Prequel without the X-factor

Cert: 12A

THE first instalment of this retro X-Men trilogy explores how the founding fathers, Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) first formed the eclectic group of mutant warriors in an attempt to thwart the nuclear plans of Kevin Bacon’s slightly ridiculous ex-Nazi, Sebastian Shaw.

Taking the reins from the incomparable Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, McAvoy and Fassbender display great onscreen chemistry and execute their roles with a certain disarming debonair charm. The rest of the characterisation and humour is also pretty solid as you would expect coming from director Matthew Vaughan, who brought us the amusingly irreverent Kick Ass.

Unfortunately the film suffers from adhering far too rigidly to the comic book formula, and it’s far too long, with tiresome plot developments. Inevitably, we get the integral training sequence montage as the group prepare for war, laboriously building to the climactic, special effects laden set-piece at the end. However, even this battle is fairly lame because the big fights and notable deaths are being reserved for the second and third parts of the trilogy.

The problem lies in the fact that the film feels like one big establishing shot in which nothing particularly exciting happens. It’s an efficient blockbuster, though, and there is enough here to justify the thought that the next installments will provide far more exhilaration.

Hayley Wright

Cert: 12A

THERE’S an interesting documentary trapped in here somewhere. Perhaps more than one. As it stands though, The Flaw – another attempt to explain the banking crisis – just has too much going on. A clutter of talking heads, interspersed with jaunty period animation, make an entertaining enough 82 minutes, if you like conspiracy-scented economics. It reminds the viewer of the sheer scale of the US housing bubble, and George Cooper of BlueCrest has some interesting things to say. But its overall argument is a muddle.

The title refers to the notorious “gotcha” quote by ex-chairman of the US Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan who, when grilled by a Congressional committee in 2008, said that he had “found a flaw” in his ideology as a result of the financial crisis. It’s indicative of the film’s confusion that it argues Greenspan’s admission shows the market failed to be self-regulating and then cuts to Cooper saying that central bank intervention was at the root of the crisis.

In any case, it then emerges that the film’s central message isn’t about banking regulation at all. It seems to be saying that an unequal income distribution was behind the crisis. Or perhaps, since the two are interchanged with slippery ease, not inequality so much as flat real median incomes. But also, according to Robert Shiller, capitalist animal spirits. Oh, and perverse incentives in the laws around consumer credit. Interesting, controversial topics all, but, in the way of such documentaries, there’s little debate, and the teetering pile of diverse accusations builds too high. Flawed.

Marc Sidwell

Cert: 12A

WHETHER you’re a motor racing fan or a complete Formula One ignoramus, you’ll have heard of Ayrton Senna. This beautifully-made documentary assumes no prior knowledge as it chronologically charts the rise of the charismatic Brazilian from his go-kart racing roots to his world championship wins and untimely death at the age of 34.

Senna’s story is built up through archive racing footage, interviews and home movies that are skillfully intertwined with the voice-over testimony of colleagues, commentators and family. This enables us to gain fascinating insights into his motivations, his fierce rivalry with teammate Alain Prost and the sporting politics that once threatened to remove him from the cockpit forever.

The seamless juxtaposition of the thrilling on-board camera shots and the quieter incidents from Senna’s career provide a strong emotional arc supplemented by a steady, rousing score. By that same standard, the film’s imposed three act narrative builds a foreboding tension as it gradually becomes clear that Senna’s pure love of racing will not be tempered, even by his own concerns about driver safety.

Director Asif Kapadia ensures that all of the film’s key moments are portrayed with equal measures of sensitivity and humour, without resorting to any kind of sensationalism or embellishment. Senna succeeds not only as an entertaining behind-the-scenes glimpse, but also as an extremely genuine and moving portrait of the bravest, most talented and passionate racing driver Formula One has ever seen.