Free Fire (2017)

If any of you saw my guest post for Lucie Rose a few months ago, you’ll know that Free Fire was one of the top 5 films I was looking forward to this year. And it did not disappoint. 

Set in 1970s America in a single warehouse on the outskirts of Boston, Free Fire focuses on an arms deal that goes wrong between two Irishmen Chris and Frank (Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley) and an American gang led by the mildly overdramatic Vernon (Sharlto Copey) and Ord (Armie Hammer on excellent form as the gang’s representative who delights in winding up everyone else in the room). Rounding out the rest of the core cast is Justine (Brie Larson) the mediator and the thankfully level headed Martin (Babou Ceesay). 

One of the things I enjoyed most about Free Fire was the fact that its genre films thats knows its a genre film. From the out the way setting, the general Resevoir Dogs feel generated by the single setting to the brilliantly choreographed walk that they all do in time to the music up the stairs like a 70s band. 

Jump and Wheatley’s screenplay builds the tension from the off, from Frank’s immediate dislike of Ord – “I don’t like his jumper” – to the more important issue of incorrect weapons and finally to the trigger issue that starts the shootout. That issue however, was the only real problem I had with the film, the use and later dismissal of it felt uncomfortable – used a as something of a joke when it probably shouldn’t be. 

Unlike most action films Free Fire focuses on the impact of the violence that the characters inflict on each other. Every successful hit has a reaction – yelps of pain, bullet nicked suits – and by the end of the film the characters left standing are barely doing that, using makeshift crutches to limp and crawl their way across the warehouse. 

The cinematography of Laurie Rose also captures the dirt and grime of the setting so well that you are almost in need of a shower by the time you come out. Dust flies through the air as characters fall heavily to the ground, close ups capturing their faces increasingly coated in grime and sweat.

Alliances are made and broken in quick succession so that by the end of the film you’d be forgiven for forgetting which side everyone belongs to. Its also a wonderfully human film, although the violence and callousness might not be for everyone, its very much about people being hopeless at keeping it together, being calm, but also trying to arrange dates amoungst chaos.  

It’s a film that is divisive – one woman at the end proclaimed how much she hated it – a Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump film that has the ability to pull a more mainstream audience due to big name stars but still revels in its independence. 


Get Out (2017)

After seeing the trailer for this back before Christmas I’ve been both looking forward to this, and worried that I wouldn’t enjoy it – mostly due to my immense dislike of horror films. 

But Get Out is so much more than your average horror film – I’d argue that despite its trailer’s image and the general discussion of genre around the film, it is very much a psychological thriller rather than just another horror movie. Even if the opening scene does feature a kidnapping to the tune of Run Rabbit Run. 

The plot, on paper, could be described as simple: a young black man Chris goes to visit his white girlfriend’s parents in the countryside, where everything is not as it seems. Get Out isn’t just about this however – it’s a film about race, tension and privilege in an America that professes that it had moved past all these issues.

Daniel Kaluuya excels as Chris – showing a man who is trying to be comfortable in these surroundings but who can’t shake the feeling that something is desperately wrong. From his comfortable life as a photographer in New York to the shear desperation and horror that he is forced to endure, he plays with a sincerity and truth that only makes what happens to him even worse.

The film also skewers ‘liberal white America’: the Armitages insist on how much they loved Barack Obama and how relaxed they are for Chris to be dating their daughter but their true agenda and feelings are as explicitly racist – and so much worse – as any ‘non-liberal’. 

While being an important and timely film, Get Out is also beautifully shot. Transitions from the countryside to photographs of inner city life to the sound of Childish Gambino, to the eerie and unsettling hypnosis sequences, Jordan Peele manages to unsettle the audience through this depiction of ‘the normal’ American countryside where much more sinister things lurk beneath the surface. 

Not liking horror films is not an excuse to not see this film, it’s a film that uses generic conventions to talk about issues that still affect America today. Plus it’s entertaining and thrilling as hell.