A young Indian boy gets lost on a train station and loses his mother in this uplifting film based on a true story from director Garth Davis. After a long odyssey through orphanages and abuse, Saroo winds up in Australia, adopted by new parents (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). After 25 years, Saroo (played as an adult by Dev Patel) decides it’s time to find his real mother. How does he do it in the modern world? Google Earth (the film is a nice commercial for that little platform). Patel is outstanding as Saroo, especially when his personal conflict about heritage comes to the forefront. Rooney Mara is also good as his supportive girlfriend, one of the more down-to-earth characters she’s played in recent years. The one most people will talk about in this film, however, is Kidman, who puts together one of the best, most powerful performances of her career. The story seems farfetched, but it’s the real deal, as evidenced by real footage of Saroo and his moms at film’s end. In a year that had a lot of great movies that delved into darkness, it’s nice to have this one. It makes you feel good.
4 JackieDealing primarily with the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, director Pablo Larrain addresses those terrible times through the eyes of Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman), First Lady and closest witness to the gory death of her husband. The film addresses notions never really discussed about the assassination in film before, such as Jackie’s decision to march in the open air at her husband’s funeral. Portman, after a little career lull, comes roaring back with an amazingly accurate portrayal. She nails that beautifully strange accent. Peter Sarsgaard is excellent as a justifiably angry Bobby Kennedy, as is Billy Crudup as a journalist doing an exclusive interview with Jackie soon after the shooting. The film accurately captures the look of the early ’60s, right down to Jackie’s pillbox hat. Of all the films made about the assassination of JFK, this one is the most personal, and it does an admirable job of showing what an influence Jackie was, and examining her icon status. Portman will most certainly get an Oscar nomination for this one, and it will be deserved.
4 Rogue One: A Star Wars StoryThere was a quick little moment in the very first Star Wars (now known as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) where a character mentions rebels possibly obtaining vulnerability secrets regarding the Death Star. That group of people actually gets their own movie in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a Star Wars spinoff that’s technically another prequel. In fact, it tells a story that leads right up to where A New Hope begins. It’s a strong, rousing action-adventure movie that should please Star Wars geeks along with newcomers to the franchise. It’s also a little different from your typical Star Wars movie in that it doesn’t mainly deal with the Skywalker saga—although a couple of them make notable appearances—and doesn’t prominently feature the John Williams score (although that makes some appearances, as well). Director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) goes for something a little different here, a tonal shift that reminds of the big change The Empire Strikes Back brought to the saga. The result is a different kind of Star Wars film that’s immensely entertaining and fun. Felicity Jones is terrific as Jyn, a woman who finds herself with strange ties to the Death Star, and becomes part of the effort to destroy it. Star Wars fans will delight in all of the tie-ins and cameos, while newcomers will simply have a blast with an action movie that delivers on many fronts.