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Film reviews: Parasite

Wee-fi: Park So-dam and Choi Woo-shik as members of the opportunistic Kim family

THE BIG RELEASE

Parasite

(15) ★★★★★

AWARDS season has been awash with outrage over its lack of diversity. But there is one movie that’s bucked the #sowhite trend, methodically chomping up the Palme d’Or, as well as the best foreign language film awards at both the Golden Globes and the Baftas, like a very hungry caterpillar.

That film is Parasite, a Korean satire one might have filed under ‘cult’, yet which has clearly struck a universal chord, notching up nearly 200 nominations worldwide.

Meet the Kim family — the total opposite of the Kardashians. They are bottom feeders. Holed up in a slovenly Seoul basement, they leech free wi-fi off their neighbours by crouching on the loo waving their phones at the ceiling and scrape a living by folding pizza boxes (badly).

However, life throws them a bone when college-failure son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) lands a gig posing as a university-educated English tutor for the Parks, a wealthy family who live in a luxurious, ultra-modern mansion atop a hill.

Ki-woo has no trouble hoodwinking Mrs Park (Cho Yeo-jeong), a naive trophy wife, and soon goes about securing other service jobs for the rest of his family (Song Kang-ho, Jang Hye-jin, Park So-dam). You sense there’s another twist to come but we’ll zip our lips shut.

You expect the unexpected from genius Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Okja) — he’s a conjurer of genres, forever pulling rabbits (or giant mutant pigs) from hats. But Parasite is his masterpiece. It’s a daring blend of knockabout family comedy, home-invasion thriller, biting social commentary, blood-splattered horror and more — all turned with pitch perfection.

Though we largely root for the Kims, Bong doesn’t allow anything as simple as rich versus poor, good versus bad. No wonder this movie speaks to global audiences — it’s a parable about our capitalist world.

It’s terrific fun and provocative, challenging us with the question: who are the real parasites?

The verdict

Next stop the Oscars for this genius, award-laden satire

Dolittle

(PG) ★★✩✩✩

In 1967, the first Hollywood adaptation of Hugh Lofting’s children’s books, starring Rex Harrison as Doctor Dolittle, the man who can talk to animals, bloated to three times its budget, got stinking reviews and bombed at the box office. Here we go again.

Mourning for his wife, Doctor Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr with an inexplicable, bash-you-over-the-head-with-a-leek heavy Welsh accent) is roused from his retreat to treat a sick Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley). The only cure is a mythical fruit on a mythical island, triggering a substandard Pirates Of The Caribbean with Downey Jr doing a poor Johnny Depp impression alongside Antonio Banderas as his dastardly father-in-law.

A wasted A-list menagerie voiced by Tom Holland, Rami Malek, Octavia Spencer et al might as well fart their dialogue, it’s such guff.

Thankfully, the CGI work is outstanding. This is enough to mean Dolittle is not a total steaming pile of doo-doo but it’s still whiffy.

Mr Jones

(15) ★★★✩✩

This multilingual thriller (English/Welsh/Ukrainian/Russian), set on the eve of World War II, it celebrates the work of Gareth Jones (McMafia’s James Norton), a real-life ambitious Welsh reporter who, fresh from interviewing Adolf Hitler, hotfoots it to the Soviet Union. His aim is to seek out the truth behind communist leader Joseph Stalin’s ‘five-year miracle’.

Matters take a dark, Revenant-style turn into the Heart Of Darkness as Jones quits Moscow’s debauched expat party scene (led by a naked, opium-fuelled Peter Sarsgaard) for the famine-stricken Ukraine, where he encounters realities way more chilling than snow.

The reliably outstanding Vanessa Kirby embodies the West’s starry-eyed refusal to confront the horrors of the 1932-33 Holodomor famine. And if Agnieszka Holland’s direction is distancing, there’s no denying the power of a cautionary scoop that inspired George Orwell’s 1945 novella Animal Farm.