REVIEW: ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’

Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.

Moments of Pure Cinema

Tense and thoughtful, powerful and funny, ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ concludes the saga of ‘Caeser’- the titular Ape at the centre of this surprisingly impressive trilogy- in an explosive and satisfying fashion.

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As he did with ‘Dawn’ before it, director Matt Reeves has held true to the ‘show don’t tell’ philosophy he’s trusted since bursting onto the scene with ‘Cloverfield’ ten years ago to make ‘War’ more than the just the sum of its parts. Indeed, most key sequences in the film feature refreshingly little dialogue, and the story is given ample room to develop and breathe as a result.

The ‘show don’t tell’ philosophy at the heart of the film gives the story ample room to develop and breathe

The brutal night-raid sequence led by Woody Harrelson’s ‘Colonel’ is perhaps the strongest example of this: he and Caeser- protagonist and antagonist- say nothing as they come face to face for the first time, but their eyes speak a thousand words. As they stare into each other’s souls, the moonlight dances off a tumbling waterfall behind them, and Michael Giacchino’s effective score stirs things up even more… Moments like these really are ‘pure’ cinema, and ‘War’ features more than a few.

Heroes and Villains

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Harrelson is great as the villainous Colonel, meticulously close-shaving his head as he addresses his troops differentiates him from the Apes as much as humanly possible. He also enjoys a prime slab of ‘bad-guy’ monologue in which he manages to simultaneously become both a hated, and an empathetic character. Other players, old and new, do have their moments but, as with ‘Dawn’ and ‘Rise’ before it, the true star of this piece is the wonderful Andy Serkis as Caeser, surely this time genuinely pushing towards awards recognition.

Every look, every grunt, every breath Caeser takes is spiked with a venomous thirst for blood

Part Revenge-Fuelled Road-Trip, Part Prison Drama

The first half of ‘War’ is essentially a revenge-fuelled road-trip, and every look, every grunt, every breath Serkis has Caeser take is spiked with a venomous thirst for blood. The latter half of the film becomes a prison drama, and by juggling Caeser’s reluctance to take back the mantle of leader alongside the religious subtext, the tense subplots, and the much-needed ‘Bad-Ape’ inspired comic-relief, the film arguably loses some of its focus on Caeser’s arc.

This ultimately remains his story though, and sentimental flash-backs to Franco’s (‘Rise’) and Clarke’s (‘Dawn’) character’s are avoided in favour of focusing on Caeser’s internal battle with his growing hatred of humanity, signalling the return of ‘Dawn’ villain ‘Kubo’ who continues to haunt Caeser from beyond the grave.

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An Explosive and Satisfying Conclusion

Whilst the ending of ‘War’ is in many ways very final, it remains open-ended in terms of the wider ‘Apes’ universe and, through its spectacular visuals and superb acting, the film- and trilogy as a whole- is sure to leave audiences with a thirst for more of the same. With all three films being critical and commercial successes, this is a thirst that the producers are more than likely to quench, and with new characters to explore and a clearer vision away from some of the modern blockbuster trappings that prevented ‘War’ from reaching its full potential, the future for this franchise could be very exciting indeed.

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‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ is released in the UK on 4k Ultra HD Blu-Ray, Blu-Ray 3D, Blu-Ray, and DVD on 27th November 2017 in the UK. A 3-Disc 4k Ultra HD Blu-Ray Steelbook is available from HMV for £24.99.

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