This weekend ASFF selects five new feature films that set out to show the extremes of human endurance. A mix of fiction and true-life stories – as well as extreme examples of genre cinema and social realism – it’s a potent and provocative blend of celluloid offerings.
First Man (Universal)
Damien Chazelle follows up his stupendous La La Land with a more somber but no less accomplished true-life drama. Ryan Gosling plays Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, in this rigorous biopic that shows how America set out to win the space race. Co-starring Claire Foy as Armstrong’s long-suffering wife Janet, Chazelle’s attention to detail makes this an impressive account of just how fragile and life-threatening reaching for the stars was.
Bad Times At The El Royale (20th Century Fox)
Drew Goddard, the screenwriter of The Martian, returns to the director’s chair with this engrossing 1960s-set slice of pulp fiction. Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson, Cynthia Erivo and Jeff Bridges are four unexpected guests who arrive at a seedy Lake Tahoe hotel armed with ulterior motives. A bare-chested Chris Hemsworth steals the show, however, as the charismatic, mayhem-causing leader of a cult who really ratchets up the chaos in the final act.
Sink (Verve Pictures)
Bearing some similarities to the great Ken Loach’s work – from Riff Raff to I, Daniel Blake – writer-director Mark Gillis’ Sink is a drama shot around South East London. Martin Herdman plays Micky Mason, a skilled manual worker unable to find anything but menial zero hours jobs since the economic crisis of 2007-8. Gillis’ work has already found the backing of acclaimed actor Mark Rylance, who calls it “a wonderful film” on all the publicity materials. Now is the chance to find out for yourself.
Mandy (Park Circus)
One of the most outré movies of the year, Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy is a jaw-dropping work that will leave you dumbfounded. Set in 1983, Nicolas Cage is the lumberjack out for revenge in what the director dubs a “Barbarian fantasy movie.” Cage going crazy may be old news – and is arguably the least interesting aspect of the film – but this is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Chainsaw duels, demonic biker gangs, Linus Roache full frontal…it doesn’t get much weirder than this.
Andrea Riseborough – who also features in Mandy – takes centre stage in Christina Choe’s unique drama. As the damaged and unstable titular character, Riseborough’s Nancy comes under the belief that she was kidnapped years earlier. John Leguizamo and Steve Buscemi, two stalwarts of US indie cinema co-star, but it’s the chameleonic British actress Riseborough who dominates this film.
All films released on 12 October.