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BRIAN VINER reviews Nitram: A brilliant study of Australian mass shooter 

Nitram (15, 112 mins)

Rating: rating showbiz 5

Verdict: very powerful

The Princess (12, 109 mins)

Rating: rating showbiz 4

Verdict: Diana’s story, astutely told

Australian director Justin Kurzel is a classy operator behind the camera, and his wife Essie Davis is generally great in front of the camera. The thunderingly powerful and thought-provoking Nitram sees both at the very top of their game.

But it was Caleb Landry Jones who rightly waved his laurels at the Cannes Film Festival last year, winning the Best Actor award for his stunning performance in what, once you figure out what, is the title role.

Nitram tells the story of Martin Bryant, who is simultaneously serving 35 life sentences: one for each person he shot during a murderous rampage in Port Arthur, Tasmania, in April 1996.

The more observant among you will have noticed that Nitram Martin spells backwards. I saw the movie with my wife, who quietly pointed it out to me about 20 minutes later. Being slower at recording, I hadn’t made the connection myself; although she later admitted she only processed it because some 50 years ago at Yorkshire primary school they had so much fun flipping their friend Martin Parkinson’s name.

Nitram tells the story of Martin Bryant, who is simultaneously serving 35 life sentences: one for each person he shot during a murderous rampage in Port Arthur, Tasmania, in April 1996.

Nitram tells the story of Martin Bryant, who is simultaneously serving 35 life sentences: one for each person he shot during a murderous rampage in Port Arthur, Tasmania, in April 1996.

In this case, Nitram has a double relevance. It becomes apparent that it was used as a mockery against Bryant during his own school days, presumably because he was seen as retarded.

More importantly, he is never otherwise referred to by name; not by his parents (Judy Davis and Anthony LaPaglia, also both on top form), not even in the film’s closing captions, which describe his horrific killing spree and the immediate gun control legislation passed by the Australian government.

Apparently Shaun Grant’s excellent screenplay – who collaborated with Kurzel on Snowtown (2011) and True History Of The Kelly Gang (2019) – respects the reluctance in Tasmania, where his crimes cast the longest shadow, to humanize Bryant by his name.

But of course the film does humanize him and has been hugely controversial down there. A man who survived his disaster has stated that 35 people “died not just to give Americans a salutary story about gun control.” It’s easy to understand his anger. Dramatizing the Dunblane massacre would have the same effect here.

That said, this seems to me to be an engaging and timely film, which would have been less important had it been done less brilliantly. But it is truly superbly acted, written and directed, offering a chilling look at how his family and society at large face the danger of a deranged, unpredictable young man (28 years old at the time of the murders) who has a lifelong fascination. by fireworks and, shockingly, was able to walk out of a gun shop with enough guns to support a medium-sized militia.

Whatever the ethics of telling Bryant's story on screen, the film clearly sends a message to all those Americans who cherish their right to carry as many guns as they want.

Whatever the ethics of telling Bryant’s story on screen, the film clearly sends a message to all those Americans who cherish their right to carry as many guns as they want.

Whatever the ethics of telling Bryant’s story on screen, the film clearly sends a message to all those Americans who cherish their right to carry as many guns as they want, and tears apart the twisted logic of their tired mantra: “Guns.” don’t kill people, people kill people.’

On how this killer could afford his deadly arsenal, Nitram describes the bizarre friendship he formed with a wealthy eccentric, Helen (Essie Davis, really sensational). She died in a traffic accident, but left him more than enough money to carry out his slaughter (which, by the way, remains unseen… the film is all the more powerful for Kurzel’s reticence).

So, as far as I can see why it was incendiary, I’m very happy to have seen Nitram. Not least because, I’m ashamed to confess, the horrific events at Port Arthur that day, still one of the worst atrocities ever committed by a lone gunman, had barely remained in my consciousness.

As we approach the 25th anniversary of the events of that Parisian underpass, Ed Perkins' clever documentary The Princess uses only contemporary archival footage to tell Diana's story.

As we approach the 25th anniversary of the events of that Parisian underpass, Ed Perkins’ clever documentary The Princess uses only contemporary archival footage to tell Diana’s story.

I don’t think I’m the only one either. But consider how the entire world was electrified the following year by another tragedy, one with a much lower death toll, and how the fascination continues.

As we approach the 25th anniversary of the events of that Parisian underpass, Ed Perkins’ clever documentary The Princess uses only contemporary archival footage to tell Diana’s story, from the famous ‘Shy Di’ footage of her walking down the street to her car, politely declined to confirm whether she and Prince Charles would marry, at her funeral.

CLASSIC MOVIE AT THE CINEMA

THE RAILWAY CHILDREN (1970)

On Sunday, for just one day, there’s a nationwide re-release of this timeless delight, ahead of the sequel, The Railway Children Return, due out later this month. If you’ve ever only seen it on the small screen, treat yourself.

Most of the clips will look familiar to you, such as the joint BBC/ITN interview by Angela Rippon and Andrew Gardner in which Diana said she ‘looked forward to being a good woman’, and those pictures of her sitting alone outside the Taj Mahal. yet they are expertly (though sometimes a little mischievous) put together.

“It’s like Diana having a press conference announcing that she wants to be left alone,” said one commenter sardonically. In fact, Perkins doesn’t flaunt a pro-Diana or pro-Charles agenda, but those in one camp or the other will no doubt feel that he does – a sure sign of a balanced film worth infinitely more than last year’s tangled drama, Spencer.

As well as we think we know the story and as eagerly we picked up those Netflix episodes of The Crown, it’ll help us not only remember the craziness, but maybe make sense of it.

Nitram and The Princess are both running in select cinemas.

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You have to be wary of keeping up with the Despicable Me franchise. Minions: The Rise Of Gru (U, 87 mins, ★★★✩✩) is the sequel to the 2015 prequel Minions, and that may be all it takes to put you off.

But actually it’s a ton of fun, and can’t be beat by the first movie (which Sandra Bullock and Michael Keaton boasted in the supporting voice cast), this one gives us the great Alan Arkin and the even greater Dame Julie Andrews!

Minions: The Rise Of Gru a ton of fun, not to be outdone by the first movie with impressive voice acting from Alan Arkin and Dame Julie Andrews

Minions: The Rise Of Gru a ton of fun, not to be outdone by the first movie with impressive voice acting from Alan Arkin and Dame Julie Andrews

Gru (Steve Carell) is an 11-year-old schoolboy who wants to become a super villain (Dame Julie has a small speaking role as his mother). He auditions for a gang called the Vicious Six, the front of which is a music store called Criminal Records. But eventually Gru, aided by his devoted Minion army, joins forces with the ousted leader of the gang, Wild Knuckles (Arkin). The story skips a bit, but it’s wildly colorful, really funny in parts, and like all the best children’s animations there’s plenty to keep adults entertained too, such as a glorious retro soundtrack featuring the music of Diana Ross, Simon & Garfunkel, The Carpenters, Nancy Sinatra and Mott the Hoople.

Eric Ravilious: Drawn To War (PG, 87 mins, ) is a very different cake, or maybe a plate of scones. Margy Kinmonth’s affectionate and enlightening documentary tells the life story of a watercolorist whose subjects encapsulate England and English.

He deserves to be much more famous for his antebellum work alone, but he also became an acclaimed war artist, dying in 1942 at the height of his abilities, at just 39 years of age.

Alan Bennett and the artist Grayson Perry are among those paying tribute in a film that draws heavily on the letters and diaries of Ravilious, and those of his wife and fellow artist Tirzah Garwood. “It’s hard for me to say what it’s like to be English, but Ravilious is part of it,” says Bennett, and that’s a credit indeed, because for some of us, Bennett is part of it too.

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