What To Watch This Week: The Tree Of Life, Client 9 and In The Loop

For the best movies on general release, on DVD and on television - this week, Terrence Malick comes out of hiding, Wall Street turns on its sheriff and Peter Capaldi swears. A lot.
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For the best movies on general release, on DVD and on television - this week, Terrence Malick comes out of hiding, Wall Street turns on its sheriff and Peter Capaldi swears. A lot.

The Tree Of Life: The chances are most people reading this will know exactly who Terrence Malick is. For those who don't, Malick is the JD Salinger of cinema - a reclusive type whose every movie is treated like a major event if only because it means the writer-director has deigned to come out of hiding.

An artist whose first film, Badlands, is right up there with Citizen Kane in the greatest ever debut stakes, Malick's latest offering - just his fifth movie in a career spanning almost 40 years - will delight as many people as it confounds. Sean Penn (who also starred in Malick's enigmatic war movie The Thin Red Line) is Jack O'Brien, a failed architect so at lost in the present he seeks answer in his troubled past. Brad Pitt, meanwhile, plays the young Jack's father, a man whose love for his three boys has a horrible habit of turning into abuse.

None of which sounds terribly unusual or demanding. As much as it's a film about fathers and sons, The Tree Of Life is a film about memory and the passage of time, the importance - and the shortcomings - of storytelling, and man and his standing in the natural order of things. A film whose grasp extends to the very edge of the universe, no one would say The Tree Of Life lacks ambition. But such are the chances Malick's takes and the esoteric nature of the things he explores, plenty of people will leave the movie baffled, while many more will have hit the exits long before the end credits role.

Rather than damning the creative force behind Days Of Heaven and The New World, we really should be saluting Terrence Malick for using his reputation to take the sort of risks even Steven Spielberg would shy away from. In his superb one-man show This Filthy World, Hairspray director John Waters lambasts the movie industry for its dependency on the previews system. To paraphrase Baltimore's second favourite son (after Jimmy McNulty, naturally), Hollywood is alone in the art world for trying to create work that appeals to everybody. Not so Terrence Malick, a director who's always seemed to understand that his pictures have limited appeal. But, my, if you’re one of the people that likes The Tree Of Life, you might agree that is it not only a great film but one of the first essential movies of the century.

The Tree Of Life trailer

Client 9: Eliot Spitzer could have been the first Jewish President of the United States. The Attorney General whose dedication to cleaning up America's financial industry earned him the nickname 'The Sheriff Of Wall Street', Spitzer seemed certain to follow a spell as New York State Governor with a term in the White House. Then it emerged that he had a thing for hookers, and the dreams immediately turned to nightmares.

In Client 9, Alex Gibney - whose previous documentaries include Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room and Gonzo: The Life And Work Of Dr Hunter S Thompson - dares to suggest that, regardless of his peccadilloes, Eliot Spitzer ought to be applauded as a spirited public servant. More pertinently, this gripping picture provides sufficient evidence to suggest that Spitzer's 'outing' was brought about by the very political and financial organisations he was dedicated to bringing to justice.

With its colourful cast of characters including Roger Stone, a shady political consultant whose James Bond obsession is eclipsed only by his love for Richard Nixon, and a whole host of pimps, madams and hookers, Client 9 might explore sleazy territory but it does so in a manner that’s as sophisticated as it is entertaining. In this, it has a lot in common with other offerings from the estimable Dogwoof Pictures such as Oliver Stone's South Of The Border, the Oscar-nominated Restrepo and the recently released Countdown To Zero.

Client 9 trailer:

In The Loop (airing Sunday 10 July at 10.30pm on BBC2): What can you say about In The Loop that hasn't been said before, other than that it's not funny and it's not about politics?

Of course, Armando Iannucci's big-screen version of The Thick Of It is one of the more remarkable British films of recent times. For with only minimal changes to the format, the writer-director and his plucky team transformed a superb-but-niche TV show into a movie sufficiently large to attract an A-Lister like James Gandolfini and well-executed enough to land an Oscar nomination.

The many great joys of In The Loop include Tom Hollander giving an awkwardness master class as doomed International Development Secretary Simon Foster, the explosive Jamie MacDonald (Paul Higgins) showing Alistair Campbell how to really sex-up a dossier, and the Olly Reeder-esque Toby Wright (Chris Addison) trying to convince his girlfriend he only played away from home in an effort to promote peace. All this and Steve Coogan in his best cinema outing this side of 24 Hour Party People.

"But what of Malcolm Tucker?" you cry. What indeed? Anyone who saw In The Loop at the cinema might agree that seeing this greatest of TV villains on the big screen was almost as exciting as watching a favourite band play live. And as for ‘Hamish McDeath’ going up against the erstwhile Tony Soprano, it’s a cinematic showdown to rival Godzilla vs. Rodan.

Oh, and as for the aforementioned Oscar nod, In The Loop lost the award for Best Screenplay Based On Material Previously Produced Or Published to Precious - a decision the term "catastro-fuck" could have been invented for.

In The Loop trailer:

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