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Monthly Archives: December 2016

The Eagle Huntress


Falconry is one of the oldest sports in the world, with birds of prey still flown today for the amusement of tourists at bird rescue centers and wildlife parks. Otto Bell’s documentary The Eagle Huntress explores the remarkable story of people in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia, who hunt actual prey with golden eagles both as an important cultural tradition and a means to survival. The film follows the genuinely inspiring tale of Aisholpan, the first girl to learn the skills of eagle hunting and compete in an annual contest. Aisholpan is a hugely engaging protagonist, determined to overcome patriarchal prejudice and demonstrate her skills and talent. Bell carefully portrays her journey, including school lessons, home life and training sequences that are truly breathtaking, both in terms of the extraordinary landscapes and the evident power of the eagles as they fly to and from the hand. Daisy Ridley’s lively narration is balanced with interviews with Aisholpan and her family, ensuring that this different world is easily comprehensible to the viewer. This accessibility is combined with charming humour and some genuinely punch-the-air moments to make The Eagle Huntress one of the most uplifting and inspiring films of the year.




Brad Pitt has a problem with Nazis. Not that they don’t warrant a certain amount of enmity, but with Inglourious Basterds, Fury and now Allied, Mr Pitt is consistently waging his own movie war against the Third Reich. In Robert Zemeckis’ latest, Pitt’s Canadian Wing Commander Max Vatan is joined by the dangerous and beguiling Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard), who first joins him in a Casablanca assassination operation, then comes with him to England, marries him and they begin a family in Hampstead, while the war continues. When Max’s superiors find evidence that Marianne is a German spy, the happiness rapidly gives way to mistrust and suspicion. Despite the promising set up, meticulous period detail and some gripping set pieces – including the key assassination in Casablanca, a mission into German-occupied France and some air raids on London – Allied rarely feels more than a handsomely mounted portrait. The central relationship lacks enveloping emotion, perhaps due to a rushed pace. Zemeckis is a solid director, but Allied lacks the more heartrending moments of his other work – Tom Hanks crying out ‘Wilson’ is more upsetting than the Vatans’ marriage cracking under suspicion. That said, the moments at Max’s office are engaging in their depiction of period espionage, and do form a nice contrast with the domestic homelife. Allied is an engaging enough romantic period thriller, but is overall the sum is less than the parts.