Belfast Telegraph

The Mercy: Little hope of tragedy staying afloat

The Mercy (Cert 12A, 102 mins).

By Damon Smith

Fifty years after the Sunday Times launched the Golden Globe Race - offering a £5,000 prize for the first sailor to single-handedly navigate the world non-stop - the fate of one entrant is still anchored in uncharted waters.

Amateur yachtsman Donald Crowhurst (played by Colin Firth) set sail in October 1968 in an unfinished triple-hulled yacht laden with untested, newfangled gizmos. He provided updates via radio and caught the public imagination by taming stormy seas and gaining ground on more experienced competitors.

Unfortunately, his heroics were a web of lies and on July 10 1969 his boat was discovered in the Atlantic without any sign of its captain.

It was presumed Crowhurst had committed suicide because he could no longer maintain the facade of his false voyage. His body has never been recovered.

The Mercy is a handsome but emotionally waterlogged dramatisation which struggles to keep a real-life tragedy afloat. A ramshackle script bobs between present and past, inserting flashbacks to happier times for Donald with his wife Clare (Rachel Weisz) as his sanity unravels at sea.

Weisz is stranded on dry land and off screen for extended periods, so she fails to make a significant impact.

Being lost at sea with Firth would be a dream vacation for some people and the Oscar-winner delivers a committed performance.

However, it's a struggle to tether an emotional connection to his tormented sailor and interest goes overboard before Crowhurst contemplates a shame-fuelled sacrificial plunge.

Brave Eastwood crashes off the rails

The 15:17 To Paris (Cert 15, 94 mins)

In his last two pictures, American Sniper and Sully: Miracle On The Hudson, Oscar-winning humanist director Clint Eastwood brilliantly distilled acts of valour and self-sacrifice torn from newspaper headlines.

The 15:17 To Paris, the dramatisation of a failed 2015 terrorist attack on a train heading to the French capital which was thwarted by three American tourists, seems like a similarly snug fit.

In a daring move designed to blur respectful reconstruction and Hollywood-glossed fiction, Eastwood casts real-life heroes - Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone - in a fractured travelogue by first-time screenwriter Dorothy Blyskal.

This artistic gamble backfires spectacularly. The three lifelong friends exhibit almost no charisma through the lens and their monotone, staccato delivery of clunky, jarring dialogue robs Eastwood's film of spontaneity, naturalism or humour.

The 15:17 To Paris explodes sickeningly to life in the climactic showdown, shot with brio on handheld cameras, but the preceding 85 minutes are an interminable bore.

Apart from a breathless final flourish, Eastwood's direction is plodding and lifeless. He is blinded by patriotic pride and for the first time in a long, illustrious career, he goes off the rails.

Impotent love trilogy comes to climax

Fifty Shades Freed (Cert 18, 105 mins)

The rump and pump of EL James' literary threesome comes to a headboard-thumping climax.

When we left heroine Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) at the end of Fifty Shades Darker, her riding crop-wielding beau - buff billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan, right with Dakota) - had just emerged unscathed from crash-landing his helicopter and lecherous fiction editor Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) was poised to wreak revenge on Ana for getting him the sack for sexual harassment.

In the third and final picture, Ana marries Christian and the happy couple look forward to building a new life together, but the return of Jack during the honeymoon puts both Ana and Christian in jeopardy.

They rely on bodyguards Jason Taylor (Max Martini) and Luke Sawyer (Brant Daugherty) to keep them safe while Ana has unfinished business with Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger), the woman who seduced Christian when he was 15 and refuses to let him go.

It's time for Mrs Steele-Grey to stand by her man.

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