Tag Archives: George MacKay

Somewhere in Time

The Beast

by Hope Madden

“Fulfillment lies in the lack of passion.”

Filmmaker Bertrand Bonello reconsiders the Henry James novella The Beast in the Jungle, blending the fear of intimacy with a larger scale societal pressure to minimize our unruly natures.

Bonello, writing with Guillaume Bréaud and Benjamin Charbit, crosses three timelines to expand and deepen his vision: Paris 1910 during the Great Flood; LA 2014, when a 4.4 earthquake struck as the incel phenomenon was born; and back to Paris in 2044, long after AI has become master to humanity’s subservient species.

These are the timelines in which Gabrielle (Léa Seydoux) struggles with “the beast” — an overwhelming sense of impending disaster. Memories of Gabrielle’s previous lives are ignited by the 2044 cleansing process meant to minimize human emotion, making people more reliable workers.

In each storyline, Gabrielle dances around a possible relationship with Louis (George MacKay). Pressure to conform and the idea that emotional safety is key to happiness are obstacles to their passion. But it is Gabrielle’s obsession with impending doom that forever keeps the two from connecting.

Bonello revives James’s age-old terror of intimacy with the modern terror of AI, and does it with such nuanced humanity that even the occasional spot of stilted dialog can be forgiven.

Seydoux, forever a marvel of raw human emotion, perfectly animates the fight against sanding down the rough edges of humanity. But Bonello throws a wild curve ball with his 2014 plot, tangling psychotic entitlement within the story’s misunderstood concept of intimacy.

The shift in focus could pull you from the hypnotic romance of the other timelines were it not for the exceptional work of his cast. MacKay treads a narrow path of gentlemanly interest, effortlessly illustrating the heartbreaking proximity between tenderness, apathy and contempt.

The Beast is a lush affair, gorgeous to look at and nimble in the way themes echo across eras. It’s also an elegant reminder that an unruly heart is nothing to silence.

Sheep’s Clothing


by George Wolf

More metaphorical than Cuckoo’s Nest, more elusive than Girl, Interrupted, and with less satirical bite than The Lobster, Wolf brings a few other films to mind. But like many of her characters, writer/director Nathalie Biancheri is committed to her own different animal.

George MacKay is hypnotic as Jacob, a young man suffering from species dysphoria. He believes he is a wolf trapped in a human’s body, and when we first meet Jacob, his distraught parents are dropping him off for an extended stay at a treatment center promising a cure.

Once inside, Jacob meets others in similar circumstances: Parrot (Lola Petticrew), German Shepard (Fionn O’Shea), Duck (Senan Jennings), Horse (Elsa Fionuir) and Wildcat (Lily-Rose Depp) – all patients under the domineering thumb of The Zookeeper (Paddy Considine).

Though enemies in the wild, Wolf and Wildcat become drawn to each other within the confines of the treatment center. She’s mysterious, with privileges the other patients don’t enjoy, which comes in mighty handy when Wolf starts resisting The Zookeeper’s increasingly harsh methods.

Biancheri’s metaphor for conversion therapy certainly isn’t hard to pick out, but on a wider scale, her film speaks not only to ignorance toward the LBGTQ+ community, but to a universal push for conformity across all lanes of society. To The Zookeeper, a happy and productive life comes only when you accept what is expected of you, and while Biancheri often juggles different tones within this theme, she is able to craft several moments of powerful humanity, including a structured lesson on laughing that will just about break your heart.

MacKay (1917, The True History of the Kelly Gang) is such a wonderful actor, and it’s no surprise that he’s able to uncover Jacob’s inner conflict with a touching, understated depth. But even beyond that, his command of the role’s animal physicality is powerful and striking.

As Wolf and Wildcat grow closer, MacKay and Depp (also impressive in a comparatively underwritten role) often seemed locked in to an acting school exercise on primal instincts that left the rest of the class in the dust.

There’s more than enough here – from the narrative core to the stellar ensemble to the clinical production design and beyond – for a compelling and thought provoking parable. But while Biancheri’s ambitions are bold and worthy, her second feature (after 2019’s Nocturnal) can’t quite settle on a species.

Such commitment to a unique identity is certainly thematically consistent, but a more streamlined focus may have made the finale feel less abrupt, and brought more clarity to Wolf‘s high concept vision.

Indirect Message


by George Wolf

War. Maybe you’ve heard of it lately.

Taking inspiration from the past, director Sam Mendes has crafted an immaculate exercise in technical wonder, passionate vision and suddenly vital reminders.

The inherent gamble in crafting a film via one extended take – or the illusion of it – lies in the final cut existing as little more than a gimmick, spurring a ‘spot the edit’ challenge that eclipses the narrative.

1917 clears that hurdle in the first five minutes.

It is WWI, and British Corporals Blake and Schofield (Dean Charles-Chapman and George MacKay, both wonderful) are standing before their General (Colin Firth) amid the highest of stakes. Allied intelligence has revealed an imminent offensive will lead straight into a German ambush, and the corporals’ success at traveling deep into enemy territory to deliver the order to abort is all that will keep thousands of soldiers – including Blake’s own brother – from certain death.

Mendes dedicates the film to the stories told by his grandfather, and it stands thick with the humanity of bravery and sacrifice that ultimately prevailed through the most hellish of circumstances.

Blake and Schofield head out alone, enveloped by ballet-worthy camerawork and pristine cinematography (Roger Deakins, natch) that never blinks. The opportunities for edits may be evident at times, but the narrative experience is so immersive you’ll hardly care. We’re not merely following along on this mission, we’re part of every heart-stopping minute.

Anyone who’s seen the actual WW1 footage from Peter Jackson’s recent doc They Shall Not Grow Old (an irresistible bookend to 1917) will recognize a certain sanitation to the production design, but the trade-off is a fresh majesty for familiar themes, one that’s consistently grounded in stark intimacy. Mendes and Deakins (buoyed by a subtly evocative score from Thomas Newman) brush away any dangers of “first-person shooter” novelty with a near miraculous level of precise execution that succeeds in raising several bars.

1917 is absolutely one of the best films of the year, but it’s more. It’s an unforgettable and exhausting trip, immediately joining the ranks of the finest war movies ever made.