With the beginning of the summer’s cinematic release window understandably thin on the ground, witnessing film releases via streaming has been a strange glimpse into what the landscape looks like without tentpole pictures from Disney and Warner Bros.
Taking their place is the likes of Netflix’s The Old Guard, adapted by director Gina Prince-Bythewood and the series’ creator Greg Rucka, which now stands as a centrepiece of action blockbuster rather than just another comic book movie.
Similarly benefitting from the extra room is the straightforward Tom Hanks war drama Greyhound, modest in both scope and execution but nonetheless irresistible for history buffs. Of course there’s also more time to focus in on past works by directors who have recently claimed the spotlight, with the likes of MUBI continuing to showcase festival darlings such as Celine Sciamma and Christian Petzold.
Here are the best films new to streaming this week.
Please note that a subscription will be required to watch.
The Old Guard (2020) - Netflix
Adapted from the comic series of the same name by Greg Rucka (here serving as screenwriter) and Leandro Fernandez, Gina Prince-Bythewood’s newest film is a confident leap out of the director’s comfort zone. Best known for smart, tender and thoughtful mainstream romances, they might seem an unlikely pick for a film about immortal mercenaries, but the film’s study of the burden of a long life of violence is more than suitable for her talents. Rucka’s script sees the team of unkillable soldiers evade capture by a billionaire seeking to claim the secret of their immortality, while showing the ropes to Kiki Layne's new immortal Nile, serving as the audience’s route in to this secret history.
Leading Nile through her new powers is Andromache of Scythia (or ‘Andy’), who has seen it all - killed over and over again as a soldier, even burned as a witch. As Andy, Charlize Theron gets to show off her action bonafides from works like Atomic Blonde and Mad Max Fury Road, the camera rarely cutting away from her as she twirls a battle axe through scores of foes.
Read more: The Old Guard will start trilogy of films
Beyond its slick action though, The Old Guard has a tragic and compelling romantic edge to it, with centuries old relationships and losses defining each of the group, all with their own strange and equally compelling history.
Also new on Netflix this week: The Truman Show, The Green Mile
Greyhound (2020) - Apple TV+
From a screenplay written by Tom Hanks (also playing the lead), this war drama turns the true story of a convoy carrying supplies across the North Atlantic during 1942 into a tense, continuous naval standoff. Directed by Aaron Schrieder, the film is something of a throwback war film, a nautical thriller told with almost procedural precision as the men of the USS Greyhound shout naval jargon and enemy subs are tracked with paper calculations (which feels like an appropriately analogue touch for Hanks, known for his affinity for antique typewriters).
The naval battles keep the enemy at a distance, focusing instead on the tension of not being able to see them, and only being able to estimate their position, as blips on sonar radars take on a similar air of fear to the simplistic tracker used in the Alien movies. Hanks anchors the whole affair as a calm and surly authority figure, giving some gravity to the difficult decisions Krause is pushed into over the 48 hours during which the film takes. While it’s not a particularly interrogative film nor a particularly deep character study, its investment in period accurate detail and claustrophobic battle is both impressive and even arresting.
Also on Apple TV+: Hala, Beastie Boys Story
Interstellar (2014) - Now TV
Handily among Christopher Nolan’s strangest and best-looking films (after switching from longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister to Hoyte van Hoytema), Interstellar drew some flack for wearing its sentimentality on its sleeve. But it also deserves credit for being far more bold and wacky than cultural memory might have it, bringing the pain of separation, the thrill of exploration and the terror of oblivion all crashing together with Hans Zimmer playing a church organ.
This is even before mentioning the rectangular army-bro robots and humans who have transcended the bounds of space and time. This is all amidst a plot that wonders if humanity is a doomed project, and what will protect us from the universe’s inevitable plans and finite life cycle of the planet. As has often been mocked, the answer to that is quite simply love. If that sounds too sickly sweet, Interstellar still has a lot of things going for it, from its beautifully shot cosmic vistas to its time and space-bending adventure.
Also new on Now TV: It: Chapter Two, Downton Abbey: The Movie
Transit (2018) - MUBI
Celebrated German filmmaker Christian Petzold (Barbara and the magnificent Phoenix) spins a haunting, Casablanca-esque tale of love and companionship during oppression in this adaptation of a WWII romance novel. Transit is anchored by superb and heartbreaking performances from its lead duo of Franz Rogowski and Paula Beer, mesmeric in their tragic-romance as the walls begin to close in around their characters.
The film’s most unique and disconcerting touch is its relocation of the Nazi occupation of France to a more modern (but ambiguous) time period, giving the film an eerie and timeless sense of urgency, especially in a modern climate of very public police violence and state-endorsed white supremacy. A hypnotic and eerie slow burn, but one that will not soon be forgotten.
Also new on MUBI this week: Tie Me Up Tie Me Down, The Truth
Hausu (1977) - BFI Player
Among the most insane things ever filmed, there’s no predicting what will spring forth from any corner of Nobuhiko Obayashi’s surreal horror comedy Hausu. Inspired in part by the experiments of the French New Wave Obayashi’s film is existentially disturbing, extremely funny, as well as boundlessly creative.
The Japanese director shows a playfulness with film not just as a medium but as an actual texture, altering it at will via composite images, old-fashioned colour tinting and crude animation techniques, drawing on the film itself. There’s quite simply nothing like it outside of the director’s own filmography, and there is no better introduction to that exciting and varied body of work than Hausu.
Also new on BFI Player this week: Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles, Chevalier