In Review

2021 films: new releases and what’s coming out

Delays of major titles mean the year is set to be chock-full of exciting movies

Viewers were starved of new movies in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic forced cinemas and film sets worldwide to close their doors.

But 2021 promises to bring a glut of great new content, as delayed releases finally hit the screen.

Here we look at the new releases and some of the upcoming must-see titles.

New releases

The White Tiger

Adapted from Aravind Adiga’s 2008 Booker Prize winner, The White Tiger is a darkly humorous rags-to-riches tale set in India in the economic boom of the late Noughties, said Owen Gleiberman in Variety. Its protagonist is Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav), a charming but dirt-poor peasant who talks his way into a job as a Delhi-based driver for a ruthless landlord, The Stork (Mahesh Manjrekar). Balram is grateful and obsequious at first, in awe of The Stork’s suave son (Rajkummar Rao) and his sophisticated, New-York-raised wife (Priyanka Chopra Jonas). But he comes to see his servile mentality as a curse when the family makes him the fall guy for a crash he didn’t cause. Learning to emulate their ruthlessness and cynicism, he turns the tables, lining his pockets and launching himself on a corrupt path to success. Where to watch: Netflix from 22 January

Ham on Rye

Writer-director Tyler Taormina’s debut feature is a surreal, “disquieting” take on the Hollywood coming of age genre, said Glenn Kenny in The New York Times. It’s spring in the suburbs, and teenagers wearing sundresses and jackets and ties are heading to a dance. The boys talk, crudely but naively, about sex; the girls about fashion and popularity. The dance is held at a local deli and has a strange, ritual air. The girls form one line, the boys another, music begins and, communicating with hand gestures, they pair off. The scene builds to a dreamy climax – but then the film turns to those who got passed over at the dance, or were too anxious to go, and things become stranger still. Where to watch: Mubi

Soul

From its first feature – 1995’s Toy Story – onwards, Pixar has never been shy of tackling the big questions. In Soul, the animation studio takes on the greatest of them of all – the meaning of life, said Clarisse Loughrey in The Independent, and it does so with all the “beauty”, “humour” and “heart” for which it has become known. Pixar’s first film with an African American protagonist is about a New York jazz pianist, Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), who is scraping a living as a high school teacher while longing for success as a performer. Then, moments after being booked for a potentially life-changing gig, he falls down a manhole. His soul ends up in The Great Beyond, a fuzzy pastel afterlife; but such is his desperation to realise his dream, he manages to slip back to Earth with another soul named 22 (a “delightfully irritating” Tina Fey), who has never occupied a physical body before. Where to watch: Disney+

Coming soon in 2021

James Bond: No Time to Die

One of the most highly anticipated film releases of 2020 was undoubtedly the 25th instalment of the James Bond franchise, which sees Daniel Craig return for his fifth and final appearance as the British spy 007. Originally scheduled for release in April then November, the new Bond movie, No Time to Die, will now hit UK cinemas in April 2021. True Detective director Cary Fukunaga calls the shots and Oscar winner Rami Malek plays the film’s villain, Safin. Due for release in the UK on 2 April

Last Night in Soho

This psychological horror follows a young wannabe fashion designer who mysteriously travels back in time to 1960s London, where she encounters her singer idol, played by The Queen’s Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy. The late Diana Rigg and former Doctor Who star Matt Smith also feature in what Empire describes as an “unsettling time-hopping fright-fest”. Due for release in the UK on 23 April

Fast & Furious 9

Just when you thought they’d finally wrapped up the Fast & Furious film franchise, the cinematic gift that just keeps on giving is returning for a ninth instalment in 2021, with Vin Diesel reprising his role as street racer Dominic Toretto. So what does director Justin Lin have in store for fans this time round? Another thrilling ride, judging by what has become “one of the most-watched trailers of all time”, Esquire says. Among the revelations in the “mind-blowing scenes” is that Dom (Diesel) has a long lost brother named Jakob (John Cena). But sibling rivalry soon rears its ugly head. Due for release 28 May

Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun fans have “had to wait over 30 years for a sequel”, says Radio Times, but now Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer have returned to “don their aviator glasses once more” to take to the skies as rivals Maverick and Iceman. The Covid-delayed sequel also stars Ed Harris and Jon Hamm, while Jennifer Connelly plays a single mother and bar owner who becomes romantically entangled with Maverick. Due for release 8 July

Respect

Playing one of the most iconic voices of the 20th century is no easy task, but “Jennifer Hudson is known for her ability to give people instant goose-bumps”, Cosmopolitan says. The Oscar winner is a shrewd pick to take on the role of Aretha Franklin in the celebratory biopic, delivering a performance “as astoundingly brilliant as ever”. Indeed, another Academy Award win may “be on the horizon” for Hudson, the magazine predicts. Due for release 13 August 

The Beatles: Get Back

Originally scheduled for release back in September, The Beatles’ biopic is shaping up to be the “ultimate fly-on-the-wall experience” for fans of the band, says Sophie Smith on udsicovermusic. Director Peter Jackson also throws in iconic moments such as the Fab Four’s performance on the roof of Savile Row Studios, for added enjoyment. Due for release 27 August

Dune

This much-anticipated big-budget sci-fi blockbuster is based on Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel of the same name. Timothee Chalamet plays anti-hero Paul Atreides, who is charged with protecting the most treasured substance in the universe. Filmed in the “awe-inspiring” Wadi Rum desert, Dune is the “most ambitious release” of the year, according to NME’s Ella Kemp. Due for release 1 October 

The Last Duel

An epic offering from director Ridley Scott, starring big names including Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Adam Driver and Killing Eve star Jodie Comer. The Last Duel “is set in 14th century France and is described as an epic tale of betrayal and justice”, Digital Spy reports. Based on a novel by US author Eric Jager, the film tells the true story of Jean de Carrouges (Damon), a knight who embarks on a fight to the death with former friend Jacques Le Gris (Driver) after accusing him of raping his wife (Comer). Due for release 15 October

The Matrix 4

Another long-awaited sequel, the fourth edition of The Matrix arrives almost two decades after the last instalment of the sci-fi action classic. Plot details are “under strict lock and key”, says Indiewire’s Zack Sharf. But the script has been described as  “beautiful” and “inspiring” by Keanu Reeves, who is reprising his role as Neo alongside Carrie-Anne Moss’ Trinity despite the pair having apparently died in the last film. Due for release 22 December

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