July 28, 2014

Starred Up (and the Top 10 films about father-son relationships)
by James
James

by James Forryan

hmv London; 28/07/2014

Bio

"Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor, hmv.com

Released on DVD & Blu-Ray next week (Monday 4th August), Starred Up is the latest in a long line of films dating back to Alan Clarke's Scum that attempts to capture life inside the UK's prisons, but this one adds a little something different. David Mackenzie's film stars Jack O'Connell (This is England, Harry Brown) as Eric, a young and disturbingly violent teenager who is transferred from a young offender's institute after one violent outburst too many.

Written off by the prison officers as a lost cause, he begins to find help from two different mentors – one on the shape of his parole officer, Oliver (Rupert Friend), the other being Neville (Ben Mendelsohn), a hardened criminal running Eric's new prison wing that also happens to be his father.

Screenwriter Jonathan Asser helps bring some insider knowledge that helps to create the sense of gritty realism in the film, but it's O'Connell's nuanced performance as Eric that really makes this film worth watching, managing the balancing act between victim and bully that is needed to make the character a convincing one. Mendelsohn also turns in another good performance as Eric's rotten father, while fans of Shameless will enjoy Friend's portrayal of the young parole officer attempting to turn his life around. 

It's not the cosiest of father-son relationships you're likely to see on the big screen, but fans of films by Alan Clarke and Shane Meadows or Gary Oldman's Nil by Mouth should find plenty to enjoy about David Mackenzie's film.

If Starred Up is a little too gritty for your tastes, however, then fear not - we've picked ten very different father-son flicks for you to get your teeth into...

 

Starred Up Trailer - Official Film Trailer HD (2014)

 

The Day After Tomorrow

10. The Day After Tomorrow

(2004)

Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhall star as the father-son duo in Roland Emmerich's apocalyptic disaster movie from 2004. Climatologist Jack Hall (Quaid) is on an expedition in Antarctica when he discovers that a falling sheet of ice is just the beginning of a global super-storm that looks set to plunge the planet into a new ice age. Meanwhile his son Sam (Gyllenhall) is trapped with a group of friends in New York as the weather closes in. Jack then embarks on a near-suicidal mission to rescue his son, trekking towards New York just as everyone else is fleeing the city.

Climate change deniers will undoubtedly call shenanigans on the film's entire premise, but as father-son relationships go Jack's dogged determination to reach his son earns him some serious brownie points.

 

The Pursuit of Happyness

9. The Pursuit of Happyness

(2006)

Will Smith turns in a performance that is at equal turns inspiring and heartbreaking as Chris Gardner, a struggling salesman who takes custody of his son just as he is about to embark on a tough new role working as a stockbroker – a role in which he will need to work for 6 months before getting paid anything. At the same time he is struggling sell medical equipment he has invested in to make ends meet.

What makes this father-son movie even more interesting is that his son Christopher is played by Smith's real son, Jayden, who is also enjoying his own budding acting career. Gabriele Muccino's film is a tough account of a single parent trying to cope in difficult circumstances, but its protagonist always puts his son first despite everything and it's a film that pulls on the heart strings in all the right places.

The Devil's Advocate

8. The Devil's Advocate

(1997)

Offering a very different father-son relationship to the previous two entries on this list, The Devil's Advocate stars Keanu Reeves as Kevin Lomax, an up-and-coming lawyer raised in Gainesville, Florida by a religious mother who becomes upset when he is offered a job in New York by law firm boss John Milton (Al Pacino). Milton moves Kevin and his wife Mary Ann (Charlize Theron) into a swish apartment block by Central Park, where it begins to emerge that all is not as it appears to be with this new job of Kevin's. Lomax soon discovers that not only is Milton the Devil incarnate, he is also his father.

The film's premise is based on Andrew Neiderman's novel of the same name, but there are numerous references to Paradise Lost - not least Pacino's character taking the author's name - and it is Pacino's performance as the evil Milton that really makes this film, particularly his ranting monologue about God. An unsettling paranormal thriller from director Taylor Hackford, this is highly recommended.

Nebraska

7. Nebraska

(2013)

Alexander Payne's film, released last year, stars Bruce Dern as Woody Grant, the ageing patriarch of a family living in Montana who embarks on a road trip to Nebraska when he receives a fraudulent letter telling him he has won $1million in a sweepstakes prize draw, believing the letter to be genuine.

His son David (Will Forte) tries to explain that the letter is a scam, but when Woody ignores him and heads for Nebraska anyway, David accompanies him on a road trip that sees Woody visit the area in which he grew up, meeting old acquaintances and colourful characters along the way.

Payne's film is both moving and funny, offering a realistic depiction of the bond between father and son with all the frustrations and joy that come with it. Not to be missed.

Back to the Future

6. Back to the Future

(1985)

A proper feel-good flick that many of us have grown up with, Back to the Future is undoubtedly a classic, but It's easy to forget amidst all the time-travelling DeLorean antics that the relationship between Marty and George McFly plays such a key part in the film.

Once he is accidentally sent back to the 1950's in Doc's plutonium-powered vehicle, Michael J. Fox's character must ensure that his father is unimpeded in attempts to woo his mother in order to save his own existence. Turning the mean, knuckle-headed Biff from bully to George's man-servant, Marty McFly goes further than most to ensure his father's wellbeing.

5. The Empire Strikes Back

(1980)

Not the sort of relationship that most men would aspire to have with their father, granted, but the revelation that Luke Skywalker's father Anakin has been consumed by Sith badass Darth Vader in this second instalment of George Lucas' Star Wars trilogy is a key part of the film's narrative.

While many of the sons on the list could argue their relationship with dad is a little difficult, Skywalker is the only one who can say his father is literally hell-bent on taking over the universe, so for that reason alone Empire... creeps into our top 5.

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

4. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

(2004)

Wes Anderson's film features one of the more unconventional father-son relationships on this list, with Bill Murray giving a typically brilliant performance as Steve Zissou alongside Owen Wilson playing Ned Plimpton who, it transpires, may in fact be Zissou's long lost son.

The pair bond on one of Zissou's many ocean adventures, in this case a revenge mission to find the (possibly non-existant) jaguar shark that killed his partner.

Funny, peculiar and beautifully shot, this is Wes Anderson at his best.

Road to Perdition

3. Road to Perdition

(2002)

Sam Mendes' film based on Mark Allan Collins graphic novel stars Tom Hanks as the adopted son of an Irish mob boss based in Chicago in the 1930s.

Mike Sullivan (Hanks) has worked as a henchman for John Rooney (Paul Newman) his entire life, but when Rooney's real son Connor causes in incident and Mike's son Michael (Tyler Hoechlin) accidentally witnesses his father and Connor carrying out a murder, Connor decides to try and kill Mike and his family in case the boy talks to the authorities.

Mike takes his son on the run as they attempt to try and escape Connor's henchman from killing them, but Rooney's network of gangland criminals keeps catching up with them at every turn. For any who haven't seen this film from 2002, we can't recommend it highly enough.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

2. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

(1989)

With two Indiana Jones blockbusters already under their belts, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg had already sent the archeologist to recover treasures from Nazis and black magic cults, so where would they take his story next? Enter Sean Connery as Henry Jones Sr. and none other than a quest for the holy grail.

The on-screen chemistry is brilliant between Connery and his offspring Harrison Ford as they bicker their way across Europe and the Middle East in search of the grail and it's a brilliant conclusion to the original trilogy of films that made Indiana Jones one of the most successful film franchises in history.

The Godfather

1. The Godfather

(1972)

Last but by no means least, Francis Ford Coppola's epic tale of la cosa nostra features what is surely the most iconic father-son pairing in cinematic history with Marlon Brando's Vito Corleone and his war-hero-turned-mobster son Michael, played by Al Pacino.

We're quite sure that this film's plot doesn't need explaining, so we won't, but Michael Corleone's ascension to the most feared boss in the mafia from his beginnings as a humble soldier is all down to his love for his dad, adding an air of romance to this Sicilian gangster's tale.

Brilliantly adapted from Mario Puzo's novel based on the real life exploits of Carlos Gambino, it's a film that continues to be held in high esteem, and rightly so.