War For The Planet Of The Apes - This Movie Rocks In An Apes, Together - Really Bloody Strong Kinda way
Dir: Matt Reeves
Starring Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Kanoval, Terry Notary, Amiah Miller, Judy Greer
49 years after cinema screens first revealed what became of the Statue of Liberty, the Planet of the Apes series has delivered just about its finest moments. Matt Reeves has clearly taken a page out of the “Nolan - How To Reinvent A Pop-Culture Trilogy” book and run with it. And in doing so, he has not only upped the stakes on what to expect from an Apes movie – but delivered on it in spades. Thus, War For (as we’re calling it) focuses more on the Apes than ever before – and yet manages to deliver the most human and humane of the series to date.
It may well bill itself as a “War” movie, but this is a film that glides effortlessly from a moving character study, to an Eastwood western (a hybrid of Josey Wales and Unforgiven) to an all out WWII flick. The concentration camp-aping imagery (pardon the pun) is remarkably powerful but despite this, and the slogan Ape-ocalypse Now spray painted on the wall, this is more akin to The Great Escape at times. Not that it’s not brutal at other times. But it also has a deep sense of knowing how to keep its audience entertained (Steve Zahn everyone!) between its more serious meditations on such issues as genocide and, oh, a despot building a wall! (As said despot by the way, Woody Harrelson continues his current remarkable streak.)
So War For is by no means your typical summer fare. Like all great science fiction, like all great Apes movies (and by that we mean the first one in ’68, Escape, Rise & Dawn) it uses what we understand now to project what we may end up knowing next. It is forthright, defiant, abrasive, strongly emotional, and thoroughly captivating and winning. You care for the apes, even though you yourself represent potentially the last vestiges of humanity. (And that’s something that the movie also does very ably by setting up what is due to follow – thus Cornelius and Caesar are now family names, destined to be repeated down the family line, as is Nova; we now know why humans in Charlton Heston’s time are mute, and so on.)
But the film never loses sight of the power of both its contemporary allegory and its sense of commitment to character. And this is something that is only confirmed by the strength of its performances.
Which brings us to Andy Serkis. If anyone – and by this we largely direct ourselves to those that vote for such things (and we include some of ourselves in that) – if they haven’t worked out yet that what’s on his face is just make up – then wise the fuck up! John Hurt’s John Merrick was covered in rubber – still got the nomination. Serkis’s phizog is covered in CG animation - but the man is still the performance. And it’s a remarkable one. And it’s been a remarkable one – one that has grown (literally), developed nuance and depth over three films now. If he’s not up for Best Actor on the strength of this, then shame on all those that carry a voting card and a lack of understanding of the art and craft both.
But to single Serkis out is to do Reeves’ film a disservice. This is a remarkable ensemble piece – both in front and behind the camera. War For is cutting edge filmmaking that also understands that it’s cutting edge story telling, as technically accomplished as it is emotionally resonant. You will care for the people in this film, even if most of them are hairy. There are moments that will move you in ways you didn’t expect. It’s not an easy fist pumping cheer movie. It’s almost the opposite. A film that reminds you of pain and loss. And beauty in ways you didn’t expect to come across in such an arena. It’s a really remarkable piece of work.
We’re calling it now – this film deserves to be in the Best Picture race. And if those Oscar/BAFTA people ignore Mr Serkis – please, feel free to call them dickheads from now on!
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