The Last Photograph 2017 ****


Danny Huston’s CV runs from cigar-chewing villain in the first Wolverine spin-off to his outstanding performance in Bernard Rose’s Ivans Xtc. He’s hardly a prolific director, but his work in front of and behind the camera in The Last Photograph is impeccable. What’s near criminal here is that aside from a handful of festival screenings, his 2017 film The Last Photograph is pretty much invisible; there’s no user reviews on imdb, and not even a single-line Wikipedia entry for it. Perhaps there are reasons, but it’s not any reflection on the film-making. Huston plays Tom Hammond, a book-shop owner struggling to forget the death of his son, one of many casualties of the terrorist attack on Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1998. When a book is stolen from his shop, containing a photograph that connects Hammond to his son, it awakens memories of the night in question, and a search for justice that’s been suspended. Huston is immense in this role, angry, grieving, but without an outlet; as a director, he’s sensitive to the portrayal of a complex, nuanced character. The real-life tragedy referenced here is well-handled, with newsreel footage mixed with the film’s narrative in a non-exploitative way. The subject of The Last Photograph appears taboo; few dramas have explored Lockerbie, and perhaps that’s why The Last Photograph appears to have been obliterated by market forces; this is the kind of film that deserves a second wind through streaming services, and it’s a shame that it’s so hard to locate. Maybe Huston’s pay the rent job in –yikes- the unanticipated Angel Has Fallen will cash him up for self-distribution and get this worthwhile film out there.


Kursk: The Last Mission 2018 ****


The general demonization of Russian characters in the media circa 2019 doesn’t sit well with the universally agonising narrative featured in Kursk: The Last Mission, also known as The Command in the U.S. The details of the Kursk submarine tragedy have been somewhat lost in the endless news-cycle; a feature film offers a chance to memorialise the dead, and remind the living why their loved ones died. Kursk is a serious, sobering film, with a simple political stance that warns of the consequences of isolation; the target of Thomas Vinterberg’s film is what it sees as an intransigent Russian government circa 2000, with Russian naval equipment proving unsuccessful in rescuing the sailors trapped underwater. Whether passing the responsibility for the rescue to a UK team at the earliest possible date might have saved those who died on the crippled submarine is unknown; Vinterberg’s drama seeks to persuade audiences that British know-how might have pulled off a miracle. The subject promises only a tough watch, but the cast help make things compelling; Colin Firth brings grit to his role as Commodore David Russell, of the British Navy, who clashes with Max von Sydow’s Admiral Vladimir Petrenko. On the ocean floor, Matthias Schoenaerts sweats and toils as his men face a chilling lack of oxygen, while Lea Seydoux’s soon-to-be-widow is frustrated by the authorities at severak press-conferences. A product of Luc Besson’s Eurocorp, Kursk: The Last Mission is a well-mounted and involving drama, with some startling moments and an unfashionable but admirable sympathy for ordinary Russian people in the grip of a terrible human tragedy

If you’re in the UK, this is in Cinemas and on Digital HD 12 July 2019