Posts Tagged ‘Alicia Vikander’

The Conception of an Affair

Tulip Fever

Director: Justin Chadwick

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz, Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Judi Dench, Jack O’Connell, Kevin McKidd, Holliday Grainger, Tom Hollander, Zach Galifianakis, Joanna Scanlan, David Harewood, Sebastian Armesto, Matthew Morrison, Douglas Hodge

British director Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl, Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom, The First Grader) tackles a cinematic version of Deborah Moggarch’s novel Tulip Fever with the literary assistance of Anna Karenina screenwriter Tom Stoppard.

Assembling an international cast including Oscar winner Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) and fellow Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl), Tulip Fever is set in Amsterdam in 1623 at the height of the Tulip trade which flourished in the Netherlands and was in essence the first stock market which blossomed illicitly behind Tavern doors and co-opted by solicitous nuns who grew the beautiful flowers in sacred abbeys away from the hustle of Dutch city life.

With sumptuous costumes by Michael O’Connor and suitably dark production design by Simon Elliott, Tulip Fever focuses on the young orphan Sophia Sandvoort superbly played by Vikander who is forced to marry the wealthy yet childless Burgermeester (local mayor) Cornelious Sandvoort played by Waltz.

Like all Dutch noblemen, Sandvoort commissions a young and impoverished painter to paint the couple’s portrait, a 17th century trend which made Rembrandt famous. In steps the exuberant and excitable Jan van Loos played by Dane DeHaan (Valerian, Kill Your Darlings).

Soon van Loos falls for the ravishing Sophia and deception is conceived mainly for her to escape from her pompous husband who really wants to impregnate her with his preferably male heir.

In a parallel narrative, Sophia’s devoted maid, Maria played by British actress Holliday Grainger (Jane Eyre, The Finest Hours, Cinderella) has fallen for the charming if not smelly fishmonger Willem Bok played by Jack O’Connell (Unbroken) who aspire to get married and have six children together.

In a bizarre twist both Bok and van Loos, two young men desperately trying to increase their liquidity embark on making money on the booming tulip trade, in which the precious bulbs fluctuated in price depending on their rarity and natural beauty of the elusive flower.

Oscar winner Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love) plays the Abbess who has to sternly guide the young men in the flourishing yet turbulent tulip trade while the Netherlands was expanding its colonial empire to the Dutch East Indies and South Africa.

Despite the slightly convoluted plot and frenetic story line, Tulip Fever is an enjoyable and raunchy period drama held together by amazing performances by the four main leads which serves as a Dutch version of Twelfth Night.

Audiences that enjoyed Girl with a Pearl Earring and Shakespeare in Love, will undoubtedly love Tulip Fever, which provides a fascinating cinematic perspective on the brief but flourishing Tulip trade which made the Netherlands one of the riches countries in Europe especially in the 17th century, establishing their own national stability and making them the money lenders of Europe.

With all the deceit, obsession and money trading, Tulip Fever is a riotous period drama and gets a film rating of 7 out of 10.

Tulip Fever is recommended viewing as a historical drama with a uniquely Dutch twist.

Reclaiming his Identity

Jason Bourne

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Director: Paul Greengrass

Cast: Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed, Scott Sheperd

Director Paul Greengrass reunites with Matt Damon in a thrilling continuation of the Bourne franchise in the aptly titled Jason Bourne.

Having directed The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, it was inevitable that Greengrass and Damon would work together again. The lure of the fast paced, globe-trotting Bourne franchise is irresistible.

Joining the cast of Jason Bourne are Alicia Vikander fresh from her Oscar win in The Danish Girl as a tech analyst Heather Lee, a more ambivalent version of the role played by Joan Allen in the previous films. Black Swan’s Vincent Cassel also joins the film as the ruthless assassin and the shady CIA director Robert Dewey is this time played by Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones (The Fugitive).

Riz Ahmed (The Reluctant Fundamentalist) plays a Tech billionaire, Aaron Kalloor and head of Deep Dream who has some equally underhand dealings with the CIA. Julia Stiles reprises her role as Nicky Parsons which adds to the continuity of this Bourne film.

As the action moves from Iceland to Athens to Berlin and then onto a Tech convention in Las Vegas, Jason Bourne as an action thriller delivers on all fronts, crisp production design by Paul Kirby, brilliant car chases both in Athens and Vegas and excellent sound editing, especially notable in the riot sequence outside the parliament building in Athens.

Vikander is superb as an ambitious CIA operative who is ruthless at playing both sides whilst acknowledging the intrinsic value of Jason Bourne re-joining the programme as a highly skilled and effective assassin.

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Matt Damon is all buffed up in this version, especially in the opening fight sequence in rural Greece, a far cry from the bewildered spy who wakes up on a fishing trawler off the coast of Marseilles in the original film, The Bourne Identity. Damon inhabits Jason Bourne, he personifies the role, reclaiming the identity of this protagonist synonymous with a gritty street spy who is able to navigate his way around the world without barriers.

The plot in this film centres on a hack of the CIA database and the real implications of the Treadstone program which delves into Bourne’s complicated past.

Jason Bourne is a brilliant thriller, especially the unbelievable car chase sequence down Las Vegas Boulevard landing up in the Riviera hotel. This is a top notch thriller, highly recommended and surely a definitive sign that there will be more Bourne films to come.

88th Academy Awards

The 88th Academy Awards / The Oscars

Sunday 28th February 2016

OSCAR WINNERS AT THE 88TH ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS

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Best Picture: Spotlight

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Best Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – The Revenant

Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant

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Best Actress: Brie LarsonRoom

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Best Supporting Actor: Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies

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Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl

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Best Original Screenplay – Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer – Spotlight

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Best Adapted Screenplay – Adam McKay & Charles Randolph – The Big Short from the book The Big Short written by Michael Lewis
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Best Foreign Language Film: Son of Saul (Hungary) directed by Laszlo Nemes

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki – The Revenant

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Best Costume Design: Jenny Beavan – Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Production Design: Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Hair and Makeup: Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Film Editing: Margaret Sixel – Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Sound Editing: Mark A. Mangini and David WhiteMad Max: Fury Road

Best Sound Mixing: Mad Max: Fury Road

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Best Animated Feature: Inside Out by Pete Doctor and Jonas Rivera

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Best Visual Effects: Ex Machina

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Best Documentary Feature: Amy directed by Asaf Kapadia and James Gay-Rees

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Best Original Score: Ennio Morricone – The Hateful Eight

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Best Original Song: The Writings on the Wall by Sam Smith – Spectre

Source: Oscars

 

The Portrait of Lili

The Danish Girl

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Director: Tom Hooper

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ben Whishaw, Sebastian Koch, Sophie Kennedy Clark

After the phenomenal success of The Kings Speech and Les Miserables, director Tom Hooper returns to the art film, in the transgender drama The Danish Girl set in Copenhagen in 1926 starring Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) and Alicia Vikander (Testament of Youth, Anna Karenina).

Based upon the novel by David Ebershoff, The Danish Girl focuses on the extraordinary story of the artistic couple Gerda and Einor Wegener, a husband and wife team who rise to fame when the husband Einor decides to take on the personality of a woman Lili Elbe, who initially was an artistic experiment so that Gerda could paint her husband dressed as a woman. What Gerda soon realizes is that Einor’s penchant for silk stockings and furs goes far beyond the being the subject for a portrait.

In a series of radical costume changes, always looking absolutely gorgeous Einor slowly shed his masculine persona and becomes the dainty and gorgeous Lily Elbe, even stepping out in public at an artist’s ball, where she, Lily attracts the attention of Henrik played by Ben Whishaw (Brideshead Revisited, Spectre). What is lacking in The Danish Girl is a coherent exploration of sexuality as the evolution of Lili Elbe is devoid of sexual desire despite the advances of Henrik and the natural dissolution of conjugal activities within Einor and Gerda’s own marriage.

Eddie Redmayne transformation into Lili is truly remarkable but it is really Alicia Vikander who holds the emotional weight of the film together as she grapples to deal with the significant issue that her husband might be transsexual and soon realizes that the best way to deal with this transformation is to ultimately support this radical decision.

As a film dealing with transgender and transsexual issues, The Danish Girl is aesthetically beautiful to watch, the costumes are exquisite and the production design quite sublime, but the gender politics of the film is not fully explored to the extent that such daring shows as HBO’s Transparent are, featuring a breakout Emmy winning performance by Jeffrey Tambor or even more contemporary set films as TransAmerica or Jared Leto’s turn as the tragic Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club.

Instead, Tom Hooper offers viewers an historical insight into the extraordinary model known as Lili Elbe who sat for several fabulous portraits painted by Gerda Wegener. Redmayne’s performance should be applauded although after his career breaking role as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, he should be weary of becoming typecast as playing characters that go through immense physical and emotional suffering.

The real gem of The Danish Girl belongs to Alicia Vikander’s emotional and brave performance as Gerda Wegener. Vikander is brilliant as she really holds the emotional crux of the film together. The rest of the mostly European cast have minor roles including Belgian actor Mathias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone, Far From the Madding Crowd) as a smooth and elegant Parisian art dealer, Hans Axgil, Amber Heard (The Rum Diary) as a ballerina Ulla and Sebastian Koch as a sympathetic German doctor Warnekros.

Upon a second viewing, The Danish Girl could prove to become an LGBTI classic, as a beautiful film, its rather provocative tale could certainly become a subject of future gender studies courses. The Danish Girl is very similar to Girl with a Pearl Earring, except the portrait model is the fashionable Lili Elbe, which is played with exceptional femininity by a man.

 

 

The Virtues of Vera

Testament of Youth

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Director: James Kent

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Kit Harrington, Taron Egerton, Emily Watson, Dominic West, Hayley Atwell, Miranda Richardson, Colin Morgan, Joanna Scanlan

Swedish actress Alicia Vikander has come a long way from her vivacious debut  as Kitty in Joe Wright’s film Anna Karenina.

In director James Kent’s film adaptation of the 1930’s novel Testament of Youth, Vikander plays aspiring novelist and soon to be pacifist Vera Brittain. The film opens in an idyllic setting  resembling an English summer garden with Vera and her brother Edward played by rising star Taron Egerton, last seen in Legend along with his friends Victor Richardson played by Colin Morgan and the dashing Roland Leighton, wonderfully played by Kit Harrington of the hit HBO TV series Game of Thrones.

As a petulant young woman, Brittain objects to her father buying her a piano and strongly presents her case to her parents played by Emily Watson and Dominic West that all she really desires is to go to Oxford and study literature and classics.

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At the outset of Testament of Youth, Vera Brittain is portrayed as a strong-minded young woman who was extremely close to her brother Edward and his group of friends which were all destined to study at Oxford. Destiny has different plans when in 1914, Europe is plunged into the bloody and brutal First World War, which initially everyone who enlisted thought would only lost a couple of months.

Her brother and his friends all enrol into the British army and go and fight in France, in the muddy trenches and soon the War develops into a brutal protracted affair. Vera soon abandons her plans for Oxford and enrols to be a nurse to assist the war effort.

Unlike Joe Wright’s brilliant and beautiful adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement about doomed love during the Second World War, Testament of Youth does not maintain the same emotional resonance although dealing with similar themes. Vikander holds her own as the passionate and outspoken Vera Brittain.

Her quest to find her brother Edward, leads her to the front lines in France in 1917 where she is forced to take care not only for wounded British soldiers but also for the wounded and dying German soldiers, making her realize that despite the politics, war effects everyone equally, a devastating loss for both the victorious and defeated nations.

Which is precisely why over a hundred years later, Armistice Day is still celebrated on the 11th November as a commemoration of those countless lives sacrificed during World War 1 and a warning about the perils of embarking on future wars which is especially relevant in the conflict strewn geo-political arena of the 21st century.

After World War 1, Vera Brittain became a vocal pacifist and an anti-war campaigner. She dealt with her huge grief by publishing all the letters of her brother and his friends as well as her own memoirs in 1933 of that horrific time during the war, where she witnessed the brutality and infinite loss of life first hand as a nurse.

Testament of Youth is a fascinating look at the naivety of war through the eyes of a generation which were obliterated by its devastating effects. At some point the film, does not manage to maximise the emotional resonance, which films like Atonement and The English Patient did so brilliantly.

Nevertheless Testament of Youth remains a damning anti-war indictment and an accurate historical portrait of a lost generation, right down to the soft focus production design and period costumes.

Audiences should look out for cameo appearances by Hayley Atwell (Brideshead Revisited) as well as Miranda Richardson (The Young Victoria, Damage) as the stern Oxford professor who recognizes Vera Brittain’s potential as a young writer. Recommended viewing for ardent fans of historical cinema.

Source: Vera Brittain

 

Demons in the Kitchen

Burnt

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Director: John Wells
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Bruhl, Alicia Vikander, Emma Thompson, Omar Sy, Uma Thurman, Matthew Rhys, Stephen Campbell Moore, Lily James, Sam Keeley

Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, American Sniper) gives a sterling and frenetic performance as Michelin star chef Adam Jones in the film Burnt, who returns to London from New Orleans, to redeem himself, his reputation and make amendments with the colleagues he upset during his stint in Paris.

Assembling an eclectic cast including Uma Thurman as a Food Critic, Emma Thompson as a Nurse/Social Worker and Daniel Bruhl as the maitre’d Tony. Burnt is a brilliant examination of one man’s attempt to regain his former culinary glory and even surpass it, with a brittle script by Steven Knight.

The film of course is assisted by the two central and brilliant performances by the blue-eyed Bradley Cooper who really excels in the role of the temperamental and arrogant chef Adam Jones who not only is a demon in the kitchen but has to face his own inner demons. Sienna Miller (American Sniper, Foxcatcher) makes up the second superb performance and is fortunately given much more screen time than she had in both her previous films.

Miller plays aspiring Chef Helene who has to juggle bringing up a little girl and working in a hectic kitchen where it’s not only the male egos that threaten her livelihood but their intense competitiveness. Miller is literally surrounded by demons in the kitchen as she has to stand in for Jones after he is beaten up by some nefarious French gangsters for an outstanding drug debt. The scenes between Sienna Miller and Bradley Cooper are riveting too watch, clearly signifying an onscreen chemistry which is both comfortable and electric.

August: Osage County director John Wells’s new film Burnt is certainly primed for Oscar season and it’s especially Cooper and Miller which deserve some thespian recognition. Audiences, while not salivating over the nouvelle cuisine served up at London’s posh Langham Hotel in the West End, should look out for Matthew Rhys as rival chef Reece who also turns in a superb performance opposite Cooper. Then again Rhys has really proven himself as an actor after roles on the hit show Brothers and Sisters and the excellent espionage series The Americans.

As culinary dramas go, Burnt is a top notch film, held together by a riveting performance by Bradley Cooper as the prima donna chef who not only throws pots and pans, but also his reputation to chance, in a concerted effort to redeem himself in one of the world’s toughest capital cities, London.

At times Steven Knight’s script leaves more questions than answers, however Burnt is redeemed in the acting department with both Miller and Cooper turning in fiery and intense performances ably assisted by a European supporting cast including Alicia Vikander (Man from Uncle), Lilly James (Cinderella), Omar Sy (Jurassic World, Good People) and of course the Golden Globe nominee Daniel Bruhl whose screen presence has certainly been raised after his superb performance as Nikki Lauder in Rush.

For all the foodies out there, Burnt is a must see film and will positively find an international audience with the proliferation of MasterChef programs gripping TV screens around the globe.

Haute Cuisine

Highly recommended viewing for those that enjoyed the superb French film Haute Cuisine and Hundred Foot Journey.

 

Retro Repartee

The Man from UNCLE

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Director: Guy Ritchie

Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Hugh Grant, Jared Harris, Luca Calvani

British director Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes, RocknRolla and Snatch) reinvents the Cold War spy drama while sticking to its original retro chic with The Man from UNCLE.

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Henry Cavill (Superman) plays Napoleon Solo, who after a stunning chase sequence in East Berlin, reluctantly teams up with Russian KGB agent, Illya wonderfully played by Armie Hammer, complete with dodgy accent and a bad temper.

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Swedish actress Alicia Vikander plays Gaby who is gallantly rescued from East Berlin by Solo only to become a pawn in a deadly international game of espionage involving chic Italians who are actually Fascists and a desperate search for a nuclear warhead, which is being developed by a glamorous but lethal Italian couple Alexander, played by Luca Calvani (The International) and his vicious wife, Victoria played by Elizabeth Debicki last seen in The Great Gatsby.

Using cool split screen cinematic techniques and an innovative retro-active editing sequence, Ritchie leads the audience on a brilliant dance between espionage, glamour and intrigue, all the usual tropes associated with the hugely successful spy genre: exotic locations, a nefarious villain and a femme fatale who is not what she seems.

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What makes The Man from UNCLE so watchable, is the brilliant onscreen chemistry between Hammer and Cavill, who constantly outdo each other with brawn and wits and naturally are both competing for the affections of the gorgeous yet bold German femme fatale, a role which Alicia Vikander really takes on as her own after playing minor roles in The Fifth Estate and outshining Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina.

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Watch out for the British charm offensive, Hugh Grant (Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Waverly who is back on form with such witty lines as “For a Special Agent, you are not having such a special day”. The dialogue, action sequences and narrative in Man from UNCLE are all perfectly matched to that early 1960’s spy film, additionally helped by most of the film being set in Rome and the Italian coastline. Even the soundtrack for Uncle is suitably chic, with a couple of sixties Italian songs playing enlivening the amusing action sequences.

The costumes are fabulous, the stunts are brilliantly choreographed and the dialogue is suitably witty with both Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer on top form as the two leading men who are jostling for their own pride, accomplishments and competitive edge. It’s the clashing egos of Napoleon and Illya which are fun to watch and director Ritchie plays on the actors’ ability to maintain that constant jealousy between the two characters, coloured with retro repartee which creates a dynamic fraternal bond.

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Elizabeth Debicki is suitably sinister, as the slinky yet dangerous Italian enemy. With plentiful historical references of lurking fascism, Cold War paranoia and sixties glam thrown in, the plot of The Man from Uncle never falters, especially from a director who is clearly unafraid to take risks.

The Man from Uncle is highly recommended viewing for those that have enjoyed Ritchie’s earlier commercial successes and also love a witty, retro spy film which is not afraid to poke fun at the genre itself.

Whistle Blowers Anonymous

The Fifth Estate

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Director: Bill Condon

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci, Dan Stevens, Alicia Vikander, Carice van Houten, Anthony Mackie, David Thewlis

Dreamgirls director Bill Condon takes on the murky and explosive world of Wikileaks in the riveting if not slightly convoluted film The Fifth Estate based on the book by Daniel Berg “Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website”. Rising British star Benedict Cumberbatch plays the dislikable and dysfunctional Australian cult-born hacker Julian Assange founder of Wikileaks, currently residing in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London much like Edward Snowden was last seen at a Moscow airport.

Daniel Bruhl plays Daniel Berg a tech reporter at German Magazine Der Spiegel who joins forces with Assange in a revolutionary groundbreaking journey of leaking sensitive diplomatic documents online – the core of Wikileaks. Naturally all sources were initially protected but the information was released online on the most sensitive subjects from cellphone recordings of victims of 9/11 to the rogue clients of a influential Swiss bank Julius Baer Group http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_Baer_Group .

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At the heart of The Fifth Estate, like in the brilliant Ron Howard film Rush, is a friendship between two men which eventually turns into a bitter rivalry with devastating consequences. Where Assange is reckless and pioneering, notoriously sociopathic, his partner superbly played by Bruhl is conservative, grounded and concerned about the actual consequences of leaking dangerous and sometimes sensitive government information online for the entire world with a laptop to read.

The action starts off with the massive hacking of the NSA (US National Security Agency) diplomatic cables which were leaked online first by deranged US soldier Bradley Manning  now known as Chelsea http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradley_Manning   who leaked the information to Julian Assange and then in turn strikes a deal with three influential international newspapers  in New York, London and Berlin to release the sensitive and damaging diplomatic secrets of the world’s most powerful nation as it was involved in ongoing military action in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq back in 2011. All this sensitive information is suddenly available online much to the horror of US under-secretary for the Middle East Sarah Shaw a superb cameo performance by Laura Linney.

Whilst The Fifth Estate’s narrative is an overload of media information which at times detracts from the characters of the story and gives the film its most fundamental flaw. That whilst all this hacking is taking place at conferences in Scandinavia, Iceland and Germany, it detracts from any real character development. Cumberbatch’s Assange comes across as self-absorbed megalomaniac whilst Daniel Bruhl’s character is more rounded by the limited scenes with his long suffering girlfriend Anke Domscheit  played by Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina).

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The Fifth Estate, unlike the brilliant Aaron Sorkin scripted Oscar winning film The Social Network, suffers the fate of a flashy yet interesting film suffering from a poor script and lack of character development. That’s not to say the chain of events is engrossing, which with a figure as controversial as Assange still remains, The Fifth Estate lacks a decent and edited script treatment.

Character actors David Thewlis and Stanley Tucci make the most of their limited screentime as The Guardian editor Nick Davies and US agent James Boswell.  The Fifth Estate suffers too much from contrivance leaving the audience unable to really connect with Assange and Berg who were essentially anti-social hackers out to change the world, but ended up hurting themselves the most.

Ultimately The Fifth Estate is about the viewers own verdict of two whistle blower pioneers who exposed the world’s most intimate secrets using the most powerful and unedited tool of the 21st century: the internet. The film also stars Carice van Houten from Game of Thrones fame and Dan Rivers from Downton Abbey along with Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker).

See it and judge for yourself.

 

2013 Toronto Film Festival

2013 Toronto International Film Festival Winners

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Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) takes place every year in September in Toronto, Canada.

Films which premiere at Toronto are often nominated for Academy Awards the following year.

TIFF does not hand out individual prizes for Best Actor or Actress but focuses on among others the following awards:
People’s Choice Award & Best Canadian Feature Film

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Opening Night Film: The Fifth Estate directed by Bill Condon starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Dan Stevens, David Thewlis, Alicia Vikander, Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci and Carice van Houten

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People’s Choice Award: 12 Years a Slave directed by Steve McQueen starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano and Sarah Poulson

Best Canadian Feature Film: When Jews were Funny directed by Alan Zweig (documentary) starring Howie Mandel, Shelley Berman, Norm Crosby, Shecky Greene, Jack Carter, David Steinberg

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Toronto_Film_Festival

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