VIDEO: This week’s new films reviewed

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A snail feels the need for speed in the computer-animated family comedy Turbo.

TURBO (U)

Ryan Reynolds stars as Turbo

Ryan Reynolds stars as Turbo

A garden snail feels the need, the need for slime-burning speed in David Soren’s heart-warming computer-animated adventure.

Following a tried and tested formula that propels the film into the winner’s circle (albeit without any surprising detours), Turbo is a classic David and Goliath story enlivened with larger-than-life characters and high-octane action sequences.

The script written by Soren, Robert Siegel and Darren Lemke is simplistic, particularly the relationship between Turbo (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) and his snail sibling Chet (Paul Giamatti), who insists on casting dark clouds of doubt over the diminutive hero’s dreams.

It doesn’t take a genius to conclude the brothers will be reconciled beneath a fluttering chequered flag to enforce the message that anything is possible if you work hard and stay true to yourself.

When we first meet Turbo, he is toiling in the tomato patch with his ultra-cautious worrywart brother.

Unlike his fellow molluscs, Turbo has big dreams: he yearns to put a pedal to the metal like his hero – French-Canadian Indianapolis 500 champion, Guy Gagne (Bill Hader).

So Turbo trains hard, managing to slither the distance of a standard ruler in... 17 minutes.

“This is a new record!” he whoops.

Outrageous misfortune sucks Turbo into the engine of a street-racing car and the snail is coated in nitrous oxide, which fuses with his DNA and allows him to perform bursts of death-defying speed.

Turbo becomes the star attraction at mollusc races organized by taco truck driver Tito (Michael Pena) at a rundown strip mall on the outskirts of town.

“This snail crashed into our lives for a reason. I think he might be our little shooting star!” Tito excitedly tells his brother Angelo (Luis Guzman).

So the truck driver exploits a loophole in the rules of the Indianapolis 500 and enters Turbo alongside Gagne.

Supported by the other racing snails – including Whiplash (Samuel L Jackson) and Smoove Move (Snoop Dogg) – Turbo risks everything to defy Mother Nature and out-manoeuvre his arrogant idol.

Soren’s film is harmless and wholesome family entertainment, punctuated by racing sequences that shift our pulses up a gear.

The title character is instantly likeable and we root for Turbo as more obstacles are flung in his path.

Snails have rarely looked so gosh-darn strokeable.

Reynolds radiates warmth in the lead opposite a suitably downbeat Giamatti, with supporting cast dividing up the one-liners as the comic relief including Ken Jeong as a sassy manicurist.

Visuals are slick, even at high-speed, but lack some of the intricacy and minute detail that have set Pixar films apart from the pack.

Turbo puts up a spirited chase but doesn’t quite have enough original ideas in the tank.

RATING: 7/10

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (12A)

Tom Hanks charts a steady course towards a deserved sixth Oscar nomination for his tour-de-force portrayal of an unlikely hero in Paul Greengrass’s nerve-racking thriller.

Based on the book A Captain’s Duty by Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty, this expertly crafted picture dramatises the true story of an American seaman, whose cargo ship was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009.

Working from a lean script by Billy Ray, Greengrass demonstrates once again why he is one of the finest directors of nail-biting action.

If you thought the Surrey-born filmmaker had peaked with the adrenaline-pumping thrills of The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, think again.

From the moment the Somalia pirates first appear on the radar, Captain Phillips leaves us feeling seasick with tension until the extraordinary final scene that releases all of that pent-up emotion in a torrent of tears.

Our tears.

Captain Phillips (Hanks) kisses his wife Andrea (Catherine Keener) goodbye and takes charge of his cargo vessel, the Maersk Alabama, bound for Mombasa, Kenya.

When pirates are spotted off the stern, Phillips telephones the authorities.

“Chances are they’re just fisherman,” responds a female operator.

“They’re not here to fish,” retorts the captain with mounting concern.

A tense game of cat and mouse culminates in the pirates boarding the vessel by hooking their makeshift ladder over the side of the boat.

Phillips conceals the crew below deck in the engine room while he takes charge of the situation.

“Nobody get hurt, No al-Qaeda here,” promises chief hijacker Muse (Barkhad Abdi) with a sickening smile.

Faced with threats from Muse and his hot-headed compatriot Bilal (Barkhad Abdirahman), Phillips puts himself in harm’s way to ensure the safety of every man on board.

When the stand-off spirals out of control, the destroyer USS Bainbridge, captained by Frank Castellano (Yul Vazquez), races to the scene.

Phillips realises the gravity of his predicament and the potentially tragic outcome, telling his captors, “They would rather sink this boat than let you get me back to Somalia.”

Captain Phillips is one of the year’s best films, blessed with a terrific ensemble cast who rise magnificently to the physical challenges.

Hanks is flawless – we can see his mind whirring as he engineers distractions to keep the crew safe – and final gut-wrenching scenes wring him, and us, emotionally dry.

Abdi delivers a striking supporting performance, adding depth and complexity to a role that could easily have been a caricature.

Greengrass’s propulsive direction, coupled with Christopher Rouse’s hyperkinetic editing and Henry Jackman’s heart-pounding orchestral score, leave us scant time to gasp for breath.

RATING: 9/10

ESCAPE PLAN (15)

Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger are evidently growing accustomed to each other’s company on the big screen.

Having spent much of their careers as box office rivals, the muscle-bound American and Austrian action heroes finally traded verbal blows in Stallone’s action-packed 2010 adventure, The Expendables.

The stars reunited for the two Expendables sequels and now the sixty-something icons team up for Mikael Hafstrom’s preposterous, yet thrilling, prison break.

Escape Plan is an undeniable guilty pleasure, energized by breathless direction and a script co-written by Miles Chapman and Arnell Jesko that keeps us on our toes.

The film is brazenly divorced from reality and the two leads demonstrate an amazing ability to emerge unscathed from a hail of bullets or outpace teams of prison guards half their age.

Stallone and Schwarzenegger’s grizzled charm carries the film through its loopier moments though, including an opportunity for the two men to exchange bone-crunching punches.

“You hit like a vegetarian,” smirks Schwarzenegger after Stallone lands a feeble first blow.

Escape Plan opens at Bendwater Federal Prison, where structural engineer and security expert Ray Breslin (Stallone) has been incarcerated to test the facility from the inside.

He identifies weaknesses and orchestrates a jailbreak from solitary confinement with the assistance of his team on the outside: right-hand woman Abigail (Amy Ryan) and technical genius Hush (50 Cent).

No sooner has Ray returned to the land of the free than his partner, Lester Clark (Vincent D’Onofrio), organises a meeting with CIA agent Jessica Miller (Caitriona Balfe).

She offers $5m if Ray will abandon his usual protocols and go deep undercover in a top secret prison designed to hold the men that society wants locked up for life.

Despite the misgivings of Abigail and Hush, Ray agrees and he adopts the guise of a Spanish terrorist called Portos.

He quickly realises that his mission is bogus and he is imprisoned for real under the watchful glare of sadistic warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel) and his murderous henchman, Drake (Vinnie Jones).

“You belong to me now!” snarls Hobbes.

With no obvious means of escape from a state-of-the-art facility full of Perspex cells, Ray befriends fellow inmate Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) and on-site medic Dr Kyrie (Sam Neill), and a daring plan takes shape.

Book-ended by two hare-brained breakouts, which rely as much on meticulous planning as good fortune, Escape Plan makes light work of the 115-minute running time.

Stallone and Schwarzenegger are an appealing double-act, growling expository dialogue that handily details every twist and turn.

Slick editing keeps the pacing brisk and the scriptwriters engineer a neat sting in the tail that, while not entirely unexpected, proves the film has some brains as well as plenty of brawn.

RATING: 6/10