The Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2017 (16th-26th Feb) opens tonight with the Gala Irish Premiere of hotly-anticipated Irish-Canadian co-production Maudie, featuring Ethan Hawke and Sally Hawkins, finally making its Irish homecoming after international critical acclaim. Director Aisling Walsh will attend the screening for a Q&A in front of an audience that includes festival-goers, film-makers, and industry professionals.
Film fans have 11 days of cinema ahead with an array of top talent coming to Dublin to present films from around the world and some key Irish films from the year ahead.
Highlights of the first weekend include the Gala Screening of Jim Sheridan’s The Secret Scripture with a host of special guests, the World Premiere of Jamie Thraves’ Pickups with actor Aidan Gillen in attendance, Tindersticks front-man Stuart Staples will present his brilliant new project Minute Bodies: The Intimate World of F, Percy Smith, and New Zealand actress Kerry Fox will appear at the Irish premiere of The Rehearsal and join us for a look back at her breakthrough role in Jane Campion’s An Angel At My Table. On Monday 20th Feb the festival hosts the Centrepiece Gala screening of new Irish documentary In Loco Parentis, and the Cineworld Gala World Premiere of new Irish horror Nails with Ross Noble, Shauna MacDonald, and Leah McNamara in attendance. On Wednesday 22nd Feb, the festival hosts the Irish premiere of Unless, a new Irish-Canadian film starring Catherine Keener, with director Alan Gilsenan in attendance.
The Audi Gala of Free Fire on Thurs 23rd Feb sees Kill List and High-Rise maestro Ben Wheatley return to the festival, joined by Irish cast members Jack Reynor and Cillian Murphy. Friday 24th Feb sees a special tribute to John Hurt with the first Irish screening of his performance in 2014’s Snowpiercer, which wasn’t released here after much controversy over its re-cutting for American audiences, while Anna Friel appears with director Juanita Wilson at a Special Presentation screening of Tomato Red.
The Festival’s final day sees no let up in activity with a Special Presentation of Indonesian martial arts star Iko Uwais’s new film Headshot, the Special Presentation World Premiere of Emer Reynolds The Farthest with an appearance from Voyager Program project manager John Casani, the much-speculated-about Surprise Film, and the Closing Gala Irish Premiere of John Butler’s Handsome Devil.
Talk about your lucky timing! Indiana Jones 4 is released during Anti-Ageism week, thereby precluding anyone with a sense of decency from making catty remarks about Harrison Ford being too old at 65 to play the role again. As I’m not burdened with a sense of decency it’s just lucky for him that it’s really not an issue in this film. The other great doubt that plagued this movie was that George Lucas was going to destroy our fond memories of the original trilogy just like he did with Star Wars by producing a totally unnecessary, badly written sequel. Well, Spielberg hasn’t let him, by bringing in his own favoured scribe David Koepp to polish Lucas’ story. The film zips along at a breathless pace for 2 gleeful hours before falling apart in a misconceived and distinctly underwhelming finale which fails to do justice to what has gone before, especially the great new villain Col Spalko.
The first half-hour is utterly superb, setting up the 1957 setting with wit and imagination while paying its respects to the original trilogy. This heady amalgam of ‘pop’ 1950s history from ‘I Like Ike’ to nuclear tensions, rock and roll, McCarthy witch-hunts, Red scares, Roswell conspiracies and teen gangs is impressive stuff and superbly introduces our replacement for the boo hiss Nazis of the 1980s. Meet some comic-book bad guy Soviets led by Cate Blanchett’s distractingly sexy villain Colonel Dr Irina Spalko, sporting a raven black bob hairdo and wielding a very sharp sword. While many elements feel comfortably familiar there is an odd lack of the trademark squirm-in-your-seat gory moments, and the use of CGI is just painful in places (CGI gophers?!), especially the finale which it completely destroys as one of the joys of Indy’s derring-do was that it always looked somewhat real.
Indiana is dragged to South America by Mutt Williams to search for the missing Professor Oxley (played by an under-used John Hurt) who has reportedly discovered both the titular crystal skull and a mythical lost city which hides an awesome paranormal power sought by psychic weapons researcher Col Spalko. Shia LaBeouf verily astounds as taciturn tough 1950s ‘greaser’ Mutt, a world removed from his usual neurotic persona, while Karen Allen proves a good foil for Indy as his Raiders of the Lost Ark flame Marion Ravenwood – especially in a hilarious scene that combines slapstick with revelations.
The highlight of the film is a lengthy action sequence in the Amazon which is as well orchestrated as any Spielberg has choreographed and features, among other pleasures, a superb swordfight between duellists in separate cars. Crystal Skull can be very silly indeed (there is an unbelievably ludicrous use of a fridge as well as a cringe-worthy CGI heavy Tarzan homage) but it’s all done with such a wild sense of infectious fun that you forgive it all its flaws, such as the completely inconsistent character Ray Winstone is saddled with, until the last 20 minutes….which reveals Lucas’ beloved Maguffin plot device which is as woeful as was feared. This is fun but it never manages to justify resurrecting the franchise after 19 years. Not the disaster you feared then, but not an Indy story so awesome it just had to be told either…