Fantasy romance The Shape of Water is a must-see, with true stories The 15:17 to Paris and The Mercy also opening in cinemas.
The Shape of Water *****
Guillermo del Toro's wildly imaginative adult fairytale is an opulently entertaining monster fable that is spectacularly stylised and perversely enchanting.
Best Actress Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins delivers an utterly captivating tour de force performance as a cleaner who falls in love with a fish-man (Doug Jones) in a covert U.S. research laboratory during the height of the Cold War. On paper it may sound stuffy, but visionary filmmaker del Toro (interviewed below), who co-wrote the script with Vanessa Taylor, manages to create a richly exuberant and poetic romance.
The Shape of Water is a voyage into the depths of humanity and idealism. Make no mistake, the Amazon aqua-monster isn't the enemy here. Read our full review here.
The 15:17 to Paris ***
There is something of Paul Greengrass's United 93 in this compact and faithful retelling of the dramatic events on board an intercity train from Amsterdam to Paris in August 2015 when three young American men foiled a terrorist attack on 500 passengers. However, unlike Greengrass's unbearably tense 9/11 drama, the outcome here is a far happier one.
Clint Eastwood has taken the brave and novel approach of casting the three heroes - Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos - as themselves and it really pays off in what is a naturalistic real-life story. After the bravado of the Sully-starring Tom Hanks, this tale of derring-do seems the obvious choice for Eastwood. Read our full review here.
The Mercy **1/2
Based on the true story of amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst, The Mercy is a study of humanity, pride and man's need for validation with Colin Firth in the lead role.
Crowhurst was known for taking part in a single-handed, round-the-world yacht race in 1968 in a bid to win a cash prize that could help him to save his business.
Despite solid performances from Firth and Rachel Weisz, it's hard to actually care about the characters and become invested in their story. The pace of the film is quite slow, almost to the point of being boring in parts. The beautiful seascapes and pretty shots only do so much. Read our full review here.
Phantom Thread ****
Daniel Day-Lewis' swan song is a wonderfully delirious and bewitching masterpiece. Get ready for a riotous cinematic experience!
Vying for his fourth (and possibly last) Oscar, Day-Lewis is reunited with director Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) in Phantom Thread to play Reynolds Woodcock, a fantastically deranged and in-demand dress designer in 1950s London.
A man of habit, Reynolds' tailored life is ripped apart when a tenacious and loud-eating waitress (Vicky Krieps) becomes his muse, live-in model, and greatest challenge. Read our full review here.
Journey's End ****
Based on the acclaimed play, director Saul Dibb's (interviewed below) haunting, sensitive WWI story is another reminder of the futility of war, rendered small-scale and close-up in this instance but with big implications.
In a dimly-lit trench, in the environs of Saint-Quentin in Northern France, the Germans are "about the width of a rugby field away". The officers of C-Company nervously await an imminent attack. They smoke and drink, or pass the time with wry banter over the slim rations served up by the perpetually apologetic cook. Read our full review here.
Den of Thieves ***1/2
It's pretty obvious what you're getting with this film from the title and poster: muscular grunts with guns, shooting each other. If you're looking for something joyously life-affirming, try Coco.
Surprisingly, Den of Thieves is a lot better than the hopelessly generic title suggests.
For starters, an effortlessly gruff Gerard Butler - exorcising his inner Russell Crowe - pulverises the scenery as often as he lights a cigarette, and he does more smoking here than Thomas the Tank Engine on a mad one around Sodor. Read our full review here.
Roman J Israel, Esq ***
When it comes to Groucho Marx quotes, "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them… well, I have others" deserves its very own hall of fame.
It also comes to mind watching Roman J Israel, Esq - the story of a criminal defence attorney who reaches a crossroads in his life in downtown LA.
We're getting Denzel Washington at his best, but with a script that doesn't do justice to his performance. Read our full review here.