Trailer Talk #5

Image: Universal Pictures

As you have probably noticed from this Trailer Talk column, it is film festival season. With two of the world’s biggest gatherings of filmmakers and critics alike having just taken place in Toronto and Venice, we now head out of that busy period and hurtle headlong into awards season. The chances are, the big contenders at the Oscars and co. have just screened in either Canada or Italy, and awards predictions have officially begun. Before we descend into that period of the year, entertaining and maddening in equal measure, it is important to remember that film festival season is not over yet. It is now Britain’s turn. At the start of next month many of the films that received their world premieres in Venice or Toronto will arrive in the UK.

Among these is Le Mans ’66, the racing drama formerly titled Ford v Ferrari. Directed by James Mangold, whose eclectic CV includes Logan and Girl, Interrupted, the film follows the story of a car designer and a hot-headed driver who work together to win the 24-hour race at Le Mans for Ford. The previous trailer focussed on the defying-expectations heroism of the true story, but this week’s new preview is distinctly more rock n’ roll. Giving us far more of the banter and friendship between Matt Damon’s designer and Christian Bale’s driver, we see them not just as underdogs but as outsiders to their own company. The racing itself looks like it could be a thrilling watch, but it is the prospect of seeing two heavyweight actors battle the establishment and each other that gives the film its greatest appeal. Less self-serious than the first trailer suggested, this looks like an absolute blast.

An equally entertaining but far more serious second trailer also dropped this week in the form of Queen & Slim. Directed by music video veteran Melina Matsoukas, who worked on Beyoncé’s Lemonade, and scripted by James Frey and Master of None Emmy-winner Lena Waithe, the film’s premise is quickly set out in the trailer: a black couple on a first date get pulled over and threatened by a cop whom they then inadvertently kill in self-defence. This second taste of an enticing film suggests more of an on-the-run thriller tone than the first trailer, which focussed more on the eponymous relationship. The pair are played by Jodie Turner-Smith and Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya, who exudes charisma in even this short preview. The trailer’s fast pace suggests an entertaining thriller, but the narrative’s complexities do not seem to be ignored; the admiration they get for their acts from the black community seems to sit uneasily with them, provoking all sorts of questions about race and modern America.

Whilst Queen & Slim promises a long look in the mirror for modern America, bombastic action director Roland Emmerich is looking back for his take on the Battle of Midway. Known for his disaster epics, Emmerich has recently been taking a more serious turn, with fellow historical drama Stonewall coming before Midway. With an impressive ensemble cast on show, this trailer suggests that the film’s heart comes with Ed Skrein’s character, struggling to cope with past losses and leading his men into near-certain death. The action, as expected with Emmerich, looks explosive but this trailer gives us enough glimpses of character to hope that Midway will offer more than just action spectacle.

Fellow true triumph-over-adversity story Radioactive also gave us a trailer this week, with Rosamund Pike playing pioneering scientist Marie Curie. In an odd and slightly flat trailer, lots of swirling neon and dramatic music supplement Pike’s stirring speeches and shots of the usual dismissive men. The film still has promise, especially given Pike’s track record of acclaimed performances, but the trailer is not one that makes the film seem as inspiring as it should be.

On a far less serious note to all of this, Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne play best friends taking on Salma Hayek’s business owner in the trailer for Like a Boss. In what seems to be a fairly generic and broad comedy, there are still several laughs to be had from the trailer. The cast, of course, is the film’s key selling point, with all three of its stars showing off their comedic talents and screen charm in this taster.

For another slice of genre filmmaking, look no further than this week’s final major trailer in the form of Countdown. With a cool poster and amusing tagline (‘Death? There’s an app for that.’) this horror has a slightly-satirical premise – you can download an app that tells you how long you have until you die – that from this trailer largely seems to be just another way of introducing a kill-or-be-killed supernatural ghouls scenario. The trailer does have some style, humour and a sense of fun to it, however, so hopes can be kept up for a strong horror-with-a-twist.

Andrew Young