Apeing genius: classic’s remake is a real stunner

Films
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
Cert: 12A

THE patience of the millions of fans disappointed by the Tim Burton’s 2001 car crash Planet of the Apes has been rewarded with the brilliant, terrifying, visually stunning Rise of the Planet of the Apes, directed by Brit Rupert Wyatt.

James Franco takes on the role of Will Rodman, a scientist seeking a cure for Alzheimers to try to cure his father, a once-brilliant musician. Testing a vaccine on apes, he winds up giving them human-standard intelligence.

A female ape, the first recipient of the vaccine, goes on a rampage after her baby Caesar is threatened (her pregnancy is a rather belief-suspending surprise). Ordered to kill the apes by Rodman’s boss, underling Franklin can’t bring himself to kill Caesar, and gives him to Rodman to raise.

Time passes and as he grows up, Caesar shows he has inherited his mother’s intelligence. One day he attacks a neighbour for turning on Will’s now-demented father and is sent to a primate “facility” where he is pitted against the sadist Dodge (Tim Felton). The humans vs apes theme is hotting up.

Meanwhile, another vaccine is being tested through a virus. This time, things go horribly wrong. As apes – equipped with venomous intelligence and catastrophic strength – escape captivity and take over San Francisco, a global pandemic caused by the virus lets loose.

Special effects studio Weta, responsible for the most most eye-boggling bits of Avatar and Lord of the Rings, has done extremely well on the apes, bridging the gap between fantasy and reality with terrifying sophistication.

This is not relaxing cinema: apes and humans bleed, die, kill as they fight to the death. Visually and aurally arresting, this film is – unlike so many other high octane special effects flicks – tightly plotted and truly disturbing too. Zoe Strimpel

THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE
Cert: 18

WHAT a role for the obviously talented Dominic Cooper, so far confined to playing sexy prime ministers in period flicks and a tasty love interst in Mama Mia. In this challenging, controversial and gory double role, he plays both Saddam Hussein’s vile and sadistic son Uday and Latif Yahia, Uday’s supposedly real-life body double.

The film takes as fact Latif’s testimony, though doubt surrounds its veracity. It’s based on a version of events whereby after being forced to play Uday’s body double for years, Latif finally managed to escape in 1992. He claims to have then been captured by Kurdish rebels who thought he was Uday, and was finally released and granted asylum in Austria.

In Yahia’s words to the BBC in 2009, Uday was “worse than a psychopath” – whatever your stance on what really happened, Cooper certainly had his work cut out for him.

Director Lee Tamahori, of Die Another Day, is not trying to be arty or subtle. There is little left to the imagination as Uday rapes and tortures the women he routinely plucks off the streets of Baghdad. Yahia is horrified by what he sees, though has a soft spot for Uday’s mistres (Ludivigne Sagnier). Cooper’s performance makes this a must-see. ZS

Theatre
ANNA CHRISTIE
Donmar Warehouse

JUDE Law makes quite the entrance in this production of Eugene O’Neill’s strange, and strangely compelling, play about the sea, sea-farers and the dark forces that drive them both.

Some distance into the show, in a scene set aboard a coal barge chugging up the American coast in the early 20th century, the entire stage pitches upwards, water smashes down, lightning flashes and the elements seem to roar as a storm hits. It throws up Law’s shipwrecked Irish stoker, Mat Burke, shirtless, soaking, glowering behind a thick beard as he hauls himself aboard the tug as though spewed straight from Davy Jones’s locker.

This is a Law we’ve never seen before – muscular, gruff, bellowing gravelly profanities in an Irish accent as thick as seaweed. He tumbles into the already upended world of veteran Swedish sailor Kris (David Hayman) and his tough, beguiling daughter Anna (Ruth Wilson), a pair whose reunion after a long estrangement Mat is destined to demolish.

The first part of the play, before Law’s arrival, is like a separate, perfectly-formed play in itself, set in a rough sailor’s bar where Kris and Anna encounter each other for the first time in 15 years. He abandoned her to relatives when she was five, and the horror of her experiences reveals itself gradually, if unsurprisingly.

David Hayman is utterly convincing as Kris, the saltiest seadog since Robert Shaw did battle with Jaws. But the real marvel of a performance here is Wilson’s in the title role. The earnest, elegant humanity she invests in this deeply pained, weary young woman, as she falls for Mat in the knowledge of the catastrophic effects her dark secrets will bring, is awesome to watch.

A brooding, mysterious powerhouse of a production, anchored by superb acting.
Timothy Barber

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