War for the Planet of the Apes
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War for the Planet of the Apes

Matt Reeves’ stunner climbs to new heights, not just technically but emotionally, assuring this as not just one of the year’s most ambitious, but powerful entertainments.

Setting this chapter of the series two years into the war between the humans and the apes, we are reunited with a weary, introspective Caesar. Is he a compassionate leader or is he no different than Koba, a vengeful warrior? Directing what is left of his companions to seek shelter, Caesar sets out to take on the opposition’s Colonel, a human obsessed with his own violent power.

Weaving themes and structures not only from the original Apes series, but more traditional science fiction, classic westerns and war movies, the aims here are impressive. Thanks to a remarkable group of actors and technicians, the results are undeniable. At several points, I marveled at the punch-in-the-gut impact of a scene, made even more remarkable by the fact that I, essentially, forgot there were actors behind digital shields , playing them. There I was, tearing up over the apes.

But this powerhouse is also a treat for the eyes and ears. The visual effects, anthropoid and action, are terrific and I just loved the sound of this film, featuring Michael Giacchino’s gorgeous score. The technical quality all round not only enhances the film, but is the kind of achievement that should be remembered at award season.

Clearly, Woody Harrelson’s Colonel is a salute to Brando’s, in Apocalypse Now (you really didn’t need to spell it out for us, did you guys?), Steve Zahn’s more impressive Bad Ape could be a nod to any comic sidekick who, eventually, breaks your heart. The returning Karin Konoval is a reassuring moral compass, but, once again, it’s Andy Serkis who astounds as Caesar, capping a consistently astonishing film with a performance that is, indeed, a resounding feat.

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