Tag (2018, dir. Jeff Tomsic)

Five school friends have been playing the same game of tag for 30 years. Based on a true story, this is a solid action-comedy with a couple of moments of dark genius. The denouement is emotionally-manipulated, but by then the flick’s earned enough goodwill to let matters slide. Unexpectedly good, and thus a recommendation.

Bad Education (2020, dir. Cory Finlay)

A school superintendent and their deputy are revealed, in part by a student investigation, to be embezzling from the school system. Smart black comedy-drama, based on a true story. Underplayed throughout, with fine performances from seasoned hands, and a sense that maybe the right lessons are still to be learned by some.

The Vanishing [AKA Keepers] (2018, dir. Kristoffer Nyholm)

A mismatched trio of lighthouse keepers turn on each other. Lean, austere psychological thriller that – while not quite landing all of its story and character moments – offers meaty roles for its central characters, and a welcome change of pace for its star. The movie’s premise is based on a real-life incident.

Richard Jewell (2019, dir. Clint Eastwood)

An inadequate security guard becomes the focus of an FBI terrorism enquiry. A stately based-on-a-true-story drama which – despite some clunky telescoping of its story – delivers in character study terms, as well as acknowledging an unconventional hero. Not perfect, but recommended, and with a startling central performance from Paul Walter Hauser.

The Laundromat (2019, dir. Steven Soderbergh)

A widow investigates an insurance company; a complicated web of financial fraud unravels. Superficially similar to The Big Short and Vice in its mix of drama, comedy and mockumentary, The Laundromat offers a clear and accessible primer to the Panama Papers scandal, and to Mossack (Oldman) and Fonseca (Banderas), both gleeful at its heart.

Kursk: The Last Mission [AKA The Command; AKA Kursk] (2018, dir. Thomas Vinterberg)

A sombre retelling of the 2000 Kursk submarine disaster. Okay drama-documentary that takes some liberties with the actual timeline, and which struggles to make the inevitable dramatic, despite good performances. The usual points made.

The Whiskey Bandit [AKA A Viszkis] (2017, dir. Nimrod Antal)

Biopic of Hungarian/Transylvanian serial bank robber Attila Ambrus. Overlong but hugely entertaining and well-crafted story, with a great visual sensibility, that takes its time to get to the meat of its purpose. Well worth sticking with.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012, dir. Kathryn Bigelow)

A dramatisation of the hunt for and killing of Osama Bin Laden. Sober and focused, with an eye for detail and on the selling of its version of events as truth through the use of faux documentary techniques, this works as an intelligent thriller throughout.

Army of One (2016, dir. Larry Charles)

A handyman believes he’s on a mission from God to kill Osama Bin Laden. Shrill semi-improvised comedy based on a true story, with Nicolas Cage turning in an unrestrained performance. Inevitably, a couple of good moments, but there’s a lot of shouting to sit through.

Hidden Figures (2016, dir. Theodore Melfi)

Early 60s. During segregation and the Cold War, black female mathematicians work behind the scenes at NASA. Hidden Figures is a great crowd-pleaser, deftly telling a civil rights history, a romance, and a race into space story. Highly recommended.