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The Crack Magazine

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Empire of Light

Director: Sam Mendes

Stars: Olivia Colman, Michael Ward, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Tom Brooke

Mendes’s latest is a contrived and cloyingly self-conscious love letter to film (shudder), focusing on the lives and loves of the staff of a shabby but ornate picture house. Olivia Colman is Hilary, the troubled manager of the seafront cinema. The staff are preparing for the national premiere of ‘Chariots of Fire’, which represents something of a coup for the cinema and its unctuous social-climbing manager Mr Ellis (Firth), a married man with whom Hilary has been having an affair. Meanwhile, new recruit Stephen (Ward), a conscientious young black man, becomes the target of abuse from local skinheads. Matters are complicated when Stephen and Hilary grow close. An excellent cast are poorly served by a perfunctory script and a plot that often feels more suited to a sitcom, as the disparate band scuttle around in preparation for the bigwigs’ visit. Veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins’ gorgeously-hued rendering of a vintage cinema and its surrounding seaside environs is the main attraction.

David Willoughby

Follow David on Twitter @DWill_Crackfilm