POLITICAL biopic THE IRON LADY (12: Twentieth Century Fox) treads a road not covered by BBC4’s The Long Walk To Finchley.
The TV drama examined ten years in the young life of future Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
But Mamma Mia! director Phyllida Lloyd bravely decided to tackle the whole shebang, portraying Thatcher’s life and career in flashback from the perspective of her later years as she struggles with Alzheimer’s disease.
Meryl Streep, in an Oscar-winning performance, plays her at various stages of adult life and is supported by the reliable Jim Broadbent as the ghost of her late husband Denis.
The film follows her childhood years in the family’s grocer’s shop through to her graduation from Oxford, her early working life and her decision to enter politics.
This could have been a fascinating piece about love in old age, but instead, while dutifully ticking off the Falklands War, the miners, the Brighton bombing and the poll tax, it fails to find any wider motivation.
It lacks the focus of a comparable biopic such as The Queen, although there’s fun to be had playing spot the MPs, including Michael Heseltine (Richard E. Grant) and Geoffrey Howe (Anthony Head), who turned against her before her downfall in 1990.
> Tired-looking spy action franchise Mission: Impossible is rejuvenated for its fourth outing.
Tom Cruise reprises his role as Impossible Mission Force agent Ethan Hunt in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL (12: Paramount).
Hunt and his crack team are blamed for a botched mission when the Kremlin is bombed by terrorists and the entire IMF is disbanded.
Cut off from all support, they must go rogue to stop an extremist scientist causing a nuclear armageddon.
The story may sound familiar, but the gadgets are more outlandish than ever, the action sequences are amazing (Cruise dangling off the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai, wearing suction gloves) and the special effects are high-end.
Jeremy Renner is a capable new addition to the IMF and Simon Pegg is promoted to full comedy role in an inventive and tension-laden caper.
> Thriller FURY (18: Revolver) stars Samuel L. Jackson as an ex-convict whose attempts to begin a new life are threatened by his increasing involvement in planning a dangerous heist.
Con artist Foley (Jackson) leaves prison after serving a 20-year sentence determined to go straight, but his relationship with a young woman, Iris, leads him into the company of Ethan, who is intent on stealing a fortune from feared drug kingpin Xavier (Tom Wilkinson).
Ethan is Foley’s dead partner’s son and he threatens to reveal a terrible secret to Iris if he doesn’t take part in one last scam.
The performances are fine and the film is perfectly watchable, yet it’s just so generic that it hardly distinguishes itself from your average straight-to-DVD offering.
> Jackson also turns up, although he’s somewhat more restrained, in MOTHER AND CHILD (15: Verve), a dyed-in-the-wool weepie following the interconnected lives of three women with baby trouble.
Annette Bening is Karen, a 50-year-old healthcare professional still haunted by her decision as a teenage mum to give up her newborn daughter for adoption.
Naomi Watts plays Elizabeth, that daughter, now a high-flying lawyer, while Kerry Washington is Lucy, a childless young wife looking to adopt.
Their stories converge when the death of Karen’s mum prompts her to delve into her past.
Jackson provides sterling support as Elizabeth’s boss and there are tears aplenty before the three plot strands are brought – rather too neatly – together.
But at more than two hours, it’s rather drawn out.
> And here’s Naomi Watts again...this time in DREAM HOUSE (15: Warner), a B-grade movie with A-grade acting talent.
Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz are also in this daft, haunted-house tale in which they are cast as a married couple, Will and Libby, who relocate with their two daughters from the big city to a dream home in a small town.
Spooky stuff starts happening and Will discovers via neighbour Ann (Watts) that their new abode once played host to a father killing his entire family.
A decent twist to the yarn comes far too early and when you show your hand so soon, what follows has to be pretty special. Here, it simply isn’t.
It’s silly and nonsensical, although a cast of this calibre fighting a losing battle with the material on offer has a certain car-crash watchability about it.