The stunningly beautiful third installment in a series which is better than it might have been, and continues to get even better.
Rise… sit-up-and-take-notice moment was the stunning scene when Caesar first speaks. Dawn… showed the apes to be far more compelling than the human characters. War… is beautifully crafted: its themes, pacing, and most of all its imagery. Of course, the visual effects are outstanding and flawless – but the feat of making the apes so convincing and emotional is the result of collaboration between equally outstanding talent in all departments. Michael Seresin‘s cinematography is stunning, his lighting subdued, his compositions (of the apes particularly) more evocative of renaissance paintings than the film’s more obvious hat tips to Apocalypse Now. The editing by William Hoy and Stan Salfas allows us the time to read and reflect the nuance of each image and moment while perfectly maintaining its specific tension, be it wonder or dread.
Eyes, faces, hands, limbs
The Simian Virus which grants apes intelligence also, it now turns out, renders humans mute before ultimately killing them. As the war grows, so too, perversely, does the “peace”: the silence of voices lost, and in the stillness of the film itself. This quiet gives us powerfully visual, reflective moments.
The amazing countenance of Nova (Amiah Miller) as she first comes into focus, and into the heart of Maurice:
The silent murder of the albino ape Winter by Caesar and his small troupe, against the backdrop of human soldiers silhouetted outside their tent:
Caesar staring down The Colonel (Woody Harrelson), even with a gun pointed at his face, and the gesture with which one ape saves his life:
And all this is on the back of amazing performances from Andy Serkis and company (I’m particularly happy to see Toby Kebbell back as Koba, even if he is only “back” in haunting form), and incredibly lifelike and convincing special effects. What an achievement.
It’s no accident that War… feels classically epic: director and co-screenwriter Matt Reeves lays out exactly which famous films and cinematic moments were deliberately referenced in this episode of podcast The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith:
“The problem with this revenge mission is that [Caesar] keeps finding things that make it harder for him to lose his empathy for humanity,” explains director Matt Reeves in his VFX Breakdown (via Vanity Fair):