The screen critic: A gory war movie, a dark workplace comedy and an Oppenheimer documentary

Jul 28, 2023
Image caption: Jorma Tommila in Sisu (Lionsgate); Christoph Waltz in The Consultant (Prime); The real Robert Oppenheimer in the documentary To End All War (MSNBC). Source: Getty

As the world continues to revel in the history-making box-office success of Barbie and Oppenheimer – cutely contracted for meme purposes to Barbenheimer – it is perhaps not all that surprising how the number of new releases in cinemas this week is a little on the thin side.

One of the few films brave enough to venture forth into the pink-hued multiplexes is Sisu, a blood-splattered English-language action film from Finland.

Set in the dying days of World War 2, we meet our crusty anti-hero Aatami Korpi (Jorma Tommila), a legendary soldier who has turned his back on the war to prospect for gold as the Germans bid a hasty retreat across Lapland.

Having filled his saddlebags with a lovely load of gold nuggets, he heads off on horseback with his trusty dog only to run into a German platoon headed by nasty SS officer Bruno Helldorf (Aksel Hennie).

The idea of exiting the war rich with someone else’s gold excites him but Korpi not only proves exceptionally difficult to kill, he is resilient, ingenious and very good at smashing German soldiers.

With some very gory visual effects and a scant running time of 91 minutes (yay!) Sisu is an enjoyable battlefield adventure for war movie buffs who possess strong stomachs and love the sight of all that vintage German WW2 military hardware.  

Another movie daring to plant its flag is Talk To Me, a fine Australian psychological horror movie about a group of teenagers who fall under the spell of a severed hand that has the ability to inhabit them with evil spirits.

A captivating lead performance by Sophie Wilde and strong direction by Danny and Michael Philippou quickly suck you into a supernatural world where rampant psychic powers make Adelaide teens do strange things.

The special effects are especially vivid – always good news in films like this – and there are more than enough well-judged jolts to satisfy horror fans.

Lovers of handsome historical dramas will have their fill with Chevalier, which opens next week (3 August).

Set in pre-revolutionary France, the lushly photographed, if somewhat ham-fisted film tells the story of Joseph Bologne (Kelvin Harrison Jr) who, as a courtier to Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton), made a huge impact on art and society through his music, despite being black.

Well-acted throughout, the clear purpose of this biopic is to shine a light on an important figure whom Napoleon had deemed unworthy of remembering because of his skin colour. On that score alone it succeeds admirably.

Looking for a hidden gem in the stream? Then tap on Prime and check out The Consultant, a wonderfully weird, decidedly dark eight-part workplace comedy-drama set in the sleek offices of a failing computer game company in Los Angeles.

Immediately after a violent tragedy deprives CompWare of its genius guru, Regus Patoff (Christoph Waltz, also an executive producer) shows up unannounced.

An icy, well-dressed figure who has trouble climbing stairs, he introduces himself as a special business consultant hired by the now-deceased CEO to turn the company around.

And he doesn’t waste time. There are immediate layoffs, a new approach to work and some devious methods of getting his underlings to do his bidding.

There’s a terrific supporting cast here but the series, which you can comfortably gulp in four hours, belongs to Waltz who proves totally magnetic.

Best known for his Oscar-winning work in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, Waltz cuts a marvellously mysterious figure amidst all the hip employees as he subtly imposes his will upon them.

But who is he and what is he really up to? They’re the questions that build and build as the company nears the make-or-break release of its latest game.

What a ripper of a show.     

And just in case watching Oppenheimer for three hours wasn’t enough, check out the very good feature-length documentary To End All War: Oppenheimer & the Atomic Bomb on Binge and YouTube.

A detailed look at Oppenheimer’s life, the film will satisfy those whose curiosity has been roused and includes interviews a wide range of people, including Oppenheimer writer/director Christopher Nolan and Kai Bird, co-author (with the late Martin J. Sherwin) of American Prometheus, the 2005 book on which the film is based.

And just to be clear: the documentary was produced by NBC News Studios, the news division TV network NBC, which is owned by NBCUniversal, the studio that made Oppenheimer.

But make no mistake: it is not a glorified ad but a highly polished, serious profile of the man who changed the course of history, and then regretted it. 

For more visit with updates on X (the micro-blogging platform formerly known as Twitter) at @jimschembri 

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