Having not been too impressed by Netflix’s summer 2022 blockbuster releases – see my reviews here – I questioned the amount of money spent on big budget productions which had very average scripts and indifferent storytelling. Well, Netflix have certainly redeemed themselves of late, because the majority of the films I have seen on the platform recently have been excellent.
Indeed, I have watched so many Netflix films since the turn of 2023, I have decided to split the reviews into two parts. I have been so busy at work that I just don’t have time to review them all separately. Many of these films are so impressive they do deserve longer critical pieces, but there you go. I have even passed over reviewing John Wick 4 (2023) and Scream 6 (2023). While they are decent genre films, they offer nothing new to The Cinema Fix reviewing realm.
Ultimately, I hope you enjoyed these films as much as did. All power to Netflix – keep up the amazing work!
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (2022)
The German war film adaptation of the classic novel by Erich Maria Remarque has been made twice before. This big budget version is directed by Edward Berger and certainly has a powerful and spectacular visual style, allied to some formidable filmmaking expertise. I fear the television screen was not the right medium to witness the muddy majesty on show as it can barely contain the crunching metallic and bloody horrors of the first World War. The film has unsurprisingly been nominated for and won many awards, and benefits from a brilliant debutant screen performance from Felix Kammerer. Personally, I still feel that the original 1930 film adaptation has more human emotion to it, as the characters in this version aren’t as well set-up from the start in comparison. A phenomenal achievement in sound and vision though nonetheless. The cinematography and soundtrack are as good as gets.
Mark: 8.5 out 11
Imagine taking the anger and social commentary within La Haine (1996), and adding vivid colour, pyrotechnics, kinetic cameras, long takes, and turning it all the way up to eleven? If so, then you have an idea of what Roman Gavras’ socio-political-action-thriller, Athena (2022) delivers. The death of a youth at the hands of police brutality kicks off rioting from the underclasses on a French council estate. What follows is a stunning group of frantic and explosive action set-pieces as fraternal loyalties are tested between the main protagonists with police, youth and gangsters at each other’s throats. Arguably though, the fast pace and fireworks dampen the sociological message in an otherwise breath-taking directorial and cinematographic achievement.
Mark: 8.5 out of 11
GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY (2022)
I really enjoyed the first Knives Out (2019) reviewed here. It was one of my films of the year. I also absolutely love Agatha Christie’s model of ensemble characters being investigated by a brilliant detective, with complex plotting and surprise twists and dark secrets being uncovered as a “whodunnit” is solved. Rian Johnson’s brilliant screenwriting abilities also breathed fresh air into a well-worn subgenre. He attempts to capture lightning in a bottle again with Glass Onion (2022), and while the famous cast, notably Dave Bautista, Janelle Monae, and Kathryn Hahn stand out among the over-actors, the devilish plot concerning rich people trying to out-do each other just did not connect and make me care. Also, am I the only one who still thinks Daniel Craig is miscast in this role? Even though I really enjoyed the cleverness of the script, his appalling “Foghorn Leghorn” accent still grates me.
Mark: 7.5 out of 11
THE HOUSE (2022)
From the leading voices in independent stop motion animation – Emma de Swaef & Marc Roels, Niki Lindroth von Bahr and Paloma Baeza – The House (2022) is a triumph of eccentric imagination, artistic talent and surreal vision. But the three bizarre tales contained within this anthology, while kind of enjoyable, were just TOO weird for me to thoroughly enjoy in a conventional sense. File under impressive avant-garde and experimental genius, rather than safe popcorn entertainment, and that is probably what the filmmakers were aiming for.
Mark: 7 out of 11
I wish I’d seen this amazingly powerful film on release as it would certainly have been in my top ten films of the year. It’s a low budget, intimate and yet emotionally resonant adaptation of Nella Larson’s novel. Set in 1920s New York, the heartfelt drama juxtaposes the lives of two black women, portrayed by Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga, with the latter passing herself as white within the racially charged era of the time. As their friendship develops their respective life choices are explored with subtlety and intensity by the impressive cast and director, Rebecca Hall. The choice to employ black-and-white cinematography, while often an over-used artistic indie-film trope, is absolutely the right choice. Lastly, Tessa Thompson is wonderful, but Ruth Negga is quite sublime in a complex, pathos-laden and unforgettable tragic screen personification.