War for the Planet of the Apes (4 stars)

War for the Planet of the Apes

The third instalment in the simian-fronted reboot will leave you shaken and stirred

The remnants of capitalism and human calamity provide the backdrop for Caesar's journey into the heart of darkness in the third film in the impressive Apes reboot. Director Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Cloverfield) delivers powerful imagery and visual effects company Weta Digital do incredible work that make you forget you're watching motion capture.

Reeves has a bold eye for rousingly depicted landscapes that intentionally recall the westerns of John Ford in a film that sees Caesar embark on an obsessive quest to take revenge on a merciless colonel (Woody Harrelson), who sets his species to gruelling work in a prison camp. The Great Escape too is clearly an inspiration. Though war is waged in exhilarating style, it is the strength of the characters' emotions that will leave you well and truly shaken.

Andy Serkis is superb as Caesar, who is driven to madness in full Apocalypse Now fashion – his psychological state front and centre as he struggles to regain his empathy. The film strikes a solemn tone that is occasionally lifted by the presence of the neurotic and skittish Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) and Maurice (Karin Konoval in an incredibly moving turn), with the orangutan forming a near-wordless relationship with a mute human girl he takes under his wing. Reeves focuses in on and looks deep into each of the characters' eyes as they recoil in shock and fear at the atrocities and trauma they experience, and the actors all deliver stirring performances.

A magnificent score by Michael Giacchino – a combination of pounding drums and alarming dread – roars with an intensity that never really lets up. That sense of unease is used to captivating and nerve-shredding effect; the apes navigate humanity's history of violence, clambering desperately over literal and metaphorical borders in order to gain their freedom.

General release from Tue 11 Jul.

War for the Planet of the Apes

  • 4 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 2h 20min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Matt Reeves
  • Written by: Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves
  • Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Amiah Miller, Karin Konoval, Judy Greer, Terry Notary
  • UK release: 14 July 2017

After the apes suffer massive losses, ape leader Caesar begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. Though war is waged in exhilarating style, it is the strength of the emotions the characters go through that will leave you well and truly shaken.