At The Movies: Ted K is the bomb, Pinocchio a lifeless retread


Ted K (M18)

123 minutes, opens on Thursday

4 stars

The story: Ted Kaczynski is a Harvard-educated former professor who waged a nationwide bomb campaign between 1978 and 1995, killing three and injuring 23, to avenge modern society’s destruction of nature. Kaczynski was the American eco-terrorist known as the Unabomber. This true-crime drama spans 25 years of his radicalisation and 1996 capture following the largest FBI manhunt in history.

Kaczynski has been the subject of television series, documentaries and a podcast. None of those, though, has the eerie verisimilitude of Ted K and a tour-de-force title performance like Sharlto Copley’s.

The domestic terrorist lived alone without electricity in the mountains of Montana. Director Tony Stone returned to the very location and constructed an exact replica of Kaczynski’s cabin, where Copley recreates the hermit’s monastic routine: reading, shaving, building bombs, hunting for food.

Infuriatingly, technology encroached even in this wilderness. The camera coats the once-pristine land in the noxious reds and yellows of industrial fumes, while an electronic score aggravates the din of logging saws and passing jets that enraged Kaczynski and literally drove him mad. Copley enacts his psychosis with febrile intensity.

The South African actor, who is in every scene, carrying the entire picture, narrates word-for-word from the 25,000 pages of Kaczynski’s journals.

The movie is a deep-dive into his life and mind. It is a character study at once forensic and expressionistic and profoundly chilling, not least because the environmental disasters of today are proving Kaczynski right. What to make of the fact that a killer’s manifesto, Industrial Society And Its Future, is now on college reading lists?

HOT TAKE: This account of the infamous Unabomber unnerves in its docu-realism.

Pinocchio (PG)

Tom Hanks (right) in the film Pinocchio. Pinocchio is voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth. PHOTO: DISNEY ENTERPRISES

105 minutes, on Disney+

2 stars

The story: Tom Hanks stars as 19th-century Italian clockmaker Geppetto whose wooden puppet Pinocchio (voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) magically comes to life and embarks on a picaresque quest to become a real boy.

Pinocchio continues Walt Disney Pictures’ live-action updates of their classic animations following, most recently, Aladdin (2019).

Whatever can writer-director Robert Zemeckis add to Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures Of Pinocchio (1883), the endlessly adapted morality tale about being brave, truthful and unselfish?

Plenty, it turns out, almost all ill-advised, starting with the spectacle of Pinocchio crouching on his village street to sniff horse manure. “I can’t wait to get to school and learn what all this stuff is,” he chirps.

Pinocchio never gets to class, of course. The blockheaded naif is waylaid by a crooked fox (Keegan-Michael Key), abducted by a theatre impresario (Giuseppe Battiston) and turned into a donkey, the misadventures crashing from one to another. Who has time any more for lessons on manure?

Many of the characters, such as the puppet’s conscience Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), are CGI, and their wisecracking has been contemporised with grating social media references.

The human actors are mainly Hanks and Cynthia Erivo as the Blue Fairy singing When You Wish Upon A Star from a soundtrack of original music and new compositions.

The integration between the digital and the real is especially poor, considering Zemeckis was the very pioneer of such hybrid effects on Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) and The Polar Express (2004).

Pinocchio has, meanwhile, retained the look of the 1940 cartoon version. His nose still grows when he lies — as might mine, should I say this retelling brought me much joy.

HOT TAKE: Just watch the 1940 Disney animation.

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