Bridge of Spies (12A): Dir: Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg directs Tom Hanks for the fourth time, in the true(ish) story of an insurance lawyer (Hanks) forced to defend a Russian spy (Mark Rylance) caught in New York at the height of the Cold War. His belief that every man deserves a fair trial makes him an unpopular figure amid the paranoia of the late 50s, but his unlikely path to East Berlin proves vital to his country's interests.
A potentially dry story is given gravitas by lush cinematography, which feels authentic to the period. Wider issues of nationalism and universal human rights are hinted at rather than thoroughly explored, but Bridge of Spies isn’t without cynicism – Hanks' thoughts on just what America's ideals should be have a bittersweet edge to them, with the Coen Brothers' script keeping things on the right side of sentimental.
Arguably Spielberg's most interesting work in years, Bridge of Spies’ combination of a master filmmaker and a well chosen cast (every scene with Hanks and Rylance is a joy) is a must-see for fans of the filmmaker, and fans of good cinema.
Carol (15): Dir: Todd Haynes
It’s not often in modern cinema that you come across a straight-up romance. But that’s exactly what Carol is as it charts the sexual awakening of shop girl Therese (Rooney Mara). As soon as she spots Carol, a distinguished older woman (a bewitching Cate Blanchett), she’s utterly entranced. The film charts their passionate affair amid a hostile 1950s New York and the breakdown of Carol’s marriage. Her husband is trying to use his wife’s affairs with women to get sole custody of their daughter by invoking a morality clause, and Carol unravels as she’s forced to choose between Therese and seeing her daughter.
Mara is stunning, serene and not unlike Audrey Hepburn in her prim gestures, while Blanchett gives yet another commanding performance as Carol. Beautifully shot and never melodramatic, it’s a haunting love story that’ll stay with you long after you leave the cinema.
The Good Dinosaur (U): Dir. Peter Sohn
Pixar's latest outing, which imagines a world in which the asteroid that killed our prehistoric ancestors missed, follows a dinosaur as he tries to prove his bravery after being stranded alongside a curious cave-boy.
Doing the simple things well is the key to director Peter Sohn's success, with his film delivering its best moments when it says the least – in the moments of animated tenderness between man and beast.
There's also space for some great comedic moments, often coming from the peculiar creatures the pair stumble across. Sohn’s cameo as a spaced out dinosaur is a highlight, while Sam Elliott proves to be perfectly suited to voicing a T-Rex.
Throw in a salient – albeit occasionally heavy-handed – message about the true nature of courage, and you have a Pixar movie that may not be as adult-pleasing as past films, but will be the perfect choice for families this Christmas.