Marley * * * *
Cert 15, 145 mins
Glasgow director Kevin Macdonald has previously made the hugely successful mountaineering film Touching the Void and the Russell Crowe drama State of Play.
In between he shot The Last King of Scotland, with Forest Whitaker’s extraordinary performance as Idi Amin leading him to become only the fourth black actor to win the best actor Oscar.
Picking up the reigns of what was once a Martin Scorsese project, Macdonald’s film Marley takes viewers on a remarkably journey that will stay long in the memory.
Besides the classic reggae rhythms, there’s a sense of space in Bob Marley’s recordings which even today’s hi-tech digital studios often fail to find with contemporary stars.
Add a unique vocalist who knew exactly how to interpret his own words and the verdict three decades after his death is that Marley has to be seen as a man ahead of his time.
Without this slightly-built Third World fusion of John Lennon and Bob Dylan it’s doubtful if there would have been a Steel Pulse (1975) or a UB40 (1978) from Birmingham.
Marley’s own origins were in a dreamlike green landscape quite unlike any I’ve seen before. The opening flyover scene is of paradise.
Yet his actual childhood home in St Ann looks like a rundown static caravan.
Marley and his mother left for Kingston when he was 12 so those who want to ‘eradicate poverty’ might stop to consider whether he would ever have found the drive to move himself on had he started out in a more comfortable life.
Even once established, he would readily turn half an hour extra in the studio into four hours... and then get by on four hours’ sleep.
If you’d asked me a month ago how Marley had died, I might have cluelessly suggested a drug overdose.
While clearly not averse to puffing reefers, Marley’s mismanaged death from cancer was unique in rock-n-roll history.
I also didn’t know how much he loved playing football or that he was the son of a white man called Norval Sinclair Marley.
Nor could I remember that he’d survived being shot... something which even Lennon didn’t manage more than a decade later.
Marley’s wife, Rita, is interviewed here and clearly still loves her man deeply.
Yet he had 11 children by seven women, which makes Clint Eastwood’s ‘seven by five’ statistics seem deeply conservative by comparison.
One of them, Damian, was born in 1978 to the 1976 Miss World, Cindy Breakspeare, offering Marley some unlikely comparisons with UK stars like George Best and Bruce Forsyth, fellow lovers of other beauty queens. Having become a pawn in Jamaican politics and survived an attack by unknown gunmen on his life, Marley was on stage again days later.
He moved to London where the Rastafarian would play football close to Battersea Power Station on the Chelsea fringes.
According to the film, he even played a couple of matches against ‘National Front types’, which now sounds just as unlikely as the fact that he was once advised to change his name from Robert to... Adam.
By the time Marley died in May 1981 – just four years before he might quite possibly have been asked to top the bill at Live Aid – his treatment for cancer had robbed him of his trademark dreadlocks.
The range of West Indian characters he has left behind to recreate the story of his labyrinthine musical journey throughout the 60s and 70s are utterly mesmerising on screen – the sort of real people Hollywood movies usually steer us away from.
Only the 145-minute running time will make this a trial for younger audiences who know nothing of the man who would have turned 67 this February.
For a viewer like me who thought he knew all he ever wanted to know about the Marley story and clearly didn’t, every minute at Cineworld Broad Street is a valuable insight into one of the most significant artistes of the 20th century.
Lockout * *
Cert 15, 95 mins
Judging by the opening scenes for this film, I thought there had been a spelling mistake on the title.
As leading star Guy Pearce sits in a chair under interrogation, he takes one punch to the face after another.
It’s a knockout? Hardly.
The sound effects alone turn this repetitive sequence into an ear-splitting, deeply-uncomfortable experience... and we’re only the viewers.
The extended nature of this opening seems to be as overlong as it is increasingly pointless, but even I was surprised when one punter in front of me walked out, never to return.
Not that I blame him.
Even once it has run its course, Lockout is no knockout.
Which is disappointing to report as I went out of my way to see it with a public audience after the distributors declined to offer an advance screening.
A woman near to me laughed out loud every now and then, to the point that I was wondering if she was watching the same film... or sharing text messages with Frank Skinner.
Although master French filmmaker and Lockout’s co-writer Luc Besson claims on screen at the beginning that this is one of his original ideas, most people will know he’s taking the ‘Michel’ a bit there.
Lockout is, to a large degree, John Carpenter’s 1981 Kurt Russell thriller Escape From New York simply transplanted to space. Pearce plays Snow, a wrongly-convicted criminal who is given the opportunity to make amends by rescuing the President’s kidnapped daughter from a high security space prison.
Quite why anyone would build a prison in space is anyone’s guess, when places like Lundy Island are crying out to become the next Alcatraz. But off Snow goes to try to rescue Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace / Knight and Day).
Viewers, meanwhile, will be comparing the fact that Escape From New York featured Adrienne Barbeau as a tough cookie, while the late Worksop-born star Donald Pleasence was a US president held hostage and Russell was a one-eyed mercenary called Snake forced to rescue him.
With Lockout also featuring a US president and a guy with dodgy eyes we’re left wondering if original has a different meaning over in France.
Outside Bet * *
Cert 12A, 101 mins
Fifteen years after the triumph of The Full Monty, along comes another British comedy with a similar theme and a cast of familiar faces including Jenny Agutter, Philip Davis, Rita Tushingham and Dudley Sutton.
Set in 1985 against a background of industrial unrest, several print workers faced with losing their jobs and going on strike are being led by Percy ‘Smudge’ Smith (Bob Hoskins).
They meet regularly at their local pub, the Horseshoe, lovingly described as being everything from a place to sell your car to a newsroom, a doctor’s surgery, a Citizen’s Advice Bureau, a support group, a corner shop and a comedy club. Neat. Offered the chance to pool their resources on a racehorse, will they be game enough to chance their luck in such an implausible new direction?
You can, of course, guess the rest as the story unfolds with all of the predictability of a simple jam sandwich, but you might never have imagined hearing Ultravox’s Vienna accompanying a horse on the charge.
This film is no Seabiscuit but the story of a changing media landscape, finding love and making the most of an opportunity enables Bonded by Blood director Sacha Bennett to concentrate on the period touches and timeless human traits.
Albert Nobbs * * *
Cert 15, 113 mins
Six times an Oscar nominee and yet to win, Glenn Close picked up her third best actress nomination this year for her role as a man working as a lowly butler in a late-19th century Irish hotel. Looking like a cross between Dublin-born Wilfrid Brambell’s Steptoe, Robin Williams and Jamie Bell, it’s an extraordinary performance, requiring little dialogue for us to see the pain deep in his/her soul.
There is also a remarkable and equally believable twist in the plot which causes Albert to risk becoming exposed rather like the albino character played by Sean Patrick Flanery in Powder (1995). And yet, as a film, Albert Nobbs has a dispiriting tendency to flatline. The hotel is run by Mrs Baker (Pauline Quirke) who lets her well-to-do guests have the run of the place.
But even a cast including Janet McTeer, Mia Wasikowska, Brendan Gleeson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers cannot provide enough drama between them to float a bag of crisps.
The paradox, is that surely only Meryl Streep’s astonishing performance as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady probably prevented Close from finally lifting a golden statuette.