In a film that will remain in the memory, Shia LaBeouf gives a studied turn as a bible-basher, Michael Peña is the loudmouth and Jon Bernthal the cynical member of the crew.
But it’s through the eyes of Percy Jackson star Logan Lerman that the reality of conflict hits home. He is the heart and soul along with Pitt, who schools the kid into attaining the machine-like mindset of a hardened soldier, yet is anguished at having to do so.
There are no bad guys, only men running on adrenaline and working under extreme pressure, negotiating explosions on and off the battlefield.
Even the Nazis seem tragic, with only pride left to fight for. While there are archetypes and Hollywoodisms, writer/director David Ayer probes for what makes a man beneath the brutality and the bluster.
> Emma Thompson shows her screenwriting skills as well as enjoying a juicy supporting role as feminist Lady Eastlake in period drama EFFIE GRAY (12: Metrodome).
Eminent critic John Ruskin, a key player in the Victorian art scene, is equally well known for his scandal-hit private life, which this film explores from the perspective of his long-suffering spouse.
Former child star Dakota Fanning looks every inch the big-eyed, pale-skinned Pre-Raphaelite heroine as the naive young bride who discovers her mother-dominated husband has no sexual interest in her, yet has little prospects of escaping marriage to this distinguished public figure.
Perfect performances enhance a fascinating true story, with an excellent Greg Wise portraying the cruel but troubled Ruskin as something of a tragic figure and Fanning terrific in the lead.
Having fought off two unsuccessful plagiarism suits that delayed its release, the movie generates potent, often claustrophobic drama while never losing our sympathy for the fragile, resilient Effie.
> A series of religiously motivated murders drive the plot in crime thriller THE CALLING (15: Sony), set in a small Canadian town where world-weary detective Hazel Micallef (Susan Sarandon) discovers that a local woman has been gruesomely murdered.
After more victims are found, Hazel and a newly arrived officer notice a pattern, leading them to a serial killer with rather unusual motives. The investigation contains a few twists and some grisly moments, but it doesn’t manage to provide any genuine shocks or surprises.
The Calling isn’t so much an awful film as a flat and unremarkable one, abandoning potentially interesting character threads, such as Hazel’s relationship with a married man, once the plot kicks in. Sarandon is always worth watching, but an impressive supporting cast, which includes Donald Sutherland and Ellen Burstyn, is largely wasted.
> ANNABELLE (15: Warner) is a banal supernatural spin-off in which the creepy grinning doll from The Conjuring gets its own story.
John Form buys a vintage figure decked out in a wedding dress for his expectant wife on the day their neighbours are killed by satanic cult members, who also invade the Forms’ house. Spilt blood seeps into the doll, possessing it with an evil spirit and causing deathly havoc to such usual suspects as the local priest and occult-savvy bookstore owner.