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The biggest streaming release of this week is Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time, Hideaki Anno’s (third!) conclusion to his world-famous Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise. The film is the last in a quadrilogy of films that sort-of remade, mostly reinterpreted his original series 1990s series, taking it in a bold new direction. This latest entry faced continual delays even before the pandemic hit, so to say that it’s long-awaited is something of an understatement.
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Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time – Amazon Prime Video
Hideaki Anno’s series Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the most popular anime in the west. Known for its large scale action, big robots, Judeo-Christian myth and inter-dimensional horrors, it’s something that stays in the mind of its viewer.
This week, as well as the final entry of the quadrilogy, Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time, Prime Video is also releasing the first three films: Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone, Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, and Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo, for your viewing pleasure. (It’s important to note that these films engage heavily with the events of the original series and its finale film The End of Evangelion as much as they do each other: those can be watched on Netflix.)
The newest film Thrice Upon a Time looks back on the story of Evangelion but also Anno’s own career — with a conclusion that encompasses both endings of Evangelion, even that of his prior series Gunbuster, filtered through a playful mashing together of the animated and live-action mediums. Set in the immediate aftermath of 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo, main characters Shinji, Asuka, and Rei are stranded without their Evangelions, and search for refuge in the desolate red remains of Tokyo-3.
While it gets as crazy as fans of the series would expect, the most stunning images of Thrice Upon a Time are its most simple; an overhead drone shot of the real world, a brief conversation between mother and adopted son. An early stretch of the film is surprising in its patient exploration of its main characters’ feelings, while showing a small pastoral haven representative of a life that they can still fight for, all not quite being lost even after the disasters of the previous film. But the meaning feels different this time, more optimistic, as Shinji finally finds a semblance of emotional maturity through his numerous setbacks.
For all its sci-fi complications and Biblical implications, the transgressions of man upon heaven and hell, the boundaries that matter in Evangelion are those between people — its big robot fights are all in service of that message. The plan of the film’s villain, Shinji’s father Gendo Ikari, ultimately lies in the same impulse that Shinji has, to flee from relationships, people, anything which could ultimately hurt him. But to close yourself off in such a way eventually becomes selfish misanthropy, and limits your potential to be happy. The End of Evangelion suggested that by being open, you always have that chance, Shinji just needed to learn to hope for that. It’s a tougher journey than it sounds – but Thrice Upon a Time brings both giddy thrills and a surprising patience in showing it, and an imagination like no other.
Also new on Prime Video: Shershaah, Boss Level
The Kid Detective – NOW with Sky Cinema Membership
Evan Morgan’s The Kid Detective is a surprisingly ruthless neo-noir dark comedy, that pastiches elements of detective fiction as well as using them to frequently chilling effect. A once-celebrated kid detective (Adam Brody), now 31, continues to solve mysteries between hangovers and bouts of self-pity. One day, a client brings him his first ‘adult’ case, to find out who brutally murdered her boyfriend, and the case becomes a chance for the kid detective to reclaim his pride and solve a cold case from his past.
The film’s sardonic upending of gumshoe tropes and kid detective novels capitalises on Adam Brody’s reputation as a once-beloved teen heartthrob. It’s an incredible showcase for Brody, whose scathing delivery is eminently watchable but the sadness it buries remains genuinely heartbreaking, in either mode he’s completely magnetic.
Watch a trailer for The Kid Detective
There’s shades of the peculiar humour of Rian Johnson’s debut feature Brick in there — right down to a high school principal standing in for a police chief type — with a touch more self-destruction, though even the protagonist Abe’s lowest moments are sort of darkly comic.
That is, until the film isn’t funny at all and everything in its mystery clicks together in an unpredictable satisfying and even completely mortifying manner, the film’s final notes are devastatingly bleak without feeling egregiously so.
Also new on NOW: Synchonic, You Me Madness
Beckett – Netflix
While vacationing in Greece, Beckett (John David Washington) becomes the target of a manhunt after a devastating car accident, and is forced to flee for his life across the country in order to clear his name. Tensions escalate as the authorities close in and political unrest mounts, as Beckett is drawn into a web of conspiracy. If that setup sounds familiar, director Ferdinando Cito Filomarino knows it – the protege of Call Me By Your Name’s Luca Guadagnino consciously evokes its roots in the likes of Pakula’s “Paranoia Trilogy” and other 70s thrillers that played off the classic setup of an ordinary man becoming a wanted fugitive.
Tenet star Washington fits right in, with a physical and exhaustive performance that relies more on an uncomfortable, fish-out-of-water energy rather than movie star charisma (which is good, because this is better for him). The mystery and thrills can occasionally feel thin, but Beckett is solid, watchable, and even very prescient work.
Also new on Netflix: Don’t Let Go, The Kissing Booth 3
Watch a trailer for Beckett