From Monkey Man to The Fall Guy: the lowdown on this year’s SXSW Film Festival hits

SXSW Film Festival 2024 has rolled to a close and presented thrilling previews of several highly anticipated movies. Held annually in Austin, Texas, SXSW is one of the biggest genre film festivals in the movie calendar, showcasing cutting-edge action and horror releases from all over the world.

Here's what caught the attention after playing at the 2024 edition of the festival. Remember that if you're planning to watch the following movies between Monday and Wednesday at Cineworld, you can take advantage of our new Cinesaver discount, which means tickets are just £5.99 between Monday and Wednesday.

There's also our Early Week Special that allows you to enjoy one small soft drink with one small sweet or one small salted popcorn for just £5.

1. Religious horror Immaculate will have you saying your prayers

Ecclesiastical onslaught Immaculate has already chilled Unlimited members to the core (check out their responses here) and it's also frightened audiences at SXSW before its UK release on March 22nd.

Sydney Sweeney plays a novitiate nun who miraculously finds herself pregnant – but what if her baby is the spawn of something dark and terrifying? A monstrous religious conspiracy is then exposed with Sweeney giving a full-blooded performance amid lashings of gonzo violence.

Critics have praised Sweeney's turn, which is again indicative of her range across horror, rom-coms (Anyone But You) and comic book movies (Madame Web). Variety critic Stephen Saito describes Immaculate as "An enjoyable if uneven horror film cut from a slightly different cloth than its religious brethren with a captivating turn from its star.

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2. Dev Patel's directorial debut Monkey Man hits hard

From Anwar in Skins to the director of his own action opus Monkey Man, one cannot deny that Dev Patel's rise to the top has been meteoric. The Slumdog Millionaire and Lion actor now performs multiple duties as director, writer, producer and star in this full-throttle action epic, which has been described as John Wick in Mumbai.

Patel plays The Kid, an underground boxer haunted by the vicious slaughter of his family. The Kid conspires to get revenge on the corrupt officials and gangsters responsible, setting in motion a brutal martial arts odyssey that tests Patel's on-screen physical abilities and his nascent prowess behind the camera.

Monkey Man is produced by Get Out filmmaker Jordan Peele who helped secure the film's theatrical release. The movie has received highly positive reviews from SXSW with critics lauding Patel's ambition, his staging of the fight sequences and his desire to craft the definitive Indian action epic.

Robert Daniels of Screen International writes: "As a star, Patel has rarely been better. And as a director, he grants an intoxicatingly gruesome vision of the kind of gritty vehicles he could steer in the future."

Lovia Gyarkye of The Hollywood Reporter states: "Patel makes a fine hero. The actor is a consistently charming presence whose capabilities have only grown since Skins and his breakthrough role in Slumdog... More than a realization of childhood dreams or a reclamation of cultural traditions, Monkey Man is Patel’s assertion of belonging. It’s an attempt — ambitious, imperfect and sometimes messy — to rummage through the bits of his identity and use the findings to create his own lore."

"Dev Patel’s Monkey Man draws from the ancient lore surrounding Hanuman, a revered figure in Hindu tradition symbolizing intellect, might, valor, fidelity and discipline — much like his character in this film who is the underdog savior of the broken and the displaced," writes Valerie Complex for Deadline Hollywood

"Having written, directed and starred in the film, Patel derives a lot of inspiration from familiar action films to create something refreshing and new, while also educating the audience on some of the ongoing disparities taking place in India, particularly between the haves and the have-nots. His kinetic direction and tense fight sequences, mixed with a deep reverence of Indian folklore, helps stake his claim as a future of action cinema."

Monkey Man is released on April 5th.

3. Alex Garland's Civil War is an incisive and unsettling thriller

The author-turned-screenwriter and director Alex Garland is famous for mining complex and provocative subject matter. After collaborating with Danny Boyle on 28 Days Later and Sunshine, Garland stunned with his 2015 directorial debut Ex-Machina, a sleek and assured chamber piece thriller about the divide between artificial and human intelligence.

Garland's subsequent films have injected more than a dash of horror into their science-fiction trappings. Annihilation explored the terror occurring within a bizarre ecosystem and Men was a creepy fairy tale of gender politics gone horrifically awry in a small English village. 

Garland now makes his most pointed statement: Civil War is a feature-length State of the Union address released amid a highly fraught USA election year. Kirsten Dunst leads a strong cast as a war photographer chronicling the steady breakdown of American society after this once-powerful nation has imploded from within.

Cailee Spaeny, Wagner Moura, Nick Offerman and Jesse Plemons co-star in a film that, critics say, is deeply unsettling and designed to leave audiences with plenty of questions. Slant Magazine critic Rocco T. Thompson writes: "Frightening, even-tempered, and disarmingly humane, Civil War is intelligent precision filmmaking trained on an impossible subject."

Polygon's Tasha Robinson says the film will subvert expectations: "While it does feel opportunistic to frame their story specifically within a new American civil war — whether a given viewer sees that narrative choice as timely and edgy or cynical attention-grabbing — the setting still feels far less important than the vivid, emotional, richly complicated drama around two people, a veteran and a newbie, each pursuing the same dangerous job in their own unique way. 

"Civil War seems like the kind of movie people will mostly talk about for all the wrong reasons, and without seeing it first. It isn’t what those people will think it is. It’s something better, more timely, and more thrilling — a thoroughly engaging war drama that’s more about people than about politics."

Civil War is released on April 12th.

4. The Fall Guy mines winning chemistry from Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt

Ryan Gosling is a 21st-century renaissance man, capable of turning his hand to action (Drive), comedy (Barbie) and crowd-stopping musical renditions of 'I'm Just Ken' (alongside Slash) at the Oscars. The seemingly invincible Gosling now pairs up with Deadpool 2 and Bullet Train helmer David Leitch for an infectious and likeable action-comedy that brought the house down at SXSW 2024.

And it gets better: Gosling pairs with the equally winning Emily Blunt, herself newly minted with her first Oscar nomination for Oppenheimer. In this blast of comic mayhem, Gosling plays a veteran stuntman who, when he's away from his comfort zone on the movie set, is drawn into a dangerous conspiracy that tests his mettle as no film director has.

Blunt plays Gosling's on-screen ex, the director of his latest film. Word has it the actors' chemistry is absolutely delightful, powering The Fall Guy to immediate crowd-pleasing status.

"The Fall Guy is funny, it’s sexy, and it features the boy-toy version of “Barbie” scene-stealer Ryan Gosling — which is to say, this time around, he embodies the ultimate action figure," writes Peter Debruge in Variety.

"The Fall Guy, based on the 80s TV series, is an utterly charming, unpretentious rebuttal to the encroachment of digital effects in life and film (all due respect to VFX artists)," raves Adrian Horton in The Guardian. "It’s a celebration of blockbuster movies and their illusions of grandeur made by dozens and dozens of people working in concert, mostly below the line, and specifically the underappreciated work of stunt doubles.

"It’s also just a consistently good time, two hours of zingers with impeccable timing, two bona fide movie stars with palpable chemistry, several enjoyably meta send-ups of the business and, of course, plenty of crazy stunts."

"Unsurprisingly, Gosling thrives in the macho yet wounded role of Colt Seavers," raves Inverse critic Matt Donato. "He blends traits from his Drive and The Nice Guys performances into an affable, cool-but-vulnerable lead who can do it all — but wears his scars on his sleeve.

"Emily Blunt is the perfect romantic sparring partner for Gosling, supremely confident and yet coyly flirtatious like she’s at odds with herself, but will smugly punish Gosling’s ghost of an ex, just as a little treat."

The Fall Guy is released on May 3rd.


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