Battle royale: Rashid Irani reviews War for the Planet of the Apes

The motion-capture tech is stunning; the tale, heart-rending. This is, quite simply, one of the finest mainstream Hollywood films in recent times.

movie reviews Updated: Jul 13, 2017 13:15 IST
Rashid Irani
Rashid Irani
Hindustan Times
Andy Serkis is astonishingly expressive as the champion chimp Caesar, fighting to save his primates from being wiped out.
  • Direction: Matt Reeves
  • Actors: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson
  • Rating: 5 / 5

It’s smart, sombre and defiantly old-fashioned. The ninth iteration in this five-decade-old franchise is by far the most compelling, swinging even higher than the cult classic 1968 original.

The conflict between simians and sapiens is still unresolved, despite an earlier Battle for the Planet of the Apes. They are now heading for full-fledged war.

Director Matt Reeves, whose credits include a couple of notable horror flicks (Cloverfield, Let Me In), has successfully transitioned into the epic league with this heart-rending sci-fi parable.

The incisive script, co-authored by the director and Mark Bomback, tackles the always relevant themes of peaceful cohabitation, intolerance and undue violence.

Set in a post-apocalyptic wilderness, the animal-human confrontations are staged with considerable flair.

Set in a post-apocalyptic wintry wilderness, the narrative follows the champion chimp Caesar (Andy Serkis, in an astonishingly expressive motion-capture performance) as he strives to save the primate population from the machinations of a warmongering colonel determined to exterminate ape-kind once and for all (Woody Harrelson, impressive).

The animal-human confrontations are staged with considerable flair. Aided by the fluid cinematography of Michael Seresin, a wonderful music score by Michael Giacchino and sound design that makes judicious use of silence, the heart-thumping spectacle holds you in a vice-like grip throughout its 2-hour-20-minute runtime.

While the apes by and large have the upper paw in the proceedings, there is bracing contemporary resonance in the psychotic colonel’s plan to build a wall to keep out ‘intruders’.

Woody Harrelson is impressive as the psychotic colonel determined to wipe out the simians once and for all.

Filmic and Biblical references abound from John Ford’s Native American exodus saga, Cheyene Autumn, to the Moses-like saviour figure of the conflicted Caesar.

In supporting roles, Steve Zahn as the deceptively named Bad Ape and Amiah Miller as the mute young girl who joins the gorilla rebellion, bring humour and poignancy to an otherwise bleak storyline.

Essentially a cautionary tale of man’s inhumanity to fellow living beings, War for the Planet of the Apes is, quite simply, one of the finest mainstream Hollywood films in recent times.

First Published: Jul 13, 2017 13:15 IST