Yes, Logan has romance, but it's a romance that strangles its emotional core

SPOILER WARNING. The below article spoils significant plot points which occur late on in Logan.


Logan, at time of writing, is the forty-sixth best film in existence, according to the IMDb's Top 250 list. Though an impressive superhero offering, it is difficult to craft an academically sound argument which supports that lofty placing.

For a start, much of the impressive nature of Logan is due to its reverence for film form past, rather than invention of film future. James Mangold's offering is indelibly linked to George Stevens' 1953 Western Shane (not on the Top 250), directly so, in a scene where Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Laura (Dafne Keen) watch the film in a hotel room.

The scene and the characters pine not necessarily for the time the film depicts, but certainly for the time in which it was produced and so, by extension, do Logan and Mangold. The story goes that Logan exists because Hugh Jackman would only agree to a final outing as the iconic X-Man Wolverine if he and Mangold were granted the right to make an R-rated version of the character. Jackman, it has been suggested, took a pay cut to enable the film to exist, presumably from many millions of dollars to just a few handfuls of million. There was an undoubted desire here to make a film with old-fashioned values, an adult version of the superhero yarn.

There is romance in all of that. Who can deny that the dust-pocked imagery throughout Logan calls to mind the Western. That Boyd Holbrook's black-clad, moustache-twirling villain is an accurate avatar of evil ranchers past. There is even a scene in which some general no-goods manage to turn off the water supply. Yes, that's right: they've poisoned the well Tommy.

Logan succeeds in what it sets out to do. It's a farewell to the Wolverine character from Jackman, posted in the style of film clearly he and the director are interested in and which Wolverine marries well to.

But for all of that romance, Logan is a film which lacks heart, confusing the Wolverine character's conflict in the process.



The repeated line from Shane throughout Logan deals with the status of being a killer. 'Joey, there's no living with... with a killing', Shane famously tells the obligatory young boy, with a name ending in 'y'. 'There's no going back from one. Right or wrong, it's a brand. A brand sticks.'

The idea transposed to Logan is that he is struggling morally with the wars fought, the battles won, the scars gained. Again, without a doubt, that appears to be true of the character, who is struggling to heal properly, possibly out of a lack of will as much as a lack of physical ability. There is reference to something poisoning Logan throughout the film and it is possible that that something is as much mental as physical.

But for all of the success of that arc and the exploration of the same, Logan misses the boat on something more significant. Throughout the X-Men series, Logan has pined for connection. Sometimes he has said that he doesn't want it. Other times he has followed that through with actions. But the surrogate family of Professor X and his school has remained and Logan has remained within it; sometime 'father' to Rogue, want-to-be-'husband' to Jean Gray.

Logan gives Logan the closest glimpse yet of what true family looks like, with the reveal that Laura is his daughter. It should be a jumping off place for Logan's inner desires realised, a glimpse at his true self.

And yet, Mangold keeps Laura at a distance. The character is used to explore the violence at the heart of Logan, rather than the warmth. At the film's conclusion, where Logan sacrifices himself to save Laura and her friends, the younger character addressing the older for the final time is meant to signal the waterworks, but she has been kept so removed from him throughout that the link just isn't there. The 'bonding' exercise for these two characters has involved stabbing multiple bad guys in the head, rather than anything more emotionally significant.

And that, really, is the film's problem. It is satisfyingly gritty, peddling a lovely line in Western-influenced violence. But it is also a cold and removed send off, for a character we have always known has hidden emotional depths. The depths remain untouched, whilst his violent nature gets a full airing. The film wants you to believe that it is braver and more adult than its contemporaries, but it pursues only the obvious; the crowd-pleasing and the viscerally satisfying. It has romance for all of these things but not, it seems for the character's heart.

In the film's other emotional apex, Charles gives a speech about how much he cares about Logan and their time together. But Logan isn't there, even though Charles thinks he is. It's a metaphor for the film's exploration of the character. There's something here, but it's not quite the real Logan, the Logan that really would have been a revelation on screen.



By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Moonlight - Cinema Review

'Yes, this is a portrait of a homosexual African-American man, but at its core Moonlight is about a human being struggling to find his place amongst other human beings'.

After its success at this year's Oscars, Moonlight's importance in cinema history is now unquestionably set in stone. In winning Best Picture, Barry Jenkins' film became the first with an entirely black cast to do so. Earlier on in the night, Mahershala Ali received the award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the film, becoming the first ever Muslim winner of an acting Oscar. Nonetheless, it should perhaps go without saying that the qualities of being 'important' and of being 'good' do not necessarily go hand in hand in the world of film. A flawed and only partially successful film can still be considered historic in what it attempts, just as a film that is both entertaining and expertly made might offer little of significance beneath this craft. Truly exceptional films excel in both of these areas; Moonlight is one of these films.

Much has been made - and rightly so - of Jenkins' nuanced depiction of both the black and gay communities in America, and in particular of where these two circles overlap. But what elevates Moonlight further still is the universality it achieves. Race and sexuality are undeniably pivotal, but Jenkins effortlessly avoids making his film solely a platform for addressing issues. Yes, this is a portrait of a homosexual African-American man, but at its core Moonlight is about a human being struggling to find his place amongst other human beings. This is a love story and a realist drama and a family saga and more told through carefully selected chapters, and Jenkins succeeds in crafting each in soaring, emotional fashion.

Jenkins' film might more accurately be described as a triptych than a portrait, offering three distinct episodes in the life of Chiron with three different actors (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes) playing the character across the film. Spending the entire running time in any of the three periods would surely have proven to be a pleasure, so it initially seems a shame that Jenkins decides to lift us out of one to move to another. But with each third as strong as it proves to be, Moonlight's whole satisfyingly becomes much more than the sum of its parts.

The abrupt disappearance of a key early character sits uncomfortably at first, until you realise that this is exactly the sensation Jenkins wants you to feel, because that's exactly how Chiron feels about their absence too. The characterisation of Chiron in the final third also jars initially, feeling as though Rhodes could be playing a different role altogether; but once again, Jenkins justifies his fearless decision-making at precisely the right time and it pays off infinitely. Even when it appears to take potential missteps, Moonlight not only overcomes these but transforms them into undeniable strengths.




By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a contributing editor at Film Intel. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. When he's not writing about films here, Ben is usually writing about films - mostly Shakespeare adaptations - for his MA by Research. He's also on and Twitter.

Classic Intel: Katalin Varga - DVD Review

'Strickland is an expert at suggesting anything your mind wishes to see'

The seeds for the unparalleled otherworldly foundations of Peter Strickland's oeuvre to date can be clearly seen in Katalin Varga, the writer/director's first feature. Whilst the narrative of this story may be more defined than that of Strickland's later films - Berberian Sound Studio and The Duke Of Burgundy - there pervades an atmosphere which suggests that things may not quite be as they seem.

Strickland is an expert at suggesting anything your mind wishes to see. His films can be parables, peeks into alternative universes, dystopias, utopias, or all in the mind of their protagonist. They are so open ended that they could confound, but embrace them and their truly unique way of glimpsing narrative and you can be rewarded with a 'choose your own adventure' of delights.

The key scene here takes place in a boat, as Katalin (Hilda Péter) recounts the tale of her rape to two observers. As she goes into graphic detail about what happened, she begins to tell of the aftermath, of the animals in the forest bringing wood and moss and leaves to cover her and keep her warm through the night. As the story continues, the boat spins, apparently directionless, Katalin and her narrative spooling through time. Her description of events seems unlikely to have taken place but then, who knows? Strickland's camera suggests that there is something in the woods, the obvious reading of which is fear from Katalin of what has gone before, but the dual suggestion that it could be something else is Strickland to a 't'.

The rest of the film, shot on grainy 16mm, ploughs a straighter furrow than the director's other movies. Katalin is your prototypical avenging angel, on a modest hunt for two people; one who facilitated her rape and the other who committed the crime. Strickland tells the story with little genre embellishment. Katalin is on a moral crusade, not the type which might find its way into a ninety-minute Horror retelling. Whilst the core of the film is concerned with how the crime can be reconciled, it is noticeable that the narrative includes elements of generosity as well. Katalin is helped by strangers along the way, not to mention her supposed interaction with the forest-dwellers.

Whilst those who are not fans of Berberian or Burgundy may point to the lack of definition come the close of those two films, it is exactly that definition which hurts Katalin Varga. Strickland wraps up his narrative fairly neatly, Katalin's actions coming full circle, as the never-ending violence of men shows itself once again. Given that we conclude with all of the main surviving characters in the mysterious forest, perhaps a less definitive outcome would have been remembered as more 'Strickland-esque'.





By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Christine - Blu-ray Review

'Campos infuses his film with the discomfort, anxiety and frustration of the title character: it's likely that you'll find Christine's high-strung paranoia burrowing its way into your own mind before long as you watch'.

Perhaps most importantly when telling the true story of a local news reporter who ended her life on live TV in 1974 by putting a gun to her head and pulling the trigger, director Antonio Campos ensures Christine is never exploitative. Campos deftly handles the many distressing episodes in Christine Chubbuck's (Rebecca Hall) life with sensitivity and respect, whilst also never being coy about the events leading up to her suicide. The director takes his time, spending much of the opening hour measuredly putting the different elements of Christine's life in place. It can make the first half of the film feel uneventful at times, especially in comparison with the second; but it's a decision which ensures that your investment in Christine is genuine before the film's more emotive sequences arrive.

That Campos continually resists both maudlin sympathy for his subject and feigning - or indeed forcing - understanding of why her life ended the way it did is key to Christine's sincerity as a biopic. A scene in which Christine is unexpectedly taken by a colleague to a self-help group provides the sole moment where she explicitly states the problems in her life, not to spell things out for the audience but to highlight just how disconnected Christine has become from the world. Vocalising her feelings to a complete stranger is just as ineffectual as never opening up to those she lives and works with every day.

The director's motivation here is instead an overriding sense of empathy, one which he achieves with increasingly impressive levels of success throughout. Campos infuses his film with the discomfort, anxiety and frustration of the title character: it's likely that you'll find Christine's high-strung paranoia burrowing its way into your own mind before long as you watch. A crowded, alcohol-fuelled 4th of July party at the home of her news station's owner is oppressive, uncomfortable and disorienting, making you want to exit the situation just as much as Christine clearly does.

Pivotal to Christine's success in achieving this is Hall's engrossing central performance. Hall transforms herself into Christine in a way that never feels like an impersonation, skilfully allowing her inner turmoil to rise to the surface in volatile fashion only once or twice. Perhaps the crowning achievement of Christine is the fact that, despite knowing how the story ends, Hall and Campos together make you hope against hope that things will actually turn out okay for Christine, whilst presenting you with a compelling narrative of why they ultimately did not.




Christine was released on UK Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 27th February 2017.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a contributing editor at Film Intel. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. When he's not writing about films here, Ben is usually writing about films - mostly Shakespeare adaptations - for his MA by Research. He's also on and Twitter.

The Propaganda Game - Online Review

'a serviceable doc that wobbles around interestingly without ever really telling us anything concrete'

The Propaganda Game has a J.J. Abrams-esque mystery box to offer viewers. Allowed in to North Korea, and to film there, filmmaker Álvaro Longoria promises to peel back the curtain. What propaganda is fed to the citizens? What is produced for the western world, particularly near-neighbour South Korea? What is the truth behind the secretive state? As one contributor puts it: North Korea is so interesting to all of us because 'there are not many real mysteries left in the world'. How can you resist.

That becomes a question too for Longoria, who produces a serviceable doc that wobbles around interestingly without ever really telling us anything concrete. On the one hand, the director seems keen to get to the heart of the matter (just how bad are things there?). On the other, he seems to want to give the country a fair crack. You've got to admire his dedication to balance, but you do suspect that an Alex Gibney would have little truck with the positive points of a country steeped in human rights abuses. There is an argument that the 'game' is with Longoria, played by his handlers and that, by the end, he has largely lost.

Still, the director gives a good and full account of the extent of the (mis)education programme the North Korean regime feeds to its citizens. The film takes in sights and conversations around Pyongyang with individuals who seem at least partially free to speak to the filmmaker and he is granted access to sights such as empty luxury hotels on the one hand and a border meeting point with the South on the other hand. The latter is a tense and unique scene.

Supplemented by expert contributors who provide the context, the final word on The Propaganda Game is that it is a worthwhile ninety-eight minutes for the curious who seek pictures, but no answers. Perhaps it is unfair to expect too much more. This is, after all, a secretive state that shuns outsiders, though perhaps one of the film's funnest revelations is that there is a Spainard, Alejandro Cao de Benós de Les y Pérez, at the heart of the Pyongyang communist party, helping to dictate policy and direction. What else must the mystery box hold.




The Propaganda Game was streaming on Netflix.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Remainder - Blu-ray Review

'all high ideas and concepts about pushing film structure and language, with few of the basic underpinnings in place'

Remainder piles several elements that can make for a unappetising film on top of each other and, like a mad scientist with a little knowledge and no clue, hopes that they emerge at the other end as something palatable. The risk has to be applauded but risk like this needs to be reigned in and tightened. At its worst, Remainder looks and feels like a pretentious student production; all high ideas and concepts about pushing film structure and language, with few of the basic underpinnings in place.

The plot sees Tom Sturridge's Tom crushed by a falling piece of building in the opening. Slowly recovering, he's the recipient of a large payout from sources undefined; a payout he uses to stage expensive reproductions of the former life he can no longer remember. Who was he and what was he doing, and is this side project a quest to reestablish his life, or life itself?

The first of the unpalatable elements creeps in quickly. Tom is a terrible person. Increasingly you see him as 'boss' to fixer-cum-producer Naz (Arsher Ali) and Sturridge plays him appropriately as a jumped-up upstart who won't accept the smallest thing out of place or incorrect answer back. It's irritating and it gets under your skin, but Sturridge is at least good at this sort of thing, as shown in Far From The Madding Crowd.

As the narrative progresses though it becomes increasingly impossible to care for Tom and what he's doing. Writer/director Omer Fast is unconcerned with revealing everything about his story (another of the problematic elements), which leaves his film rooted to Tom. As the protagonist gets increasingly wrapped up in the development of his recreated memory he gets more and more distant from the audience as the plot spirals to parts unknown.

Which leads us to the final problem. Ambiguous narratives are my favourite sort of narrative, but there's ambiguity and mess and Remainder falls well within the latter. The open-ended conclusion would work if some of the other plot items were tied up. There's a pair of corrupt policemen interested in Tom, for example, and whilst you can figure out why, their characterisation is straight from central casting and they show up just when things need a bit of disruption. Tom's friends, particularly Catherine (Cush Jumbo), are uninteresting hangers on at the start and reappear at the end, again without much explanation as to their motivations.

There is something here and the dedication to the twisty, undefined narrative is brave, but there's a lot of vital polish missing.





By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

T2 Trainspotting - Cinema Review

'Whilst Boyle has managed to get the band back together, you can't shake the nagging feeling that you'd rather be revisiting them going hell for leather at their greatest hits from twenty-odd years ago'.

The soundtrack of T2 Trainspotting includes a remix by The Prodigy of Iggy Pop's 'Lust For Life', the 1977 track given a whole new lease of life nearly two decades later when Danny Boyle used it during the opening sequence of Trainspotting. A musical outfit at their most popular at the same time as the original film's release, The Prodigy's more recent output, whilst still entertaining, struggles to recapture their past glories. Their remix of 'Lust For Life' is a prime example: perfectly enjoyable but nothing special - a sentiment which can equally be applied to Boyle's belated sequel to a film which transcended cinema in 1996 to become a defining cultural moment.

In fact, in many ways T2 might be more accurately regarded as a remix of Trainspotting than a straightforward sequel. All the key elements are here - the characters, the settings, the Edinburgh-accented expletives regularly turning the air Saltire blue. But whilst Boyle has managed to get the band back together, you can't shake the nagging feeling that you'd rather be revisiting them going hell for leather at their greatest hits from twenty-odd years ago.

Perhaps surprisingly, it's not the film's many nods back to the original film that create this effect. Trainspotting is referenced explicitly through sounds, settings and flashbacks incorporating footage taken from the older film. It's a bold move by Boyle, as if he's actively offering up T2 for comparison to its forebear now held in mythic reverence by many; whilst the nostalgic overtones work more often than not, they also frequently remind you that what you're watching rarely lives up to the original.

Whilst it meandered through the various figures within his life, Trainspotting was ultimately the story of Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor), the juxtaposition of his eloquent narration and deplorable actions for much of the story positioning him as the ultimate '90s antihero. It's a focal point T2 lacks to its detriment; but, whilst I couldn't tell whose story is being told here, I certainly know whose I wish it had been. Ewen Bremner's return to the role of Spud makes the character's journey through the film consistently affecting, amusing and authentic, but too often he's pushed into the background.

The spotlight is instead given to Mark's enjoyable but less interesting rekindled bromance with Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) and, more frustratingly, Begbie's (Robert Carlyle) relentless pursuit of Mark following his actions at the end of the first film. For me, Trainspotting's weakest section is its final act where Begbie moves from being an occasional extreme presence in Mark's life to a key player, and his increased prominence in T2 has a similar effect. Whilst Carlyle's performance in the role is excellent once again, the film would be stronger with less of Begbie's cartoon villainy and more of Spud's subtle and satisfying character journey in its place. 




By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a contributing editor at Film Intel. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. When he's not writing about films here, Ben is usually writing about films - mostly Shakespeare adaptations - for his MA by Research. He's also on and Twitter.