War for the Planet of the Apes is the third instalment in the critically acclaimed blockbuster saga. Two years after the events of ‘Dawn’, the apes are drawn into a conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel (Woody Harrelson) who plans to wipe out Caesar and his tribe of apes. Following a horrific attack on the apes, Caesar and his small posse set out on a journey for revenge.
Part western, part prisoner of war escape movie, this instalment is brutal and bleak, focusing on the apes as they struggle with their own darker instincts and emotions.
The CGI and motion capture in this film is nothing short of brilliant; the characters look so realistic onscreen that you’ll really think you’re watching real live apes. I expect to see some Oscar nod’s for this excellent work. Andy Serkis yet again completely disappears into being Ceasar; delivering a powerful and extremely emotive performance. Karin Konoval perfectly portrays the wise and benevolent orangutan Maurice with subtlety, while she acts somewhat as Caesar’s conscience. New to the fold is ‘Bad Ape’, played by Steve Zahn, a chimpanzee who previously lived in a zoo. He’s used successfully as the comic relief in what is otherwise a very serious film, but he never oversteps the mark or impacts any of the tension or drama.
Michael Giacchino score might be one of his best (Star Wars: Rogue One, Spider-Man Homecoming), adding to the tension when needed, or driving the film’s action with its roaring theme.
Part of the film’s brilliance is the lack of human characters, however, Harrelson turns in a tremendous performance as the Brando-esque psychotic Colonel. Despite the film’s title, don’t expect all-out war, although there is a fair share of action, this is not the focus of the film. It’s a rare thing for a sequel to better it’s original, let alone for the third film to be the best of a trilogy, however, Matt Reeves’ directing and script more than achieves this with intensity and empathy. The Apes are the dominant race on screen with the use of sign language often adding to the tension. The film’s powerful dramatisation manages more character development with its CGI cast than many mainstream films do with physical actors.
War for the Planet of the Apes is quite simply a masterpiece, which lives, and breaths it’s tagline ‘Apes together are strong’.
Reviewed Ian Wright