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Cinema Film round-up: February 29, 2024

Rebel messiahs, radicalised daughters, talking spiders, and troublesome mothers: The Star's critic MARIA DUARTE reviews Dune: Part Two (★★★★), Four Daughters (★★★), Spaceman (★★★), and Driving Mum (★★★)

Dune: Part Two (12A) 
Directed by Denis Villeneuve  

★★★★

FOUR months later than expected, due to the actors’ strike, Denis Villeneuve’s continuation of this epic saga is on an even grander scale than before, with breathtaking visuals, hair raising action scenes, a bigger and star-studded international cast, and chock-full of political intrigue and machinations.  

Based on the second half of Frank Herbert’s novel Dune, this film picks up exactly where the first one ended. It follows Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) as he unites with Chani (Zendaya) and the Fremen led by Stilgar (a sublime Javier Bardem) while seeking revenge against the conspirators who destroyed his family. It shows his transformation from earnest young man into rebel Messiah, in which he forsakes the love of his life for political triumph and mythic destiny.  

It also takes a more in-depth look at the influence and political manoeuverings of the Bene Gesserit. Paul’s mother Lady Jessica (a mesmerizing Rebecca Ferguson) becomes more powerful by transforming into a Fremen Reverend Mother to protect her son and aid her own hidden agenda. Meanwhile Reverend Mother Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling) is grooming the Emperor’s (Christopher Walken) daughter Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh) to control and manipulate the Empire from the shadows for her own mysterious ends.  

Here the gripping and complex story, about religious fervour, greed, corruption, love, power and the onset of a holy war, is complemented by Greig Fraser’s stunning cinematography and Hans Zimmer’s outstanding film score. Powerhouse performances from its cast now include an unrecognisable and bone chilling Austin Butler, Pugh and Lea Seydoux. 

This needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible and there are plans for a third film in which the end game will finally be revealed. 

Out in cinemas tomorrow.

Four Daughters (15) 
Directed by Kaouther Ben Hania 

★★★

BLURRING fact with fiction this bold drama/documentary, written and directed by Kaouther Ben Hania, tells the true story of Olfa Hamrouni, a Tunisian mother of four daughters, and how she lost two of them to Islamic State. 

Professional actors portray the missing older sisters Ghofrane and Rahma, while the real life younger siblings, Eya and Tayssir, play themselves as they recount their lives in dramatic reconstructions. Where it is too hard for Olfa to relive her story Egyptian-Tunisian actress Hend Sabri stands in for her.  

It is very unnerving to watch Olfa conversing with Sabri dressed and made up to look like Olfa herself, and to see her oldest daughters being brought back to life for her.  

And it is harrowing to watch as Olfa recalls her harsh upbringing and marriage, and the controlling way she treated her girls: beating them and calling them whores for not acting demurely.

It provides a fascinating yet heartbreaking exploration of the radicalisation of two young teenage girls along with an intimate portrait of a dysfunctional family stricken by trauma.  

Out in cinemas tomorrow.

Spaceman (15) 
Directed by Johan Renck  

★★★

A CZECH astronaut struggles with isolation, a crumbling marriage and a surprising stowaway in director Johan Renck’s surreal and disturbing space odyssey which, if you are scared of spiders, will prove a terrifying watch. 

Based on Jaroslav Kalfar’s novel “Spaceman of Bohemia” it stars Adam Sandler as Jakub who, six months into his solo research mission to the edge of the solar system, discovers a giant alien arachnid (voiced by Paul Dano) on board which he names Hanus. Acting like his therapist, Hanus attempts to uncover the root cause of Jakub’s sadness and makes him face his failings as a husband. 

Back on earth his pregnant wife Lenka (Carey Mulligan), suffering a breakdown, decides to leave him.   

Sandler gives his quietest and most brooding performance to date, while Mulligan, although excellent as always, is somewhat wasted in this exceedingly claustrophobic sci-fi space trip which serves up an intriguing examination of loneliness and disconnection, while leaving the viewer uncertain whether Hanus is real or an imaginary friend.  

With his deep and eerily calm voice I was just waiting for him to pounce on Sandler in this traumatising drama.  

Out in select cinemas now and on Netflix tomorrow.

Driving Mum (12A) 
Directed by Hilmar Oddsson 

★★★

SET in 1980 in Iceland, a man goes on a road trip with his dead mother and the family dog in this wonderfully absurd black comedy written and directed by Hilmar Oddsson. 

Shot in black and white, the Icelandic landscape looks glorious as you watch Jon (Prostur Leo Gunnarsson) drive his mum’s (Kristbjorg Kjeld) corpse from the north-west of the island to the south in accordance with her dying wish. She turns out to be a nagging back seat driver, and as annoying dead as she was alive.  

Inspired by Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise, this bizarre but hilarious film sees Jon repeatedly being accosted by a group of circus performers led by his former girlfriend (Hera Hilmer). And none of the people he meets believe that his back seat Mum is dead. 

Ending on a shocking note, Jon discovers how just like when she lived his controlling mother has the power to destroy his life after death.  

Out in cinemas tomorrow.

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