Weekend film reviews: ‘One Life,’ ‘Arthur the King,’ ‘Little Wing’

Written by Amy Ta, produced by Jack Ross

“One Life” is about a stockbroker who saved hundreds of Jewish kids during the Holocaust. Credit: YouTube.

The latest film releases include Arthur the King, One Life, The Animal Kingdom, and Little Wing. Weighing in are William Bibbiani, film critic and co-host of the podcasts Canceled Too Soon and Critically Acclaimed, and Katie Walsh, film reviewer for the Tribune News Service and the Los Angeles Times. 

One Life

This drama is based on the true story of Nicholas "Nicky" Winton, a stockbroker who saved hundreds of Jewish kids from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia during WWII.  

Bibbiani: “This is the kind of movie that you would want to show if you wanted people to know about this part of history. It is not, unfortunately, in itself a particularly dazzling or suspenseful, captivating movie. … It's a nice film if you want to get this history lesson. And if you know the story of Nicholas Winton, and you might, you know that it has a great ending. The actual conclusion of the movie, the climax is very memorable. But everything leading up to it is basically ‘here's what happened.’”

Walsh: “In the first half, it feels very standard issue, like we've seen this story before, the iconography is very familiar. … There's not a lot of explaining why the younger Nicholas Winton was so compelled to go, there's not really any psychological motivation beyond the fact that he just felt like this was something that he had to do out of the values of decency and kindness that he was raised with. 

But I think what's really compelling about this story is the second half, which is the Sir Anthony Hopkins half, where he's found this scrapbook of his time working in Czechoslovakia with photographs of the children. And he's like, ‘Well, I don't know if this was a good thing I did or not, I guess it matters or it doesn't.’ And I think the more interesting part of the story is how people came to recognize him and the importance of the work that he did, and that saving 600 children would actually turn into saving a generation of people.”

Arthur the King

Based on a true story, Mark Wahlberg plays an athlete who adopts a stray dog named Arthur to join him in a 400-mile race in the Dominican Republic. 

Walsh: “This is an odd human interest, sports, quirky story that has become this media sensation. And it also was a film about a very niche sport I had never heard of, which was adventure racing, where you hike and mountain bike and trek and run and kayak over the course of five days. And the dog follows them and becomes their mascot and their motivator, and even has a couple Lassie moments where he's barking at the team like, ‘Don't fall in that ravine’ situation. 

And this, I just want to say, is very much a Mark Wahlberg movie. He's a deeply devout Catholic who wakes up at three in the morning to work out. … He's also really into this idea of salvation through suffering, which is a very Catholic idea. And in the trailer … he says, ‘Embrace the pain’ … and he keeps talking about suffering and pain and how through physical degradation is how you achieve transcendence.” 

The Animal Kingdom

This French fantasy/sci-fi flick follows a father and son trying to survive in a world where humans have begun mutating into other species.

Bibbiani: “People have started randomly mutating into half-human, half-animal creatures that could be any animal we see — wolves, chameleons, hawks, snakes. The visual effects are really quite lovely and astounding. … While there are some definitely very thrilling and unusual sequences of action and peril, this is a much more thoughtful take on this kind of fantasy genre. And I really got swept up in it.” 

Walsh: “I looked at it as a metaphor for anybody that we consider ‘other’ and try to persecute and force them to either live in a contained world — there's this threat of a big concrete-like facility where they're gonna put all the ‘critters’ as they keep calling them — and what it means to try to control people's bodies who are uncontrollable. They can't control whether or not they turn into the creature. So is it better to violently force them to be hidden from view, or to just let them live in this verdant, peaceful world that they established with themselves? … I was looking at it very much as a queer metaphor, a trans metaphor. … But I think it's open enough that anybody can use this film to represent what they want to represent.”

Little Wing

Starring Brian Cox and Brooklynn Prince, this centers on a 13-year-old girl who’s dragged into pigeon racing. It’s based on a New Yorker article by Susan Orlean. 

Walsh: “I liked this film a lot. … Going in I'm like, ‘Oh, it's gonna be like … a heartwarming tale about a girl and this older figure.’ It's actually a bit edgier than I expected. … What could have been quite cheesy is actually pretty interesting thanks to the actors who are terrific, and then also the director who really brings an interesting, darker edge to the film.”

Bibbiani: “I love this movie. I feel like this movie got snuck out there, it didn't get a big push. …  It's got spunk. It's got humor. It’s got love. It isn't afraid to tackle some actually dark subject material for kids. I laughed. I was moved. I really do think this is one of the better coming-of-age stories I've seen in years, and I really hope it doesn't get lost in the shuffle.”