No doubt about Streep
Set in 1964, the highly-acclaimed Doubt tells the story of Sister Aloysius Beauvier who tackles a popular priest about his relationship with the school’s first black student. Meryl Streep is marvellous as the fear-inspiring head-nun who rules the Saint Nicholas Church School with an iron fist. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is the priest whose reputation is now clouded with doubt and there’s plenty of suspense as the search for the truth threatens to tear a community apart.
Notorious is a biopic put together by Sean Combs which explores the life and death of Christopher ‘Biggie’ Wallace – who emerged from a life of street crime to become the most famous rapper of his generation. Diddy himself naturally features, played here by Derek Luke and there’s a strong performance from Angela Bassett as Biggie’s mother. The feature nicely captures Notorious BIG’s achievement of his own version of the American dream, although there is rather too much airbrushing of the less savoury sides of Biggie’s past.
There are a lot of similarities between Biggie and Che Guevara, who also came from humble beginnings to seize great power, before ultimately meeting an untimely demise. Che Part 1 – The Argentine is based on Guevara’s own memoirs and follows his climb to military leader during the Cuban Revolution.
There may also be a little airbrushing involved as Benicio Del Toro’s Che emerges throughout as a thoroughly decent, patient chap – although the unpleasant realities of guerrilla warfare are also explored.
Steven Soderbergh’s direction ensures this is beautifully shot and we certainly get a picture of why Che became a legendary symbol of rebellion.
Bryan Singer’s Valkyrie tells the gripping true story of a daring and ingenious German plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Starring Tom Cruise as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, a man who risked everything to do what he felt was right, the film also features a roster of distinguished character actors, among them Kenneth Branagh, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, and Terence Stamp.
“It was an extraordinary journey,” enthuses Cruise, “and it was great to work with such a unique and talented group of actors and filmmakers. I couldn't wait to go to work with them every day. Their help and support made it really special. I’m very appreciative of being able to make this film and have the experience that I had.”
Cruise emphasises how fascinated he was by the history revealed in the film. “Originally I didn't know much about the story,” he admits. “Just pieces of it, really, but I found it utterly compelling. Though it is historical, it reads like a suspense thriller.”
Certainly it inspired the actor to see wartime Germans and Austrians in a new light. “I’ve been to Germany many times and have many German friends, but learning this piece of history absolutely changed my viewpoint. The war has always fascinated and horrified me. Even as a child I remember seeing documentaries about WWII, the Holocaust and Nazi Germany, and to know there were Germans who resisted this tyranny, it validated what I had just innately felt.”
Cruise says he was particularly impressed by the efforts and ideals of the film’s hero, von Stauffenberg. “It’s on record that as early as 1938, he opposed Hitler and thought someone ought to shoot him. He thought very much not just of the future of his family and his country but also of the world, and he wanted Germany to have its place, not in terms of world domination, but as a moral leader. That was his belief and what he wanted for his country and I think he was man of great integrity and noble ideas.” Although at first the German media was wary of an American production shooting in Berlin, unconvinced that Cruise and his co-workers were up to the task of telling such a uniquely German story, they soon came to appreciate the filmmaker’s commitment to the project. “Most people knew that we had the utmost respect for the history and the story, so I wasn’t aware of that much negativity,” says Cruise. “The way we approached the film, the way I’ve always approached my work, is in a very serious and professional manner. Being an actor and a filmmaker, I always try to make the best possible picture that I can while representing the subject matter and the genre in the best possible way. Those who knew a piece of the story are thanking us for bringing it to light,” concludes the star, “and those who didn't are amazed and engaged by it.”
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