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A Most Wanted Man, Magic in the Moonlight, What We Did on Our Holiday

This month Simon watched the last of Philip Seymour Hoffmann's roles, the latest Woody Allen and a very British caper.

A Most Wanted Man

Rating 8/10   15   119 mins

A Most Wanted Man is adapted from John Le Carré’s 2008 novel of the same name. In contrast to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy, which had the feel of a period piece, having been written and set in the 1970s and the Cold War era, AMWM is very post-9/11. The story is set in Hamburg – a city which played a part in the 9/11 bombings – and tells of a shadowy intelligence unit led by Günter Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffmann) and its pursuit of a shadowy Chechen refugee/possible terrorist. In the background there is also a shadowy banker and a shadowy CIA operative. There is little that is clear or clear cut in the story and there is much that is shadowy. This probably reflects fairly accurately the world of espionage, but it can make a film’s plot hard to follow and don’t look to the ending to provide a neat and tidy conclusion. There is an interesting Good Samaritan element to the story and it prompts lots of questions about who is good and evil and whether the end justifies the means. This was Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final starring role and AMWM shows how much he will be missed. 

Magic in the Moonlight

Rating 7½/10   12A   98 mins

Magic in the Moonlight is the first film written and directed by 78-year-old Woody Allen since his highly acclaimed Blue Jasmine. MITM is a very different film. Where Jasmine  was multi-layered and modern, MITM is consciously old-fashioned and feels like an adaptation of a short story. Colin Firth stars as a stuffy stage magician who is persuaded to travel to the south of France to unmask as a fake a young American medium (Emma Stone). The story is set in the late 1920s and it resembles a film from the innocent pre-War days of the first talkies. Its subject matter is whether or not one can believe in things unseen and there is some interest in exploring these ideas. However, Woody Allen, an atheist non-religious Jew, holds no truck with anything other than rationalism and so don’t go prepared to have faith affirmed. 

What We Did on Our Holiday

Rating 8½/10   12A   95 mins

What We Did on Our Holiday owes much to Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin’s successful television comedy Outnumbered. Hamilton and Jenkin created a partly scripted/partly improvised television series in which three children have some of the best lines. The same is true in WWDOOH. It stars David Tennant and Rosamund Pike as the couple’s parents and Ben Miller as Tennant’s character’s more successful brother with Amelia Bullmore as his wife. The two couples meet in Scotland in the summer to celebrate the family patriarch’s (Billy Connolly) birthday. The story takes some unexpected turns along the way and the children certainly have a story to tell when they get back to school. This is a funny, charming film that is appropriate for most family audiences, but be prepared for a number of questions to be raised!

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