Welcome to 2015. The previous year at the cinema, for all its triumphs and disappointments, is now behind us so let’s look forward. I can only assume you’ve all made a New Year’s resolution to watch more films. If you have, we’re off to a flying start with deluded superheroes and romance against the odds on New Year’s Day, and sinister doppelgangers on the 2nd. So sit down, relax and enjoy.
What’s an aging action star got to do to gain a little credibility? In Birdman, former Batman Michael Keaton plays former Birdman Riggan Thomson as he attempts to re-start his career by writing, directing and starring in a Raymond Carver adaptation on Broadway. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s dark satire packs in plenty of blackly comic moments amongst the superb cast (Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough and Amy Ryan all appear) but it’s Birdman’s technical achievements that shine brightest. Set almost entirely within the theatre, it unfolds in a series of takes stitched together to look like one continuous whole. A dazzlingly innovative way to start the year.
That Stephen Hawking is a remarkable man comes as no surprise. Given only two years to live when first diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 1963, he’s since gone on to achieve great acclaim as a theoretical physicist while far surpassing his meagre life expectancy. The Theory of Everything brings Hawking to the big screen, focussing mainly on his relationship with first wife Jane, and the lifelong battle fought against encroaching disability. His scientific achievements end up underplayed but astonishing performances from Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones as Stephen and Jane make this a must see.
To close out the first weekend, there’s Enemy. It arrives sometime after Prisoners, the other collaboration shot at the same time by Canadian director Denis Villeneuve and Jake Gyllenhaal. Here, Gyllenhaal plays a jaded history lecturer who stumbles across his exact double in a film. Setting out to track him down, he ventures down a dark path of confused identity, lies and betrayal. Enemy is a complicated puzzle that offers rewards for those willing to take the time to decipher it.
That’s not a bad start to the year is it? They’ll be plenty more to come over the next month as everyone vies for the big awards. I’ll see you next week for Steve Carell’s fake nose and Liam Neeson on the rampage once more.