Belfast Telegraph

Film releases: Ill-conceived story of slavery

The Birth of a Nation (15, 120 mins)

By Damon Smith

Slave owner Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer) believes he is more tolerant and understanding than many of his neighbours in Southampton County.

His God-fearing mother Elizabeth (Penelope Ann Miller) raised young Samuel with a slave boy called Nat (Nate Parker) as his playmate, and the imposing matriarch taught Nat to read by referring him to the word of the Bible. Nat devours every word and grows up with a belief that he must preach to his people. He falls in love with another slave, Cherry (Aja Naomi King), but when she is brutally assaulted by a gang of white slave owners, led by snarling Raymond Cobb (Jackie Earle Haley), poor Samuel seriously questions the order of his unforgiving world. The Birth Of A Nation is a passionate, yet clumsily conceived, rallying cry for equality, spattered with the blood and tears of men who acknowledge that violence begets greater violence.

Three stars

Office Christmas Party (15, 105 mins)

Hard-nosed CEO-in-waiting Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Aniston) is unimpressed with the Chicago branch of IT company Zenotek run by her party-loving brother, Clay (TJ Miller).

Determined to prove her steely resolve to the board, Carol makes the cold-hearted decision to initiate cost-cutting redundancies and renege on the promise of end-of-year bonuses.

Clay and chief technical officer Josh (Jason Bateman) plead with Carol to show compassion and she agrees to cancel the lay-offs if they close a 14 million US dollar deal with Walter Davis (Courtney B Vance) and his company, Data City. Office Christmas Party is a tinsel-strewn vision of Sodom and Gomorrah that will be hair of the dog for undemanding audiences who enjoyed The Hangover.

Three stars

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