Sony's January '06 Releases
The Escapist (January 25/06)
The Escapist casts Jonny Lee Miller as Denis, a well-to-do pilot whose seemingly perfect life is shattered after ruthless thug Ricky Barnes (Andy Serkis) breaks into his house and murders his pregnant wife. Later, after learning that Barnes has been sent to the toughest prison in England, Denis puts a plan into motion that will eventually land him face-to-face with his wife's killer. It's an irresistible premise that's generally handled well by director Gillies MacKinnon, although the languid pace employed by the filmmaker prevents the movie from becoming as engrossing and taut as one might've liked. Miller delivers an expectedly sturdy performance, while Serkis does a fantastic job of stepping into the shoes of an evil, thoroughly detestable character. The whole thing's about as believable as an episode of 24 or Prison Break, but that's undoubtedly part of its charm (the film even has the feel of a television show, thanks to its decidedly low-rent visuals and production values).
Junebug (January 15/06)
That Junebug comes off as a completely original and surprisingly compelling piece of work is no small feat, given that it features a premise that couldn't possibly be more familiar. George (Alessandro Nivola), born and raised in North Carolina, returns home with his new wife, a British art dealer named Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz). There, Madeleine must contend with George's sullen brother (Benjamin McKenzie), suspicious parents (Celia Weston and Scott Wilson), and extremely enthusiastic sister-in-law (Amy Adams). Screenwriter Angus MacLachlan and director Phil Morrison successfully infuse Junebug with a memorable and thoroughly fresh point of view, peppering individual sequences with small, undeniably truthful moments. Morrison's relentlessly quirky directorial style admittedly takes a while to get used to, but his seemingly roundabout choices effectively humanizes this family of eccentrics. And as strong as each member of the cast is, the film belongs to relative newcomer Adams. Adams, who becomes the perky and pregnant Ashley with astounding ease, easily delivers the best performance of the movie, which is no small feat given the caliber of actors she's been surrounded with. Junebug may not be perfect - the lack of plot becomes a little too noticeable by the time the third act rolls around - but the honesty with which it's been imbued is generally difficult to resist.