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Talking Movies with Spling - Sink, Risen and The Homesman

Spling reviews Sink, Risen and The Homesman as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

Movie Review: Sink

Sink is a sleek, harrowing and powerful South African domestic drama, written and directed by Brett Michael Innes and starring Anel Alexander, Jacques Bessenger and Shoki Mokgapa. Sink, a title that works in English and Afrikaans, is a feature film debut for Innes, whose extensive history as a documentary filmmaker and photographer have given him great insight into human nature and a good eye for what works visually.

We watch a story unfold as the past and present converge. A Mozambican domestic worker must decide whether to go home or continue working for her South African employers, who are responsible for the tragic death of her only child. Sink probably derived its title as an allusion to the kitchen sink realism genre and also doubles in terms of mood and circumstances.

While controversial social issues and kitchen sink drama are at play, Sink has a clinical Scandinavian style setting with the majority of the drama taking place in a cold, pristine, sparse and modern suburban home. The contrasts are converse as the plight of a young black woman is juxtaposed against the guilt and alienation of a white couple, whose marriage is distanced even further by the tragic incident.

The mood of this drama may make you sink in your chair, maintaining a similar tone to depressing and intense social dramas about high school shooters in the United States. There's a lot of heartache, carried forth by the blue tones and turmoil in the trio of performances that hold this small, modest yet elegant film together.

Anel Alexander has proved herself as one of South Africa's most talented actresses, underscoring this point with yet another heartrending performance as Michelle Jordaan. She's captured the frustration of the modern woman with a character whose lofty white-picket-fence ideals are derailed by creeping insecurity and guilt.

Sink is a film with two strong female characters with Shoki Mokgapa countering Alexander's "Madam" with an "Eve" haunted by her daughter's death and delimited by her socio-economic status. Her subtle performance is quietly heartbreaking and full of anguished surrender. Jacques Bessenger completes the triangle of grief with a convincing turn as Chris, a distracted yet likable husband trying to escape the despair of a difficult home life.

Sink Movie Review

"I can't tell if you want to kiss or headbutt me..."

Much like Maid, Sink could have gone much darker, but restrains itself from lunging into the realm of the thriller, opting for a more poetic approach by focusing on water as a symbol for overwhelming emotion. Shots of the pool convey their state of mind and add to the murky morality as painful reminders reverberate.

While a little jarring at first, we soon pick up the visual cues to decipher the past and present, with the lighter tones and memories of Maia contrasting against the melancholy of uncertainty, guilt and depression. It's not an easy-viewing experience, but follows each character's arc concurrently as it builds to a moving and powerful third act as these strands intertwine.

Sink is a little slow-moving at first, but this is a full body immersion as you go from air to bubbles. The drama catches up with us in the third act, giving you time to walk with the characters, pick up on their out-of-control inner worlds before breaking the dam walls of emotion with the trauma of the central event as past and present finally collide.

Sink is a stark and moving social drama, powered by sharp performances and swathed in sleek visuals and production design. The film works expertly within its budgetary limitations, concocting an insightful international calibre drama with great finesse. While it takes a little while to gather momentum and borders on bleak, the conclusion is breathtakingly visceral and the insightful kitchen sink realism makes Sink powerful and emotive as it all comes crashing down.

The bottom line: Powerful

Talking Movies with Spling - Knight of Cups, Eye in the Sky and Mississippi Grind

Spling reviews Knight of Cups, Eye in the Sky and Mississippi Grind as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

Movie Review: Eye in the Sky

Drone military warfare was at the heart of psychological thriller, Good Kill and thriller, Drones. It's now the subject of Gavin Hood's latest war drama thriller, Eye in the Sky, starring Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Barkhad Abdi and the late Alan Rickman.

We've entered a new age of war, where surveillance has become a double-edged sword functioning as a next generation terrorism counter-measure in exchange for a measure of privacy. Instead of training pilots to man air strikes, we're getting them to execute remote attacks from the safety of their booths.

Eye in the Sky throws us into a Catch 22, where a terrorist cell is targeted in Kenya only to be jeopardised by the appearance of a young girl, who enters the kill zone just as the drone pilot is cleared to destroy the house. With several key terrorists under one roof, the international politics around ordering the drone assault with a good chance of collateral damage, leaves Colonel Katherine Powell in a tricky situation.

Helen Mirren's star power and dramatic heft anchors Eye in the Sky. She's a seasoned actress, whose finesse takes this tense little-big thriller to the next level. It's an interesting role for her as she goes full military ops as a colonel trying to make a calculated global decision on an event that could devastate a family on a micro level, pitting one man against the good of mankind.

She's not alone, headlining a solid cast including: Alan Rickman, as a get-on-with-it British war minister, Aaron Paul as a plucky drone pilot and Barkhad Abdi as the infiltrator. It's further buttoned down by Jeremy Northam, Iain Glen and Babou Ceesay. While we'd like to see more substantial roles going their way, it's great to see a selection of South African talent chiming in with Carl Beukes, Kim Engelbrecht, James Alexander, Vusi Kunene and even Gavin Hood taking on some flak.

Eye in the Sky Movie Review

"I don't care if you have to get the Queen on the line!"

Hood orchestrates this focussed thriller in such a way that even though you know what it's building up to, you're still locked in by the drama and enthralled by the ever-tightening tension. He composes the man-on-the-ground story of a sweet-natured and impoverished Kenyan girl, trying to improve her circumstances under the duress of an inflexible culture. Setting it against an international pressure cooker military situation, where air-to-ground combat essentially gives the decision-makers the power to play God.

It's a thought-provoking drama, which carries the back room politics of a jury deciding the fate of an individual via video conference. Then, it's an authentic and well-crafted military thriller, weighing up the risk of sacrificing one life to potentially save thousands, and navigating the public relations of an international incident.

Eye in the Sky is consistent and uses its strong contrasts to create a natural tension, flipping from one command centre to another as they converge. The production values are strong, creating a convincing urban environment and carrying forth the modern weaponry and surveillance with some solid CGI.

There are one or two distractions: a tone-breaking substory involving a munitions company called IBS and seeing Gavin Hood acting in his own film for a change. However, these moments aren't disruptive enough to derail the train and the quality of the rest of the film more than makes up for them.

Eye in the Sky is a tense topical war drama thriller that is steady, thought-provoking, well-crafted and bolstered by a strong ensemble. It's a great conversation-starter, delving into the politics of war and getting to grips with our current estimation of the value of a human life. The back room discussions have heat, the on-the-street action is thrilling and it adds up to moving and thoughtful entertainment. It could've gone grittier, but checks enough boxes to make it worth giving your full attention.

The bottom line: Tense

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