Her 2013 ***


Spike Jonze fashioned a surprisingly empathetic tone-poem to technology with his 2013 romance, with Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore, a writer who finds himself falling in love with the operating system of his mobile phone. Voiced by Scarlett Johansson, Samantha reads his email, promotes his work and seems more in tune with Theodore than his dates (Olivia Wilde), his ex (Rooney Mara) or the girl next door (Amy Adams). But digital love is hard to consummate, and Theodore and Samantha face many of the same problems as any long distance relationship; lacking physicality in each other’s world, they struggle to maintain their connection. Jonze uses real locations to suggest the near future, and the technology looks highly viable; while much of the film is just Theodore talking to himself, Phoenix pulls off a gently comic performance. And Johansson’s voice is perfect; it’s hard to imaging how this would have played if they’d retained Samantha Morton in the role. Her is a delicate, melancholy film, but one that relates to a time when communication is everywhere, but the users of the technology feel more alone than ever.


Three Kings 1999 ***


Pre American Hustle work from David O Russell, this Gulf War drama with a difference is a key film in his canon, demonstrating that he could deal with big stars and action while retaining his indie style. Russell and star George Clooney reportedly came to fisticuffs during filming, but if there was on-set tension, it doesn’t show in this heist film with a difference. Archie Gates (Clooney) and Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg) are US soldiers who gets wind of a stash of hidden gold. She soldiers have selfish motives for their adventure, but the find themselves politicalised, and end up helping a group of Iraqi insurgents who are rebelling against Saddam Hussein.  David O Russell makes this tale of mercenaries turned freedom fighters into a comic parable, staging one action sequence to the strains of Chicago’s If You Leave Me Now and there ‘s also a notable torture sequence in which Troy is made to drink oil but his captors. A forerunner of Clooney’s Monuments Men, Three Kings is a war film that doesn’t reply on patriotism, but attempts to establish a common good across racial and international borders.