Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The wonder of Matt Reeves's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is not in the narrative -- which is familiar -- but in the execution. This, of course, means it will not win Best Picture but it will be lauded for the unquestionable artistry that is on display. The wonder of the movie begins and ends with the amazing Andy Serkis, who carries the picture as Caesar, the leader of a nation of biologically enhanced apes living peacefully in Oakland after humankind nearly eradicates itself by "monkeying around" with viruses and microbes in labs in San Francisco. All of this was introduced in 2011 in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in which Serkis, CGI'd down to the wrinkles in his brow, showed us what real acting looked like. It's not about declamation but the expressiveness that resides in gesture. He delivers again in Dawn. The human element in the picture -- kind-hearted envoy Jason Clarke, equally kind-hearted nurse Keri Russell, the distrustful and desperate human leader Gary Oldman, and the bitter and trigger-happy crew member Kirk Acevedo -- while not negligible does not compare to the movie's simian cast -- played by Serkis, Toby Kebbell as the mad and traitorous Koba, Nick Thurston as Caesar's disillusioned and naive son Blue Eyes, and Karin Konoval as the wise orangutan teacher Maurice. Matt Reeves's Dawn overflows with stunning images of apes swinging through the trees, scaling scaffolding, and storming barricades and quite a few quiet moments of genuine tenderness that approach sentimental but do not cross the line. Highly recommended but violent and could be distressing for children.