Film: Relax - You're in the Hands of a Trained Terrorist ; the Terrorist (12) Santosh Sivan, 95 Mins the Dish (12) Rob Sitch, 101 Mins Goodbye Charlie Bright (18) Nick Love, 87 Mins the Broken Hearts Club (15) Greg Berlanti, 93 Mins Alfie (PG) Lewis Gilbert, 114 Mins
Barber, Nicholas, The Independent (London, England)
This is a vintage week for characters. It's a duff week for plots, a negligible one for action and a washout if you're a special effects fan but if you're content to people-watch for an hour and a half, then any of the films below should come as a relief to you. They certainly came as a relief to me.
The Terrorist is an unconventional sort of character study in that its heroine, Malli (Ayesha Dharker), is a 19-year-old Tamil guerilla on a suicide mission. Having trekked from the jungle to a town where a leading politician is due to visit, she has four days of waiting and preparation before she's due to blow up both the politician and herself. She also has four days to wonder whether there might be more to life than a supposedly glorious death.
It's a simple fable, with just a few characters, and an emphasis on arresting imagery over words (possibly because the director, Santosh Sivan, is a veteran Bollywood cinematographer). Malli doesn't articulate her dilemma until the very end of the film. For most of it she is thinking, remembering, listening and observing, so it's fortunate that Dharker's expressive beauty can convey the emotional intensity of a dozen Hollywood tear-jerkers.
If The Terrorist still seems like heavy-going for a Saturday night at the movies, tuck into The Dish, a benevolent comedy inspired by the fact that the first TV footage of Neil Armstrong's moonwalk was transmitted live around the globe via a radio telescope in a New South Wales sheep paddock. A Nasa official, a US ambassador and the Australian prime minister visited the small town of Parkes for the occasion - or they do in the movie, anyway. The Dish isn't overly concerned with historical accuracy.
Instead, the writer-producers behind 1997's The Castle exploit every possible opportunity for culture-clash humour: a local band mixes up the US national anthem with the Hawaii Five-0 theme in front of the ambassador; a security guard barks "Who goes there?" at passing sheep; a team of astrophysicists, led by Sam Neill, play cricket on the receiver's vast surface during their tea breaks; and so it goes on. You could gripe that it's easy to poke affectionate fun at the eccentricities of parochial Aussies, but when it's this affectionate - and this much fun - all griping is forgotten. There can't have been many films that have squeezed in so many excellent jokes without basing any of them on humiliation, injury or bodily fluids.
This week's other two new releases have even less plot, and they're both about gangs of young men doing very little. …