she’s become severely unwell, though Gloria herself can’t seem to come to terms with the reality that she may not have much longer to live. As Peter takes her into his family home to care for her, he reminisces on their relationship, from the rosy days of their meeting and falling in love, to the rougher patches that caused the two actors to split.

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool represents a maturing and an unexpectedly serious turn for at least two of its main players. Director Paul McGuigan, who has previously worked on iffy fare such as Lucky Number Slevin (2006), Push (2009) and the dreadful Victor Frankenstein (2015), does a complete 180 to craft a slow, sophisticated and emotional acting showcase. It’s the stuff that award voters gush over.

The other revolutionary turn is Jamie Bell (The Eagle, Fantastic Four), who truly stuns in going against type. Abandoning the macho action brute he’s carved out for himself over the course of his career, his sensitive portrayal of the clucky, optimistic young man who falls head over heels for an older lady harkens way back to his breakout role in Billy Elliot nearly eighteen years ago. Bell completely sells the unconditional love Peter holds for Gloria, making the romance between a couple nearly thirty years apart in age feel unbelievably natural.

Matching him is the legendary Annette Benning, the lone American in a sea of Brits. She’s simply a joy to watch as the late, great femme fatale; dizzily optimistic and endearingly not-all-there as her vision of superstardom triumphs over all in her eyes. It’s tempting to think that Benning drew comparisons between the character and her own career, which was once very much in the limelight, but has faded somewhat as she’s aged. Like Gloria though, she’s gifted the opportunity to prove she still shines brightly in her twilight.

The crackling chemistry of the two leads carries the film and gives it great heft, as without these two brilliant performances McGuigan’s film is a fairly basic semi-biopic, with the material based on Peter Turner’s memoir. Even with its patches of greatness, there’s no escaping the somewhat lax story and its overly-sentimental overtones that don’t quite make this the tearjerker it is trying so hard to be. That said, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool handles its material with a great deal of respect and restraint, and is a commendably pleasant, funny and involving experience.

Films Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool is available in Australian cinemas from March 1

Image courtesy of Transmission Films

Movie Review – The Mercy

Among the great lost-at-sea films like Life of Pi and All is Lost, The Mercy finishes in a distant third.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

The Mercy tells a strange sort of story. It’s so strange, in fact, I’m not quite sure it’s worth telling, and yet it has been told numerous times over the years, as documentaries, dramas, novels, even stage plays. It is about the true tragedy of Donald Crowhurst, an inventor and amateur sailor from Teignmouth, England, who in 1968 decided to participate in the Golden Globe race and sail around the world without stopping. Why? For the same reasons Hillary scaled Everest and Armstrong landed on the moon, I suppose. Those were great achievements. Donald, however, lost his mind and was never seen again.

In The Mercy, Donald is played by Colin Firth, and there is a clever parallel early on in the film where he tries to sell his latest invention: an early GPS radio called the Navicator. It’s a device so successful that when he uses it later at sea, it points him completely in the wrong direction.

My issues with the story rose quickly. No doubt it will fascinate students of psychology, who might want to pick at Donald’s brain as it spiralled ever downward into fear, paranoia and eventually insanity. He kept detailed logbooks of his journey (apparently writing over 25,000 words) and began faking his real coordinates when nature started to get the better of him. We are meant to think of him as a bright man who was too clueless for his own good.

The problem with Donald’s story is that while many people might see him as an entrepreneur who simply made ill calculations, I cannot look past the arrogance of his decision to brave the seas alone, leaving his poor wife at home to keep their family afloat. Yes, you could argue he entered the race for the prize money and recognition to salvage his failing company, but surely a bank loan would’ve sufficed? How many wives and mothers, for that matter, had to smile graciously while their husbands walked off for the race to attain personal glory, not knowing if they’d ever return?

I say all this because these questions kept nagging at me as I sat through The Mercy, a movie that lacks the courage to deal with Donald’s physical and mental isolation in a way that makes us break down with him. Donald spends over two hundred days alone on the ocean, and James Marsh’s film should’ve been relentless in its portrait of a man who started with good intentions and ended up trapped in his own mind. Instead, it jars with unnecessary flashbacks and continuously cuts from Donald on his boat to the people on land, including his wife Clare (Rachel Weisz) and his press agent Rodney Hallworth (David Thewlis), for no other reason than to give Weisz and Thewlis something to do. A man stranded alone in the ocean is dramatic enough. We don’t need his plight to be sentimentalised. Or do we?

I don’t know. For many, I suspect The Mercy will be informative and sad in equal measure, and to an extent it is. But the person who really deserves all our sympathies is Clare, who accepted her husband’s choice because she loved him and had to live the rest of her days knowing that love couldn’t bring him back.

The Mercy is available in Australian cinemas from March 8 

Image courtesy of StudioCanal

 

Movie Review – Fifty Shades Freed

Like an impotent lover that never really attracted you in the first place, the Fifty Shades trilogy limps to an unsatisfying climax that leaves you feeling dirty and ashamed.


Corey Hogan 

Though their relationship pushes the limits of what normal people might consider healthy, average girl Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and kinky billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) finally tie the knot and get married in Fifty Shades Freed. Their obnoxiously extravagant honeymoon is cut short however, when word that Ana’s former boss/stalker Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) has been spotted snooping ominously around Grey Enterprises. Drawn back to Seattle, their relationship is tested once more, with Hyde’s interference spelling the end for the two lovers and their friends and family.

So, here we are at last at the end of the Fifty Shades phenomena that grew from humble beginnings as Twilight fan fiction-turned mummy porn back in 2011. If you’ve followed the series up to this point, then chances are you fit into one of two categories of people; the legions of adoring female fans playing out their fantasy of being swept off their feet by a rich hunk, or the so-bad-it’s-good movie enthusiasts scoffing at the woeful acting, dialogue and general preposterousness of the entire situation.

In that sense, Fifty Shades Freed is business as usual, though this barely half-assed final chapter doesn’t even have the courtesy of remaining consistent in its unintentional hilarity. Instead, it gets the laughably un-erotic sex scenes out of the way early on to focus on things literally no one watches these movies for – the mundanities of a kinky relationship succumbing to dull, everyday married life routine. It’s painfully boring, and a bit depressing to think that all exciting, spontaneous partnerships are doomed to flatline and centre on unsexy things, like renovating houses and starting a family. No wonder divorce is so popular.

In a poor attempt to spice things up a bit, a subplot involving Ana’s aggressive ex-boss Jack Hyde is badly integrated into the main story and could be accused of derailing it, were there anything resembling a plot in the first place. Straight out of a Z-grade action movie, Eric Johnson is dreadful as the motivation-less, cliché antagonist, doing stock bad guy things like breaking into the Grey household and holding a knife to Ana’s throat (why, exactly?), and kidnapping Christian’s sister for a $5 million ransom (huh?). It’s maddeningly nonsensical, but at least gives the filmmakers an excuse to cram in an incredibly lazy car chase sequence.

Meanwhile, our mismatched leads bring their happily-ever-after to its climax with the same lack of flair we’ve come to expect. Dakota Johnson looks even more bored than we are, no doubt relieved she can finally leave Anastasia’s dumbfounded expression behind and continue working with directors like Luca Guadagnino. Jamie Dornan at least has The Fall to back up his claim to a career in acting, because his wooden performance as Christian Grey could be mistaken for impersonating someone with autism, were he not so buff and handsome.

So… what else is there to say, really? We’re treated at the conclusion to a montage of clips from Ana and Christian’s most “romantic” moments across the trilogy, right from their meeting at the very beginning. It puts into perspective just how forgettable this journey has been, and confirms that it was never really the story or characters that had any impact on society, it was the idea itself; a kinky wet dream that somehow escaped the trappings of erotica novelisations to cross into the mainstream consciousness. Love it or loathe it, Fifty Shades has shaped and impacted modern culture, for better or worse. At least this one manages to get the title right – we’re finally freed from restraints of one of history’s most atrocious franchises.

Fifty Shades Freed is available in Australian cinemas from February 8 

Image (c) Universal Pictures 2018

Movie Review – Phantom Thread

Being a fan of Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis certainly requires years of patience, fortunately they make it worth the lengthy wait. 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan 

Famous London fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is renowned for his incredible garments tailor-made for high society people. His creative genius stems from his notoriously controlling and massively obsessive-compulsive personality; each activity of his day follows a strict regime down to the tiniest detail. Any slight disturbance or disruption can unhinge Reynolds completely, unleashing his temper and aggressive nature. When he meets a waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps) on a trip to the countryside, he pursues a relationship, but once she moves in with him, her more impulsive, emotional behaviour clashes with his ordered world, and a great power play begins.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s distinguished career has given us great variety with ensemble comedy dramas about porn’s golden era (Boogie Nights), a mosaic of depression in L.A. (Magnolia), and a drug-fuelled crime caper (Inherent Vice). He’s explored the extreme highs and lows of gambling (Hard Eight), a mental illness love story (Punch-Drunk Love), the monsters of greed and corruption in the old west (There Will Be Blood), and the seductive horrors of joining a cult (The Master).

Once again, PTA goes into completely new territory with Phantom Thread. His second collaboration with Daniel Day-Lewis comes at the ten-year anniversary of their masterpiece There Will Be Blood, making Phantom Thread one of the most anticipated period piece gothic romances ever.

PTA’s unpredictable storytelling and filmmaking methods are on full display here, and the result is something compulsively watchable. The trailers and posters have wisely revealed little of the plot; it is best to head in with a blank slate and let the intoxicating beauty of PTA’s version of a 50’s London wash over you. Complete with stunningly recreated costume work (consider designer Mark Bridges a strong bet for the Oscar) on dazzling 16mm-shot film, Phantom Thread is essentially a slow-burning, unique spin on the eccentric older male prodigy and his younger female muse trope, but again, its curiosities are best discovered for oneself.

On top of the fact that PTA and DDL’s last team-up gave us one of the greatest cinematic masterpieces of the 21st century, Day-Lewis has announced that this will be his curtain call from acting. He has, of course, threatened retirement in the past, and given his films are more infrequent these days than even Paul Thomas Anderson’s, it’s difficult to know what to believe. But if this is to truly be his swansong, he’s bowed out with a brilliant performance that’s not his usual show eruption, but instead a contained masterclass in restraint.

As Reynolds Woodcock, he brings obsessive compulsive genius to a new level; a mad tyrant wrapped in a calm, charismatic personal charm – that is provided his strict daily routine goes exactly as planned. It’s entirely possible that Day-Lewis has decided to leave us with a performance that mirrors his own creative process, given his famously intense preparation and methods in completely embodying his characters.

And then, there’s an even bigger surprise. As both the light of his life and bane of his existence, newcomer Vicky Krieps perfectly forms the yin to DDL’s yang as his young lover Alma. It’s no mean feat for an unknown actress to share the screen with a legendary actor and match him compellingly. Though Lesley Manville earned the Supporting Actress nod (also deservingly, as Reynolds’ subservient sister), Krieps is the true powerhouse and driving force of a deliciously twisted romance for the ages. As DDL’s career ends, hers begins – it’s quite poetic.

If there’s one niggle it’s the somewhat impotent outcome to their magnetic relationship, though it’s a conclusion to be debated rather than scorned. And that’s how PTA, DDL and VK leave us; deep in thought and certain of only one thing – that this is a triumph for all involved.

Phantom Thread is available in Australian cinemas from February 1

Image (c) Universal Pictures 2018