Film Reviews

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 2: Worn seriously thin by now

By David Walsh, 26 November 2015

The new film treats the climax of the struggle in Panem between the rebels, morally led by Katniss Everdeen, and the forces of the Capitol, presided over by the tyrannical President Coriolanus Snow.

The Factory: Documentary brings Indian auto workers’ struggle to an international audience

By Sampath Perera, 25 November 2015

The documentary from filmmaker Rahul Roy sheds important light on the brutal conditions facing workers in India’s rapidly expanding, globally integrated auto industry.

The Holocaust as Via Dolorosa: The mysticism of Piotr Chrzan’s Klezmer

By Dorota Niemitz, 19 November 2015

Piotr Chrzan’s directorial debut deals with the subject of the organized search for the Jews, or the Judenjagd, in Nazi-Occupied Poland.

Force of Destiny—a thoughtful film about surviving cancer

By Richard Phillips, 16 November 2015

Australian filmmaker Paul Cox’s first dramatic feature in seven years explores some of the complex emotional issues confronting those fighting cancer.

“Cinema must have a social conscience”

Veteran filmmaker Paul Cox discusses his latest feature

By Richard Phillips, 16 November 2015

Australian writer and director speaks about Force of Destiny, his artistic approach, concerns about militarism and the commercial pressures on filmmakers.

The Wrecking Crew: The “secret star-making machine” of 1960s pop music

By Joanne Laurier, 14 November 2015

Denny Tedesco’s lively documentary is a heartfelt tribute to a group of studio musicians in Los Angeles, nicknamed the Wrecking Crew, who were behind some of the biggest hits of the 1960s.

Our Brand is Crisis: US political consultants at their dirty work in Bolivia

By Joanne Laurier, 9 November 2015

Based on a documentary, the new David Gordon Green movie, Our Brand is Crisis, is a comedy-drama about the activities of American political operatives in the 2002 Bolivian presidential election.

Benedict Cumberbatch at the Barbican in London

“Foul deeds will rise…”: Hamlet, in a world on the brink

By George Marlowe, 5 November 2015

The weight of our time is felt, even if unevenly, in the overall mood of the recent production of Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch.

Truth: The victimization of CBS’s Dan Rather and Mary Mapes

By Fred Mazelis, 4 November 2015

The film at least partly reveals the role of the media as a virtual propaganda arm of the military and the CIA.

Steve Jobs fails to transcend conventional mythologizing

By Kevin Reed, 2 November 2015

Based on Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography, the film presents its title character as a clairvoyant and brilliant business leader with significant character flaws.

F.W. Murnau’s classic, groundbreaking Nosferatu in US theaters …

… and two poor, new films (Beasts of No Nation, Rock the Kasbah)

By Joanne Laurier, 30 October 2015

Several movie theaters in the US are currently screening F.W. Murnau’s classic silent film, Nosferatu (1922). We also look briefly at Rock the Kasbah and Beasts of No Nation.

Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies: An episode from the Cold War

By David Walsh, 24 October 2015

Spielberg’s new film deals with the arrest of Soviet spy Rudolf Abel in New York City in June 1957 and his subsequent exchange for U-2 spy plane pilot Gary Powers some five years later.

Coming Home: A small, sincere film about big, complex times

By David Walsh, 20 October 2015

In the late 1970s, after two decades in a remote “rehabilitation camp,” a Chinese political prisoner returns to his long-suffering wife, who does not recognize him.

Sicario: A Zero Dark Thirty for the “war on drugs”?

By Joanne Laurier, 15 October 2015

Denis Villeneuve’s new movie is a crime thriller that deals with the top-secret efforts of American intelligence forces to take down a Mexican drug cartel.

Toronto International Film Festival 2015: Part Five

Eight films from Africa, the Middle East, China, Latin America and Eastern Europe: Contemporary social realism

By David Walsh, 14 October 2015

A number of films at the recent Toronto film festival sought, with varying degrees of persuasiveness, to present pictures of modern life with an emphasis on social relationships.

“Artists have the capacity to expose the reality of war”

Sri Lankan filmmaker Prasanna Vithanage speaks with the World Socialist Web Site

By Wasantha Rupasinghe, 13 October 2015

Vithanage discusses With You, Without You and the political difficulties facing contemporary Sri Lankan filmmakers.

Black Mass: The story of Whitey Bulger, gangster and FBI informant

By Kevin Martinez, 10 October 2015

Despite exhibiting a healthy cynicism toward the authorities, the film fails to give a satisfying picture of Boston’s underworld, or the city’s social relations, in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution: No lessons learned

By Clare Hurley and Fred Mazelis, 9 October 2015

Riveting video footage along with complacent commentary adds up to a misleading account.

Toronto International Film Festival 2015: Part Four

Guantanamo’s Child, Thank You for Bombing, The Hard Stop: Filmmakers take on the global “war on terror” and police violence at home

By Joanne Laurier, 8 October 2015

Several documentaries and fiction films treat the consequences of war in the Middle East and Central Asia and a police killing.

The Martian: A modern Robinson Crusoe

By David Walsh, 7 October 2015

One member of a manned mission to Mars is presumed dead and left behind on the desolate planet.

Time Out of Mind: Richard Gere as a homeless man in New York City

By Robert Fowler, 5 October 2015

Some of the more authentic moments in the film come in the form of George Hammond’s difficulties with government bureaucracies and homeless shelter officials.

Toronto International Film Festival 2015: Part Three

I Saw the Light (Hank Williams) and Janis: Little Girl Blue (Janis Joplin)—Popular music and its discontents

By David Walsh, 3 October 2015

Country music performer Hank Williams (1923-1953) and rock and roll singer Janis Joplin (1943-1970) were both significant figures in the history of American popular culture.

Re-released after 40 years: The strengths and weaknesses of Robert Altman’s Nashville

By David Walsh, 30 September 2015

The nearly three-hour work follows two dozen characters over the course of several days in the city of Nashville, Tennessee, the official capital of country music.

Toronto International Film Festival 2015: Part one

The physical and emotional toll that capitalist society takes

By David Walsh, 26 September 2015

The 40th Toronto International Film Festival screened some 285 feature films and 110 shorts from 71 countries.

99 Homes’ director Ramin Bahrani: “The villain is the system”

By Joanne Laurier, 24 September 2015

Iranian-American writer-director Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart, 2005; Chop Shop, 2007; Goodbye Solo, 2008) has created a compelling work that puts flesh and blood on the foreclosure epidemic.

Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America offers some hints of humanity

By Christine Schofelt, 10 September 2015

A young student in New York City, an aspiring writer, meets her energetic, difficult stepsister-to-be.

Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past (1947): The weight of history

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 5 September 2015

Tourneur’s film, adapted from Build My Gallows High, a novel by American writer Daniel Mainwaring published in 1946, has one of the most suggestive titles in cinema history.

Phoenix: After WWII in Germany, a woman rises from the ashes

By Joanne Laurier, 3 September 2015

Set in the immediate aftermath of World War II, a Jewish concentration camp survivor, Nelly Lenz (Nina Hoss), is grossly disfigured and traumatized.

Xavier Dolan’s Mommy: The story of a troubled youth

By Laurent Lafrance, 22 August 2015

The fifth feature film by Quebecois director Xavier Dolan, only 25 years of age, won numerous awards in 2014 and 2015.

Woody Allen’s Irrational Man: The familiar flatness and lack of conviction

By David Walsh, 14 August 2015

Allen’s latest film focuses on controversial philosophy professor Abe Lucas who arrives at fictional, liberal arts Braylin College in Newport, Rhode Island to teach a summer course.

Amy, a documentary film about the British singer Amy Winehouse

By Joanne Laurier, 12 August 2015

Asif Kapadia’s documentary is a straightforward and compelling account of the performer’s life starting at the age of fourteen.

Mr. Holmes: Old age, the perils of science, a minor mystery solved …

By David Walsh, 6 August 2015

In post-World War II Britain, the great detective Sherlock Holmes lives in seclusion in rural Sussex, with his housekeeper, Mrs. Munro, and her young son Roger.

Trainwreck: The latest from Judd Apatow

By David Walsh, 1 August 2015

In Apatow’s Trainwreck, Amy Schumer, the stand-up comic and writer, is the psychological mess of the title.

Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944) and the phenomenon of American film noir

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 28 July 2015

Turner Classic Movies, the US cable and satellite television network, presented Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944) at selected theaters on July 19 and 20.

R.W. Fassbinder at 70: the German filmmaker’s life on display in Berlin

By Hiram Lee, 23 July 2015

An exhibition at Berlin’s Martin-Gropius-Bau pays tribute to German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder on the seventieth anniversary of his birth.

What Happened, Miss Simone?: The life of African-American singer, pianist and civil rights activist Nina Simone

By Helen Hayes and Fred Mazelis, 22 July 2015

Simone did not so much move between different genres—jazz, gospel, blues and folk—as combine them into her own unique and powerful style.

Manglehorn and The Cobbler: The influence of social-gravitational forces

By David Walsh, 13 July 2015

The two films, Manglehorn, directed by David Gordon Green, and The Cobbler, directed by Tom McCarthy, both fall into the independent drama, or comedy-drama category.

The Face of an Angel and Danny Collins: A notorious murder trial and an aging musician

By Joanne Laurier, 10 July 2015

The Face of an Angel is a fictional treatment of the Amanda Knox murder trial. Danny Collins is the story of a rock star who changes his life after receiving a letter that John Lennon wrote him decades earlier.

Terminator Genisys and the trajectory of American “independent” filmmaking

By David Walsh, 8 July 2015

A number of the independent filmmakers of the 1990s and early 2000s have found their way, like Alan Taylor, to one or another blockbuster franchise.

NBC’s American Odyssey: Mercenaries, jihadists and Machiavellian US corporations

By Christine Schofelt, 6 July 2015

American Odyssey, cancelled after the first season, exhibited some good intentions, but ultimately familiar confusion.

The Wolfpack, Dope: American experiences, oddities

By Joanne Laurier, 3 July 2015

The Wolfpack is a documentary about seven children who were locked away for many years in an apartment in a public housing project in Manhattan.

The Apu Trilogy: “Art wedded to truth must, in the end, have its rewards”

By Richard Phillips, 29 June 2015

Indian director Satyajit Ray’s cinematic masterwork, The Apu Trilogy has been meticulously restored by Janus Films and is currently screening in North American cinemas.

Julie Taymor’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

By David Walsh, 24 June 2015

The film was made during a run of Taymor’s version of Shakespeare’s play at the Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn in 2013-14.

Jurassic World, summer blockbuster

By Christine Schofelt, 23 June 2015

Though largely formulaic, the film is not without its charms and touches on some interesting questions—albeit lightly.

La loi du marché (The Measure of a Man): An attempt at a drama of the French working class

By Antoine Lerougetel, 20 June 2015

Fifty-one-year-old Thierry, who has lost his job in a factory closure, urgently tries to find work since his unemployment benefit will soon run out.

Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young: No need to fight

By Christine Schofelt, 17 June 2015

Riddled with generational stereotypes, While We’re Young pleads the case against intellectual honesty in favor of “personal fulfillment.”

Mad Max: Fury Road: A “feminist” demolition derby

By Kevin Martinez, 15 June 2015

The fourth film in the post-apocalyptic Mad Max franchise, Fury Road is a brutal and depressing experience, despite the positive comments from various critics.

Orson Welles symposium at University of Michigan

By David Walsh, 13 June 2015

The University of Michigan’s library is the home of the largest assortment of Orson Welles archival papers and documents in the world.

A new film version of Far from the Madding Crowd; Brian Wilson’s story in Love & Mercy

By Joanne Laurier, 12 June 2015

Set in rural England in the 1870s, Far from the Madding Crowd is the story of a free-spirited young woman who attracts three suitors of diverse social and psychological make-up.

The Divergent Series: Insurgent—More talent and resources squandered

By Christine Schofelt, 30 May 2015

Any attempt at building a thoughtful story has been abandoned in favor of a special effects bonanza, leaving one to ask: Where is this heading?

Alex Garland’s Ex Machina: Will artificial intelligence replace human efforts?

By Dorota Niemitz, 20 May 2015

Ex Machina is an elegant and thought-provoking science fiction thriller that considers the future of humanity in relation to the rapid developments in computer science technology.

Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s Zero Dark Thirty

CIA-embedded Hollywood liars and their lies

By David Walsh, 15 May 2015

We now know, thanks to Seymour Hersh and his article in the London Review of Books, that, along with everything else, the Bigelow-Boal film was a pack of lies from beginning to end.

The Gunman, Sean Penn’s attack on WikiLeaks and related matters

By David Walsh, 15 April 2015

Penn’s views and activities are worth considering, especially in the light of his recent disgraceful comments about Julian Assange of WikiLeaks and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Cymbeline: Michael Almereyda returns to Shakespeare

By David Walsh, 11 April 2015

Michael Almereyda, who previously directed a version of Hamlet starring Ethan Hawke, has turned to one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays, with intelligent results.

Harun Farocki’s Labour in a Single Shot in Berlin: An exhibition of films about working people

By Hiram Lee, 9 April 2015

The final project of German filmmaker Harun Farocki (1944-2014) brings together dozens of short films about working people.

FICUNAM 2015: Part 4

Tackling life head on: The films of Uzbek-Soviet director Ali Khamraev

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 28 March 2015

One of the genuine contributions of the recent FICUNAM film festival in Mexico City was its presentation of the works of veteran film director Ali Khamraev.


I Remember You: A comment on the history of his film by director Ali Khamraev

28 March 2015

Filmmaker Ali Khamraev explains the difficulties surrounding the making of his remarkable film I Remember You in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

FICUNAM 2015: Part 3

Pedro Costa’s Horse Money, Jean-Marie Straub’s “leftism” and other problems

By David Walsh, 25 March 2015

The recent FICUNAM festival in Mexico City screened a number of films which, while not belonging to a single school by any means, provide the opportunity for something of a generalized overview.

Chappie: Is the sum greater than the parts?

By Christine Schofelt, 21 March 2015

Neill Blomkamp’s latest release presents an oddly sweet, if rather violent, tale, but something is missing.

FICUNAM 2015: Part 2

The rule and the exceptions—three good films: Court, National Gallery and The Gold Bug

By David Walsh, 20 March 2015

There are filmmakers who devote themselves seriously and conscientiously to representing life, not life in the abstract, not “life as a river,” but concrete life, the life of social classes and relationships.

FICUNAM 2015: Part 1

A remarkable film festival in Mexico City

By David Walsh, 18 March 2015

David Walsh and Joanne Laurier recently attended the film festival associated with the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City.

65th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 4

Every Thing Will Be Fine from Wim Wenders, Taxi from Jafar Panahi, and other films

By Hiram Lee, 27 February 2015

New films from veteran German director Wim Wenders and Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi were screened at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.

87th Academy Awards: A more intriguing event than in recent years

By David Walsh, 24 February 2015

Social and political realities found expression on Sunday in a manner that accords with the film world’s peculiarities and contradictions.

The upcoming Academy Awards: Selma, American Sniper and other issues

By David Walsh, 21 February 2015

If recent ceremonies are anything to go by, Sunday’s event will be thoroughly scripted and lacking in spontaneity.

The Two Faces of January: Three Americans joined together by crime

By David Walsh, 16 February 2015

Set in Greece in the early 1960s, Iranian-born director Hossein Amini’s film, based on a Patricia Highsmith novel, follows a trio of Americans caught up in a series of increasingly traumatic events.

The Water Diviner: Russell Crowe’s contribution to the WWI centenary

By Richard Phillips, 14 February 2015

The movie dovetails with the Australian government’s reactionary promotion of the war centenary and the Gallipoli incursion.

Wild and Black or White: Social problems, but the solutions?

By Joanne Laurier, 11 February 2015

Wild tells the true story of one woman’s 1,100-mile hike of self-discovery. Black or White recounts a custody battle between the white maternal grandfather and black paternal grandmother of a seven-year-old girl.

Leviathan: A latter-day Job

By Dorota Niemitz and David Walsh, 6 February 2015

Oscar-nominated Leviathan is a dark tale about an individual struggling against the power of the state in contemporary Russia.

The Humbling: An actor who can no longer act

By David Walsh, 5 February 2015

In Barry Levinson’s film, based on a Philip Roth novel, an aging stage actor, who has lost the appetite for performing, encounters a younger woman with interesting consequences.

The controversy surrounding American Sniper

By David Walsh, 31 January 2015

The campaign in defense of Clint Eastwood’s film is the latest means by which the political and media establishment in the US is promoting its war-mongering agenda.

Inherent Vice: Thomas Pynchon’s novel adapted for the screen

By David Walsh, 28 January 2015

Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film, his seventh feature, is based on the 2009 novel of the same name by well-known American writer Thomas Pynchon.

Mr. Turner brings the great painter to life

By Fred Mazelis, 27 January 2015

Timothy Spall gives a powerful performance as the complicated genius who had such a lasting impact on the history of painting.

American Sniper: A wolf in sheep dog’s clothing

By Matthew MacEgan, 24 January 2015

Clint Eastwood’s newest film tells the story of Chris Kyle, reputedly the deadliest marksman in US military history.

Doctor Who turns toward militarism

By Bryan Dyne and Christine Schofelt, 9 January 2015

Christmas 2014 marked the end of the eighth season of the rebooted British science fiction television series and the first season featuring Peter Capaldi in the title role.

Unbroken: Mediocre Hollywood fare in the service of … what exactly?

By Charles Bogle, 7 January 2015

Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken is based on Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 non-fiction work about Louie Zamperini’s harrowing experience in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War II.

15th Tokyo Filmex—Part 2

Life in modern Tokyo, and life during the two world wars: Kabukicho Love Hotel, Tsili and Theeb

By John Watanabe, 5 January 2015

Kabukicho Love Hotel is the latest film by Japanese director Ryuichi Hiroki. Amos Gitai’s Tsili takes place during World War II, and Naji Abu Nowar’s Theeb during the First World War.

Tim Burton’s Big Eyes: Kitsch has never helped anyone yet

By Joanne Laurier, 3 January 2015

Tim Burton’s new film Big Eyes tells the story of Margaret Keane, the American artist who created the “big-eye art” that became a mass marketing sensation in the 1960s.

Best films of 2014

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 30 December 2014

Some interesting films opened in North America in 2014, a greater number than in many recent years. At the same time, sections of the film industry associated themselves more than ever with the American state.

The latest blockbuster from CIA Pictures: The Interview

By Andre Damon and David Walsh, 29 December 2014

It is entirely fitting that The Interview has been embraced by the Obama administration as the vehicle of the values it represents.

Foxcatcher: Under the thumb of a wealthy madman

By Joanne Laurier, 23 December 2014

Bennett Miller’s film is based on events that culminated in the shocking 1996 murder of an Olympic wrestling champion by the multimillionaire scion, John Eleuthère du Pont, of the American chemical dynasty.

15th Tokyo Filmex—Part 1

The Prince and A Few Cubic Meters of Love: Two films about Iran and Afghanistan

By John Watanabe, 17 December 2014

The Prince, the better of the pair of films, is a “docu-fiction” about the life journey of Jalil Nazari, an Afghan refugee in Iran, who subsequently applied for asylum in Germany.

Under the Skin (or aliens from another social class) and Mood Indigo (more inventiveness from Michel Gondry)

By David Walsh, 16 December 2014

Under the Skin is loosely adapted from Michael Faber’s 2000 science fiction novel. Mood Indigo is based on French writer Boris Vian’s famed 1947 novel, L’ Écume des jours.

Devil’s Knot, The Congress, The Giver and The Last Sentence: A few of this year’s films

By Joanne Laurier, 15 December 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, the WSWS will comment on a number of films that were released in North America and, in some cases, globally in the course of the past 12 months.

Whiplash: Heaping scorn on mediocrity

By Joanne Laurier, 4 December 2014

A young drummer at an elite music conservatory becomes the protégé of an abusive instructor who believes artistic genius is formed by sheer force of will.

The Theory of Everything: Stephen Hawking’s life, or parts of it, on film

By Walter Gilberti, 2 December 2014

Stephen Hawking has over the years become a familiar personage to millions. A brilliant physicist and cosmologist, Hawking’s nearly life-long battle with disease has become the stuff of legend.

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar: A mess in space

By Marcelo Arias Souto, 29 November 2014

Interstellar takes place in a dystopian near future, when dust storms are destroying crops and threatening to leave the planet without food.

Night Will Fall: A powerful depiction of Nazi atrocities

By Paul Mitchell, 26 November 2014

Night Will Fall explains the making of a remarkable work, the “German Concentration Camps Factual Survey”, which depicted the terrible crimes of the Holocaust in a ground-breaking and accurate manner.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1: More battle scenes and bloodshed—to what end?

By Christine Schofelt, 24 November 2014

With the third film in the Hunger Games series, the phenomenon is wearing increasingly thin.

Jon Stewart’s Rosewater: Fatal sins of omission

By Joanne Laurier, 21 November 2014

Stewart, host of The Daily Show, has written and directed a film treating the Iranian government’s incarceration and torture of a London-based, Iranian-born journalist in the immediate aftermath of the 2009 presidential election.

Distortion and dishonesty: Ukrainian films at the Cottbus Film Festival

By Stefan Steinberg, 20 November 2014

The Festival of East European Cinema in Cottbus, Germany has been an annual event since 1991.

Anderson: Artists and the Stasi in Stalinist East Germany

By Bernd Reinhardt, 12 November 2014

Annekatrin Hendel’s documentary focuses on Sascha Anderson, an artist and spy for the Stalinist secret police.

Fury: What is “realism”? What is an “anti-war” film?

By David Walsh, 1 November 2014

David Ayer’s morbid and militarist film follows an American tank crew, led by Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt), in the final days of World War II in Europe.

Three darkish comedies: Birdman, The Skeleton Twins and St. Vincent

By Joanne Laurier, 30 October 2014

Birdman deals with the washed-up star of a super-hero franchise. The Skeleton Twins portrays two siblings trying to overcome a painful psychological legacy. St. Vincent features a misanthropic Vietnam veteran who forms a life-changing attachment.

Pride: The UK miners’ strike through the distorted mirror of identity politics

By Robert Stevens, 29 October 2014

Matthew Warchus’ film about the 1984-85 conflict has been well received in Britain and was the third highest-grossing release on its opening weekend.

David Fincher’s Gone Girl: The lady vanishes

By Marcelo Arias Souto, 22 October 2014

Gone Girl wants to be a psychological study, a black comedy about the upper middle class, a social critique and a satire of media sensationalism. A few aspects are intriguing, even accomplished.

Citizenfour documentary on Edward Snowden premieres in UK and US

By Robert Stevens, 20 October 2014

Speaking of the NSA and the intelligence apparatus, Snowden asserts, in Laura Poitras’ documentary, “We are building the biggest weapon for oppression in the history of mankind.”

The Gary Webb story in Kill the Messenger: Shedding light on CIA criminality and conspiracy

By Joanne Laurier, 17 October 2014

Michael Cuesta’s film tells the story of the journalist whose 1996 investigative series, “Dark Alliance,” uncovered ties between the Central Intelligence Agency and massive drug peddling by the right-wing Nicaraguan Contras.

Toronto International Film Festival 2014—Part 6

Tigers and global corporate criminality: “We’ve got a really bad system”

By David Walsh, 15 October 2014

Danis Tanović’s new film focuses on a scandal that stretches back at least four decades—the marketing of infant formula to women in poor countries, which has caused untold suffering and death.

The legacy of postwar Polish filmmaker Andrzej Munk

By Dorota Niemitz, 13 October 2014

Munk, part of a generation of Eastern European artists struggling to deal with the postwar situation, was able to create a humane and authentic portrait of his times.