BRIAN VINER reviews Nitram: A brilliant study of the Australian mass shooter

Nitram (15, 112 minutes)

Classification:

Verdict: Hugely powerful

The princess (12, 109 min)

Classification:

Verdict: Diana’s story, astutely told

Australian director Justin Kurzel is a classy operator behind the camera, and his wife Essie Davis is generally excellent in front of it. Thunderingly powerful and exhilarating, Nitram sees both of them at the absolute top of their game.

But it was Caleb Landry Jones who deservedly took the laurels at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, winning Best Actor for his astonishing performance in what is, once you’ve figured out how, the title role.

Nitram tells the story of Martin Bryant, who is serving 35 life sentences at the same time: one for each person he shot to death on a murderous rampage in Port Arthur, Tasmania, in April 1996.

The most observant will have noticed that Nitram spells Martin backwards. I watched the movie with my wife, who calmly pointed this out to me about 20 minutes later. Being slower on the uptake, I hadn’t made the connection myself; although she later admitted that she only prosecuted him because in primary school in Yorkshire some 50 years ago, she and her classmates enjoyed her reversing the name of her friend Martin Parkinson.

Nitram tells the story of Martin Bryant, who is serving 35 life sentences at the same time: one for each person he shot to death on a murderous rampage in Port Arthur, Tasmania, in April 1996.

Nitram tells the story of Martin Bryant, who is serving 35 life sentences at the same time: one for each person he shot to death on a murderous rampage in Port Arthur, Tasmania, in April 1996.

In this case, Nitram has a double relevance. It’s clear that during his own school days he was used against Bryant as a mockery, presumably because he was perceived as a retrograde.

More significantly, he is never mentioned by name; not by his parents (Judy Davis and Anthony LaPaglia, both also in top form), not even in the film’s closing subtitles, which detail his heinous slaughter and the immediate government-passed gun control legislation Australian.

Clearly, the excellent screenplay by Shaun Grant—who worked with Kurzel on Snowtown (2011) and True History Of The Kelly Gang (2019)—respects the reluctance in Tasmania, where his crimes cast the longest shadow, to humanize Bryant by mentioning his Name.

But of course the movie humanizes him and has been duly controversial there. A man who survived his rampage has stated that 35 people “didn’t die just to give Americans a wholesome story about gun control.” It’s easy to understand his anger. Dramatizing the Dunblane massacre would have the same effect here.

All that said, I find it to be a convincingly timely film, which would be less important if it were made less brilliantly. But it’s actually superbly acted, written and directed, offering a chilling look at how his family and society at large failed to recognize the danger posed by a disturbed and unpredictable young man (age 28 at the time of the murders) who had a Entire life. fascination with fireworks and, alarmingly, he was able to walk out of a gun shop with enough weapons to sustain a medium-sized militia.

Whatever the ethics of telling Bryant's story on screen, the film clearly sends a message to all those Americans who appreciate their right to bear as many guns as they want.

Whatever the ethics of telling Bryant’s story on screen, the film clearly sends a message to all those Americans who appreciate their right to bear as many guns as they want.

Whatever the ethics of telling Bryant’s story on screen, the film clearly sends a message to all those Americans who value their right to bear as many guns as they want, shattering the biased logic of his hackneyed mantra: “Guns don’t kill.” to the people”. , people kill people.

As for how this killer was able to afford his deadly arsenal, Nitram recounts the strange friendship he struck up with a wealthy eccentric, Helen (Essie Davis, truly sensational). She died in a car accident, but left him more than enough money to carry out the massacre of her (which, by the way, you don’t see… in fact, the movie is made even more powerful by Kurzel’s restraint) .

From what I can see why it has been incendiary, I am very glad I saw Nitram. Especially since, I’m ashamed to admit, the horrific events in Port Arthur that day, still one of the worst atrocities of a lone gunman, had hardly been on my mind.

As we approach the 25th anniversary of the events in that Paris underpass, Ed Perkins' ingenious documentary The Princess uses only contemporary archival footage to tell Diana's story.

As we approach the 25th anniversary of the events in that Paris underpass, Ed Perkins’ ingenious documentary The Princess uses only contemporary archival footage to tell Diana’s story.

I don’t think I’m the only one, either. Yet consider how the entire world was electrified by another tragedy the following year, one with a much smaller death toll, and how the fascination endures.

As we approach the 25th anniversary of the events in that Paris underpass, Ed Perkins’ ingenious documentary The Princess uses only contemporary footage to tell Diana’s story, from the famous archive footage ‘ Shy Di’ of her walking down the street to her car, politely refusing to confirm if she and Prince Charles were getting married, at his funeral.

CLASSIC CINEMA AT THE CINEMA

THE RAILROAD CHILDREN (1970)

On Sunday, for one day only, there’s a nationwide re-release of this timeless delight, ahead of the sequel, The Railway Children Return, due out later this month. If you’ve only ever seen it on the small screen, treat yourself.

Most of the clips will be familiar, like Angela Rippon and Andrew Gardner’s joint BBC/ITN interview in which Diana said she was “hoping to be a good wife”, and those shots of her sitting alone outside the Taj Mahal: however, they have been expertly (albeit sometimes a bit maliciously) curated.

“It’s very like Diana to call a press conference to announce that she wants to be left alone,” says one commentator sarcastically. In fact, Perkins doesn’t flaunt a pro-Diana or pro-Charles agenda, but those in one camp or the other will no doubt feel that he does, a sure sign of a balanced film infinitely more valuable than the muddled drama of the film. last year. Spencer.

As well as we think we know the story, and as much as we enjoy those Netflix episodes of The Crown, it will help us not only remember the madness, but perhaps also make sense of it.

Nitram and The Princess are in select theaters.

also showing

You have to be in your mettle to keep up with the Despicable Me franchise. Minions: The Rise Of Gru (U, 87 mins, ★★★✩✩) is the sequel to the 2015 prequel Minions, which might be all you need to get you down.

But it’s actually a ton of fun, and not to be outdone by the first movie (which featured Sandra Bullock and Michael Keaton in the supporting voice cast), this one introduces us to the great Alan Arkin and the even better Dame Julie! Andrews!

Minions: The Rise Of Gru a ton of fun, and not to be outdone by the first film with some impressive voice work from Alan Arkin and Dame Julie Andrews.

Minions: The Rise Of Gru a ton of fun, and not to be outdone by the first film with some impressive voice work from Alan Arkin and Dame Julie Andrews.

Gru (Steve Carell) is an 11-year-old boy trying to become a supervillain (Dame Julie has a small role as his mother). He auditions for a gang called the Vicious Six, fronted by a music store called Criminal Records. But in the end, Gru, aided by his devoted army of Minions, joins forces with the gang’s ousted leader, Wild Knuckles (Arkin). The narrative jumps around a bit, but it’s wildly colourful, genuinely funny in parts, and like all the best animation for kids, there’s plenty to keep adults entertained too, like a glorious retro soundtrack featuring music by Diana Ross, Simon & Garfunkel, The Carpenters, Nancy Sinatra and Mott the Hoople.

Eric Ravilious: Drawn To War (PG, 87 min, ★★★✩✩) is a very different pot of fish, or perhaps a plate of buns. Margy Kinmonth’s loving and insightful documentary tells the life story of a watercolourist whose themes encapsulated England and all things English.

He deserves to be much better known for his pre-war work alone, but he also became an acclaimed war artist, dying in a plane crash in 1942 at the height of his powers, aged just 39.

Alan Bennett and artist Grayson Perry are among those paying tribute in a film that draws heavily on Ravilious’ letters and diaries, and those of his wife and fellow artist Tirzah Garwood. “It’s hard for me to say what it is to be English, but Ravilious is part of it,” says Bennett, which is a compliment, since for some of us, Bennett is part of it too.

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