John Bell at Re-Imagine Church in Birmingham
Belle is the first of two films this month that can be described as ‘mash-ups’ ie. ‘film X meets film Y’. However in the case of Belle it is a whole genre – Jane Austen’s opus – meets Amazing Grace – the story of William Wilberforce and the ending of the transatlantic slave trade.
Rating 8½/10 12A 105 mins
Belle is the first of two films this month that can be described as ‘mash-ups’ ie. ‘film X meets film Y’. However in the case of Belle it is a whole genre – Jane Austen’s opus – meets Amazing Grace – the story of William Wilberforce and the ending of the transatlantic slave trade. Belle is set in the late 18th century and tells the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) the illegitimate daughter of a senior naval officer and a black woman. Dido Belle was brought up in the home of her great uncle, Lord Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice (Tom Wilkinson) where her colour caused problems regarding her status: she was ranked above the servants, but was not allowed to eat at the same table as dinner guests. Running alongside Dido Belle’s story is the Zong case being addressed by the Lord Chief Justice in which an insurance company is being sued by a slave company who sought recompense when they threw their slave cargo overboard. It is not always easy to separate fact from fiction in Belle but it tells a powerful story and is well worth seeing.
Edge of Tomorrow
Rating 8/10 12A 113 mins
If Belle was a mash-up of Jane Austen and Amazing Grace, Edge of Tomorrow is Saving Private Ryan meets Groundhog Day. Tom Cruise plays a US Major who has never fired a shot in anger, but is the army’s PR man. Emily Blunt is his ‘Lord Kitchener’ – his poster girl. When aliens threaten to overrun the earth, Bill Cage (Cruise) – not the bravest soldier in the army – finds himself dumped at a boot camp on the south coast of England from which soldiers will be shipped across the channel to fight the aliens on the beaches. Cage dies within minutes of landing, but not before he kills an alien whose blood, leaking on to Cage’s mortally wounded body, causes the Major to begin the day again at boot camp. This happens countless times with Cage learning a little more about how to defeat the enemy having been trained up by Rita Vrataski (Blunt). If you were to substitute wooing Andy McDowell for killing aliens, you would have the plot of Groundhog Day and if you like the whole time travel/looping genre, you’ll enjoy this. If only there was a way in real life that we could break out of the cycle of personal despair and failure…
Heaven is for Real
Rating 7½/10 PG 99 mins
This is a tricky film to review. Heaven is for Real is the story of Colton Burpo’s near-death experience and his experience of being in heaven. It is an adaptation of the book of the same name that was co-written by Colton’s father, Todd. It is a fascinating story that has been mocked by sceptics but has also been met with contrasting views by Christians. The film is well acted by the adults, amongst whom are some well-known faces. However, what lets it down are the depictions of heaven. Other films (e.g. The Lovely Bones) have fallen into the same trap of depicting heaven and making it look like the setting of an episode of The Magic Roundabout. For an alternative view, take a look at A Matter of Life and Death which offers a more interesting picture of the immediate after-life. As an entertainment, HIFR is not a great film, but it poses some interesting questions about the spiritual, supernatural and natural realms.