Five great films to watch on Netflix over the Easter break

From an epic Hollywood documentary to an hysterical Jane Austen adaptation...

Five great films to watch on Netflix over the Easter break

'Tower'. Image: Kino Lorber

You know the feeling: you click into Netflix, and spend a half hour just trying to find something to watch.

For all the benefits of the ubiquitous streaming service, a lot of great stuff often gets lost in the sheer volume of TV shows & films released on there. If you're looking for something a bit different to watch over the long weekend, we've got you covered with these five picks.

Tower

In August 1966, a man with a sniper rifle took to the observation deck at the University of Texas clock tower. For the next hour and a half, the gunman opened fire indiscriminately at people below. By the time police finally reached the top of the tower, more than a dozen people were dead and around 30 others injured.

Keith Maitland's documentary about the shooting is an extraordinary account of that fateful Monday. The most striking feature is its use of rotoscoped animation - a method of effectively painting over live action footage to create a distinct 'cartoon' look.

Mixed with archive footage and contemporary interviews, the animation technique allows Maitland to evocatively jump back and forth in time to vividly capture the experiences of many of the people caught up in the violence.

Victoria

The concept of a 'one-take', real-time film is not a new one, the technical feat having been achieved on several occasions in the past (most famously in the 2002 film Russian Ark). Victoria, however, is a particularly arresting realisation of the idea.

The film's story is relatively straightforward. Victoria (Laia Costa) is a Spanish woman living in Berlin. Late one night, she bumps into four lively but friendly young men outside a nightclub. Despite getting on well with the group, Victoria soon has to leave to open up the cafe where she works.

Things don't go to plan for either Victoria or her new friends, however, and they soon find themselves reluctantly forced to carry out an early morning bank robbery.

On one hand, Victoria is a tense, exciting thriller. But the decision to shoot in real time elevates it to something much more interesting than just your usual genre film. Far from just being a gimmick, the ambitious delivery creates a unique sense of drama and credibility as a night out slowly but surely goes very wrong indeed.

The continuous take does necessitate a few storytelling shortcuts to get everyone where they need to be, but mostly this is an impressively accessible thriller that absolutely justifies its elaborate set-up.

Love & Friendship

For a low-budget feature, Love & Friendship was a modest success in cinemas. But now that this wonderfully witty Jane Austen drama is available to stream, a whole new audience will hopefully be able to discover it.

Whit Stillman's film - shot in Ireland, which looks great here - is an adaptation of Austen's 18th century novel Lady Susan. Kate Beckinsale takes the lead role, playing a self-assured widow determined to find a wealthy husband for both herself and her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark).

The plot quickly develops into a convoluted series of schemes, double-crosses and deceptions - but really you're here for the deliciously cheeky and amusing script.

Stillman is well-established with independent film fans for his ironic and playful portrayals of young elites. But with Austen's novel he may have found the perfect foil for his razor-sharp wordplay and dialogue. He's backed up by a wonderful cast, with Beckinsale again proving her acting talents are often wasted in blockbusters like the Underworld series.

The show is stolen, however, by Tom Bennett in the supporting role of Sir James Martin - his handful of scenes are among the most hilarious in recent cinema.

Five Came Back

Five Came Back is being sold by Netflix as a three-part mini-series - but if you can carve three hours of your long weekend for a straight run through of this epic documentary that'd be well recommended.

This tells the story of five famed Hollywood directors - Frank Capra, John Ford, William Wyler, George Stevens and John Huston - who spent World War 2 working on documentary and propaganda films about the conflict.

The film is narrated by Meryl Streep, and five well-known contemporary directors - Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Francis Ford Coppola, Paul Greengrass, and Lawrence Kasdan - offer commentary on the experiences and legacies of the five late directors.

Five Came Back is a relatively straightforward documentary, but it is an absolutely engrossing history lesson. It is a celebration of five great filmmakers, but one that also doesn't shy away from the often dangerously jingoistic nature of the wartime films they produced.

Netflix has played a blinder with the release of the series, however, by also releasing a series of more than a dozen of the films mentioned or featured in the documentary. While some of these have aged very badly (the likes of Know Your Enemy: Japan are particularly questionable), they serve as fascinating documents of a unique period in Hollywood history.

Faults

Last year, 10 Cloverfield Lane starred Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a woman locked in an underground bunker against her will, apparently as some sort of disaster unfolded above ground. It was a surprisingly solid piece of entertainment, but it is only the second best film in which the actress played a character being hold hostage.

Faults - directed by Winstead's husband Riley Stearns - is a blackly-comic tale about struggling writer and cult expert Ansel (played by Leland Orser) who is hired to 'deprogramme' Claire (Winstead), a young woman who has been brainwashed. 

Taking place almost entirely in a pair of motel rooms, a psychological battle breaks out between Claire and Ansel as they each try to 'break' the other.

This is an assured and intelligent debut film from Stearns, who makes the most out of the restrictive setting. A series of neat twists and surprises send the film spiralling in plenty of curious directions. This is a taut thriller with a welcome streak of dark comedy, and at only 90 minutes is definitely worth a gander.