REVIEWS: Christoph Waltz rules in the dark workplace comedy ‘The Consultant’; ‘Another fine Australian horror movie with ‘Talk to Me’; ‘Sisu’ is an engrossing, gory wartime adventure; ‘To End All War’, a very good documentary about the real J. Robert Oppenheimer

His dance: Christoph Waltz takes control in ‘The Consultant’.

THE CONSULTANT **** (eight episodes; 263 minutes) MA
whole series review

Those who have somehow remained impervious to the magnetism of Christoph Waltz after his Oscar-winning performances in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained should find reason enough here to agree that he radiates a unique charisma regardless of whether he’s playing good guy or bad.

The tantalizing thing about The Consultant, which Waltz also produced, is that it’s playfully hard to figure out which he is. That’s half the fun of an enormously engaging, decidedly dark workplace comedy drama about corporate politics, office culture and good old fashioned greed.

Set in the sleek, open-plan, neon-kissed offices of failing LA computer game company CompWare, The Consultant gets into gear as enigmatic business consultant Regus Patoff (Waltz) arrives immediately after the violent demise of Sang (Brian Yoon), the company’s CEO whose genius as a game designer did not extend to financial management.

An icy, well-dressed figure who has trouble climbing stairs, Patoff explains to staff how he was hired by Sang to turn the company around. He wastes no time, announcing a round of immediate layoffs and a new approach to work.

Key to his operation is creative liaison Elaine (Brittany O’Grady) who, with coder Craig (Nat Wolff), try to unravel what their strict yet affable new boss is up to and, more to the point, who he actually is.

And we’re sucked right into the mystery from the get go when, in a fabulous Hitchcock-esque camera move, the secret behind their temporary new leader’s name is revealed.

What a ripper of a show The Consultant quickly turns out to be, developing both as an engrossing head-scratcher and a cutting look at business ethics as Patoff pushes his underlings, keen to see what they will sacrifice and who they will compromise to get what they want.

The young cast excel but, make no mistake, this is Waltz’s dance. He is simply captivating from the start, his stern, signature manner of speaking signalling a man who loves control.

The tension as to what is going on gradually builds as the company rockets towards the crucial make-or-break release of its latest game.

Don’t miss it.

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Jorma Tommila in ‘Sisu’.

SISU ***1/2 (91 minutes) MA
With the world still in the thrall of the megalithic box-office dominance of Barbie and Oppenheimer – aka Barbenheimer for meme addicts – it comes as no surprise that few new films have dared leap into the pink-hued multiplex foyer.

And yet we have Sisu, a blood-spurting English-language splatterfest from Finland set in the final days of World War 2.

On the desolate wind-blasted plains of Lapland we meet Aatami Korpi (Jorma Tommila), our crusty, laconic anti-hero as he digs into the earth.

He’s had his fill of killing Russians, has turned his back on the war and gone into business for himself looking for gold with his faithful dog by his side.

He hits big, fills his bags to the brim with gold nuggets and heads off with pooch and pony into what he hopes is a lush retirement.

His lucks turns, however, when he encounters a bedraggled platoon of German soldiers as they retreat across the landscape with a group of female prisoners.

They’re headed by nasty SS officer Bruno Helldorf (Aksel Hennie) who quickly warms to the idea of relieving Korpi of his hard-earned bounty and killing him.

Sounds simple enough, especially for a gang of Nazis who have been busy destroying everything they see as they head back to the Fatherland, but Korpi proves both exceptionally difficult to dispatch and exceptionally efficient at bringing the lives of German soldiers to a very violent end.

It will fill fans of oddball cinema with great joy that writer/director Jalmari Helander is the same gent who gifted us with the magnificent 2010 film Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, which also starred Jorma Tommila. Both films share the same outside-the-box sensibility.

There’s no shortage of vivid, gory details as soldiers meet their end, whether it’s a knife through the temple or the blood gushing from a dismembered leg as it goes spinning across the frame. And every step on a landmine in this movie is a salute to Saving Private Ryan.

Helander also has a clear love of showing the ferocity of firearms as bullets streak across the screen.

Above this realism is the heightened element with our anti-hero who, while human and susceptible to injury and excruciating pain, matches his battlefield legend as being all-but-indestructable.

With its very attractive running time – why have so many films drifted from this once-standard length? – Sisu chalks up as an enjoyable wartime adventure that doesn’t hide its debt to Quentin Tarantino (the chapter titles are straight out of Inglourious Basterds) and offers a feast for war movie buffs with strong stomachs and who adore the sight of WW2 German military hardware.

Possessed: Sophie Wilde in ‘Talk to Me’.

TALK TO ME *** (95 minutes) MA
Young Australian filmmakers have a marvellous flair for counter-clich√© horror and Talk to Me is the latest example, jumping out of the shadows and yelling “boo” in a most effective manner.

Proficiently directed with a love of tension-building camera angles and practical gore effects by Danny and Michael Philippou (Danny co-wrote the screenplay with Bill Hinzman), the film is an inventive, off-the-wall, increasingly unhinged tract about a gaggle of Adelaide teenagers who hold occult rituals with a severed hand.

The deal is that the thing – which looks remarkably like Thing – can possess a given person with the spirit of a deceased soul.

Sounds like tonnes of fun, sure, only the ritual is governed by strict rules, including a short time limit of exposure to the hand’s power. Mess with the hand and the hand messes with you.

But as we’ve learned from slabs of spook movies – from Flatliners to The Lost Boys to The Craft – teenagers love nothing more than messing with the rules and once they get a taste for transgression there’s nothing stopping them.

Well, nothing but evil spirits that possess their souls.

Such spirits are standard issue in horror films, and Talk to Me has its fair share of genre tropes, which would be an issue if they weren’t countered by such strong direction and a clutch of terrific turns, headed by a captivating lead turn by Sophie Wilde as troubled teen Mia.

There are a host of well-judged jolts to keep horror fans happy.as the film’s creepy ambience sucks you into a world of psychic powers run amok.

Deep dive: The real Robert Oppenheimer is profiled in the documentary ‘To End All War’.

TO END ALL WAR: OPPENHEIMER & THE ATOMIC BOMB ***1/2 (88 minutes) M
It’s more than likely that watching Oppenheimer for three hours will spur fans of the film to want to know more about the man who forever changed the history of the world, then regretted it.

To that end NBC News Studios – the news division of NBC, which is owned by NBCUniversal, the studio that made Oppenheimer – put together this very good feature-length documentary.

Far from being a glorified ad, the film offers a detailed deep dive into Oppenheimer’s life, incorporating interviews with associates and experts, though perhaps the most moving remarks come from a well-spoken Japanese civilian who survived the nuclear wrath of Oppenheimer’s creation.

Scientist Bill Nye chimes in as does Oppenheimer writer/director Christopher Nolan and Kai Bird, co-author (with the late Martin J. Sherwin) of American Prometheus, the Pulitzer Prize-winning 2005 book on which the movie is based.

Providing a more detailed account of Oppenheimer’s personal life and post-war ordeal than the film was able to – great thouigh it is – this highly polished, serious profile is embellished with some fine animation work and skillful use of archival footage, much of which highlights how diligently the feature film’s production crew took their jobs.

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