Film Review: ‘Wind River’ (Taylor Sheridan, 2017)


8.5/10
Taylor Sheridan’s shocking, surprisingly poignant thriller is both nail-bitingly brutal and vastly cinematic…

With little directorial experience under his belt (in fact, nothing, aside from the moderately successful horror flick ‘Vile’ back in 2011), we could only go on Taylor Sheridan’s more publicised reputation as a writer and actor as to how his major-production-company debut would turn out. What ‘Sicario’ (2015) and ‘Hell or High Water’ (2016), Sheridan’s two prior, acclaimed screenplays (the latter for which he gardenered an Oscar and BAFTA nomination), had in common, was their licence to shock at unconventional moments. To avoid cliché in their vivid, at times discomfortigly realistic narratives, burrowing deep into the heart and soul of the corruption embedded into modern America.

For 2017’s ‘Wind River’, Sheridan’s third screenplay, he opted to take full creative control over the project, occupying the director’s seat as well as the writer’s for the first time in his comparatively short career. It’s a big undertaking for anyone, especially when handling as sensitive and harrowing a premise as this one: the body of a raped eighteen-year-old girl is found bloodied and frostbitten in the snow, in the desolate landscape of Wind River, a Native American settlement in Wyoming. And for Cory Lambert (a quiet, tender performance from Jeremy Renner), the unfortunate hunter who uncovers it, it’s an all-too-familiar tale: his daughter, Emily, had faced a similar fate three years before. And the latest victim is none other than her closest friend.

Since the cause of death cannot be listed as homicide (despite graphic evidence of her brutal attack, the technical cause of death is determined to be a pulmonary haemorrhage, the implosion of the lungs following the quick inhalation of sub-zero air), thus it is left to a lone FBI agent, inexperienced newcomer Jane Banner (a strong turn from Elizabeth Olsen) to track down her attacker/s. Seeking Cory’s knowledge of the largely uninhabited area and his experience as a hunter, Jane asks him, together with a tiny, poorly funded Tribal Police force (one of Sheridan’s many criticisms of the undermining of tribal communities in America) to solve the case, beginning with the search for the girl’s mysterious boyfriend, with whom she had been staying.

A simple murder-mystery this may seem, but Sheridan’s intentions here are not to focus on the individual suspects as much as to draw upon the bigger picture. “Based on true events”, we are told at the opening frame; in fact, Sheridan reveals that this story of a young Native American woman being sexually attacked and disappearing into the frozen landscape is based upon “thousands of actual stories just like it”. At the film’s powerful close, avoiding spoilers, we are made aware that no such accounting for these thousands of missing Native American woman and girls has ever taken place in the USA – the only community unaccounted for in the entire country. ‘Wind River’ aims to draw our attention to these unforgivable injustices, and it is this sense of realism that gives the film and its cast a unique sense of heart, a forlorn look in their eyes that can only attach itself to crippling loss.

Credit must also be given to the outstanding work of the team Sheridan has worked alongside on this project. Gary Roach’s editing is exceptional, making numerous surprising leaps back and forth in time which pack punches with their sudden and unexpected delivery. It keeps us on our toes throughout. Similarly, Ben Richardson’s grandiose cinematography perfectly captures the sense of desolation, and indeee desperation, attached to this isolated, neglected community, and the helpless characters lost inside it. There’s an overwhelming sense of vastness and bleakness here which, despite the often beautiful shots, only furthers the humbling effect of the film and its message.

It’s not all word-exchanges and long silences, however. For all their effect, ‘Wind River’ is equally a gripping and explosive thriller which erupts quite suddenly into a terrifying blitz of deafening gunfire and startling twists in the narrative. In this sense, it could reasonably be argued that the film does submiss itself to the usual cheap-thriller tropes, and yet here, it’s all executed with such extravagant brutality, such bone-chilling intensity, that you don’t find yourself dwelling on it. Sheridan doesn’t shirk the horrific details, just as the American government sweeps these women and girls under its carpet. They’re plain to see. It can hardly be called an entertaining experience, but ‘Wind River’ is a highly important, impeccably crafted and genuinely unsettling thriller with a bruised heart and tensed shoulders.

‘Wind River’ is in cinemas now. Watch the trailer here:

https://youtu.be/CZgN0dpFoaE

Watch the trailer for Wes Anderson’s new animated film, ‘Isle of Dogs’


It’s been a while since Wes Anderson’s last feature film graced our screens. The charming, gorgeously cinematic ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ (2014) left a choking black shadow in its wake for other filmmakers to follow, raising the benchmark of cinematography to a new level of precision and aesthetic. Sweeping up the Oscars and BAFTAs, the film also boasted a delightful, vibrant performance from lead Ralph Fiennes and a terrific ensemble alongside him on his quest to avoid capture.

Thus, news of Anderson’s latest production, ‘Isle of Dogs’, was met with a nervous reception: has the director reached his peak, will he be able to outdo or even maintain the quality of its predecessor? Thankfully, ‘Isle of Dogs’ arrives at the opposite end of Anderson’s colourful filmmaking spectrum. A stop-motion production not dissimilar in style to that which he established in the hit adaptation of ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ (2011), the trailer alone sets the tone of a charming, beautifully animated family film with a bite.

We’re in a futuristic, dystopian Japan, in which the pollution crisis has become so severe that the government have begun to dump waste on an uninhabited mainland. It is here that, in a bizarre effort to de-litter the urban sprawl of the mainland, all species of dog are discarded to survive by themselves, on a desolate landscape of junk. Is is only when a twelve-year-old boy arrives in search of his long-lost pet that dog and human kinds form an alliance to adventure across the island in search of him. A new approach to a crowd-pleasing adventure format with a blatant political/environmental message is sure to go down a hit at the box office, and perhaps sweep up a few gongs along the way.

‘Isle of Dogs’ boasts one of the greatest ensembles the world of animation has ever  seen, including Anderson’s regular collaborators Bill Murray (for the eighth time), Tilda Swinton and Edward Norton, but also a wide range of other notorious voices including those of Bryan Cranston, Scarlett Johansson and even a turnup from Yoko Ono. It doesn’t try to be anything like any of Anderson’s previous films, but carries from the trailer alone all of the colour, wit and panache to extend the director’s unparalleled track record.

‘Isle of Dogs’ is estimated to be released on 30th March 2018. Watch the trailer here:

https://youtu.be/dt__kig8PVU

Album Review: Wolf Alice – ‘Visions of a Life’


8/10

A bolder, more unified sophomore effort proves once again why the London four-piece are one of the most exciting bands in British music…

It’s been three years since Wolf Alice‘s sublime, diverse debut album ‘My Love is Cool’ was released to wide critical acclaim, swiftly propelling the London-based quartet into an established name and regular Radio 1 feature. Perhaps not as cohesive as the band’s raw, thumping early EPs, which earned them a solid reputation in the clubs and bars of a nation somewhat disheartened by the decline of reputable guitar-driven British indie music, ‘My Love is Cool’ got people talking. Soon, they would be headlining festivals, touring America, in their ascent to be championed as one of the UK’s few remaining pioneering alternative bands. A welcome escape from the bland, by-the-book manufactured indie saturating the current market.

“Am I a bitch to not like you any more? / Punch me in my face, I wouldn’t even fight you no more…” were the first words an incensed Ellie Rowsell taunted out of the speakers on ‘Yuk Foo’, the thundering, punky lead single of Wolf Alice‘s sophomore release, ‘Visions of a Life’. A relentless tirade of undiluted rage, this startling return to the airwaves made a bigger splash than all of the band’s prior releases combined. As crude as the comparison is, there’s more than a ring of the Sex Pistols‘ ‘God Save the Queen’ in Rowsell’s snarling delivery; it’s boisterous, brattish and brilliant.

Whilst ‘Yuk Foo”s poignant stabs at patriarchy see Roswell experiment with a more concise, aggressively unglamorous approach to songwriting (and the results are terrific), in subsequent singles; the anthemic ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’, the sweet and sassy ‘Beautifully Unconventional’ and the glorious, sprawling shoegaze of ‘Heavenward’ recall the band’s earlier lyrical style. Many of the tracks retain the intensely personal, poetic storytelling which became a trademark to Rowsell’s craft on their previous efforts. ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’ in particular is a remarkable step forward for the band; easily the catchiest, most pop-driven track on the record, Rowsell’s effortless melding of immersive spoken-word storytelling with an arena-sized refrain is a stand-out moment in the frontwoman’s enthralling career. It’s a wonder to think where she might go next.

Elsewhere, fifth track ‘Planet Hunter’ is a terrific reminagining of Wolf Alice’s established, dreamy brand of grunge, building into a warm fuzz of soaring guitars against an infectious beat. This is sure to please all generations of fans, drawing upon the individual talents of each member. It’s following this track that ‘Visions of a Life’ begins to adopt a greater consistency in sound, turning all aspects of their previous heavier, grungier releases up to eleven. Delving deeper and darker than ever before into the spoken-word psychosis of ‘Sky Musings’, the subsequent tracks take on a relatively consistent heaviness of blood-pumping, adrenaline fuelled brand of rock, roughening their tsunami-sized riffs and booming beats destined to rattle the floor beneath the mosh pit. ‘Space & Time’ is a raucous anthem of sky-high chanting over a heady buzz of distortion, whilst ‘St. Purple and Green’ initially pares down the instrumentation over little more than whispers from Rowsell, before exploding into one of the album’s most exuberant rock moments. 

After the charming choral interlude of ‘After the Zero Hour’, a lovely showcase of the band’s softer, more intimate side, ‘Visions of a Life’ closes on its title track: a twisting, volatile 8-minute exercise in how to execute an album closer properly. It’s every shade of epic, pushing the band to brand new heights, even if a tad marred by a brief spell of indiscernible shrieking. Instrumentally, it is here that every individual member truly gets their chance to shine; anyone lucky enough to witness this live is in for a tremendous show. Packed with such a complex layering of components, the structuring is reminiscent of ‘Paranoid Android’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven’ in its swift, unpredictable transitions from all-out catharsis to tender moments of bittersweet reflection.

There’s no question ‘Visions of a Life’ will to an extent divide even the most loyal of fans. It’s simultaneously a glorious revisit to the band’s origins and a supercharge into the future, and some may find this confusing. Indeed, some moments of slight repetition (the spoken-word verses in later tracks such as ‘Formidable Cool’ never quite achieve the heights of the impeccable narration of ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’) render the album not quite perfect, but there’s more than enough here that builds so greatly on to its predecessor that it hardly matters. It’s a superb follow-up to ‘My Love is Cool’ that is both openly experimental and sharply observed. Wolf Alice have successfully established a more cohesive sound which is sure to fill stadiums and festivals for years to come.

Top Tracks: ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’ (4), ‘Planet Hunter’ (5), ‘Visions of a Life’ (12)
Dud Tracks: None, although the spoken-word ‘Sky Musings’ (6) and ‘Formidable Cool’ (7) do slightly blend into one another
‘Visions of a Life’ is out now. Watch the (literally) transporting video for ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’ here:

https://youtu.be/WqxE-zppu30

Film Review: ‘The Limehouse Golem’ (Juan Carlos Medina, 2017)

8.5/10

Bill Nighy shows off his serious side in this captivating murder-mystery, fuelled by some excellent performances…

It’s been a while since British cinema last produced a murder-mystery which truly made its audiences think. No throwaway cliché conclusions, no unreasonable twists leaving us self-proclaimed detectives feeling tricked out of the truth. The art of a successful murder mystery is for the truth to have been right before us all along, guessable but never actually guessed. And the truth plays a significant part in this terrifically intricate tale of gruesome murder and bitter revenge.

The narrative is framed by a brilliant, genuinely sinister Douglas Booth, portraying the Victorian theatre darling Dan Leno. Instructing us to “begin at the end”, Booth literally and metaphorically sets the scene of the suspicious poisoning of John Cree (Sam Reid), a wealthy aspiring writer who leaves behind a troubled wife, London’s acclaimed underground comedy actress, Lizzie (a sensational Olivia Cooke). Accused of his murder, Lizzie faces a cruel, intrusive sentencing which explores both her troubled past and her sudden ascent to stardom.

But there is another, darker twist. John Cree is one of four lead suspects in a fruitless investigation into a series of gruesome murders across London (reminiscent of Jack the Ripper), perhaps giving Lizzie due motive to do away with her husband. The cold-blooded killings appear totally unconnected, leaving a motive or purpose in the dark. Disturbed by Mrs Cree’s harsh treatment, it is Inspector John Kildare (a brooding, surprisingly tender turn from Bill Nighy) who is set-up with the seemingly impossible task of identifying the so-called ‘Golem’ killer whilst simultaneously proving Lizzie’s innocence, all under the diminishing time frame before she is set to hang. But the further Kildare delves into the past, the more figures are thrown under the spotlight… and the more the links between the cases between to unfurl.

The performances across the board are excellent, and it is no underestimation to say that this wonderful cast of actors keep The Limehouse Golem exciting and avoiding cliché. Bill Nighy and Douglas Booth both offer excellent male leads, the former a troubled but warm inspector of whose past we know very little of, beyond his “not being the marrying kind” inhibiting his success in his profession. Booth’s challenge of bringing the real Dan Leno to life proves no challenge; his delivery is assured and at times genuinely a little unsettling. Sam Reid, Eddie Marsan and María Velverde complete a strong supporting cast of sinister, suspicious characters always lurking in the background, whilst Daniel Mays proves a charming foil to Nighy as Kildare’s blunt assistant. Look out for a brief moment of comic relief in a bizarre inclusion of Karl Marx as one of the four lead suspects in the Golem case.

But this remains a female-driven, subtly feminist film, refreshing for the genre, and this is thanks to a stunning performance from Manchester-born Cooke. You may remember her memorable turn in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, proving herself an emerging talent with a fragile sensitivity beneath a quiet exterior. Cooke’s Lizzie is similarly tormented, though a more strong-willed, assertive character of instant intrigue to the audience, and will certainly do her reputation no harm.

For all he strengths of the film’s cast, Medina’s direction is equally effective. Working with cinematographer Simon Dennis, Medina contrasts the consistently dark, smoky hues of the London backstreets with the beckoning warmth of the theatre, creating a safe haven for Lizzie to be nurtured into a star in front of an eagerly supportive audience. Jane Goldman’s sterling track record proves no exception here, her screenplay proving a fantastic and loyal adaptation of Peter Ackroyd’s novel, which conveys the occasional surprisingly poignant point in a fashion that never risks feeling contrived.

All in all, The Limehouse Golem proves a sleeper hit. Unlikely to break records at the box office, perhaps outshone to cinemagoers by the louder, brassier trailers and more expensive marketing teams behind the conventional Hollywood movies saturating the mainstream industry, the film proves a more rewarding experience having avoided the hype. There’s a certain joy in entering the screening in complete darkness, only to be submerged into an even greater, wickledly immersive darkness, full of twists, revelations and outright scandal, to come out truly thrilled that the classic murder mystery format hasn’t lost its edge.

The Limehouse Golem is in cinemas now. Watch the trailer here:

https://youtu.be/MCJp8-MebGY

Listen to Cults’ joyous new single, ‘Right Words’

    New York indie-dream pop duo Cults are preparing to release their third LP, Offering (Sinderlyn, 2017) in two weeks’ time, and have just dropped its shining third single. Taking elements of the distinctive 60s-girl-group sound they adopted on their eponymous debut, and blending them with the rockier, Bond-theme edge of their sophomore effort, Static, Offering‘s first two… well… offerings… have seen the duo add a more electronic slant to their sound. Their latest, ‘Right Words’, is a dreamy track of increasingly epic proportions, which reaches a gorgeous climax melding layers of singer Madeline Follin’s effortless vocals with funky guitar a pop beat reminiscent of Tame Impala’s Currents.

    Together with previous singles, the chiming title track and the punchy, Numan-esque ‘I Took Your Picture’, Offering is shaping up to be an exciting new innovation from one of America’s most inventive and distinctive bands. 

    Offering is released on Sinderlyn Records on 6th October 2017.

    In the meantime, listen to ‘Right Words’ here:

    https://cults.lnk.to/OfferingIN

    So Here We Are…

    It feels like it’s been a long time coming but, finally, we’re up and running! Sound and Vision is a platform that promises to equally profess its love for music and film, celebrating the diversity, artistry, and wider significance of these two mediums and the unique relationship they share. Whilst it’s safe to expect a fresh approach to news, reviews, and the latest music videos and film trailers, it’s perhaps more important not to expect (or not to not expect) anything. Sound and Vision is a continually evolving project which, over time, will continue to innovate and expand the breadth of its umbrella in its commitment to delivering unique and informative services. Our dedication to diversity and creativity above all else will, at all times, remain at the core of the Sound and Vision ethos and its ultimate aims.

    And we want you to get involved! You will discover a range of opportunities to get your own views and topics of interest across as a part of the Sound and Vision family we hope to foster.

    We can’t wait to share it all with you.