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Director Matt Reeves has just raised the bar for what a summer blockbuster should be – with this exhilarating final instalment of the Planet of the Apes trilogy.

This could quite easily notch a Best Picture Oscar nomination, as Reeves and co deliver arguably the best pound-for-pound big-budget summer movie of this year.

We all know that there’s only a few chromosomes between humans and primates, but Reeves bridges that gap by combining jaw-dropping special effects that are matched by the imaginative script.

The first two films were solid entries, but just like with Serkis’ turn as Gollum, his Caesar character gives this series a grand Return of the King-like finale – with emotion and drama that will leave your chest pounding.

Several massive reasons take War to the next level, the introduction of two fantastic new characters – Steve Zahn’s comedically-lovable Bad Ape and Amiah Miller’s equally-adorable mute girl Nova – Harrelson’s merciless Colonel, a truly emotive storyline, and more predominantly, a fragile, more unhinged Caesar, having to wrestle with his darker instincts when a major tragedy engulfs his world in the opening third.

When Caesar and his growing band of apes – evading human detection since the now-deceased Koba (Toby Kebbell) inflamed a war in Dawn – suffer unimaginable losses by the Colonel and his mercenary-like band of surviving soldiers, the leader of the primates takes it on himself to exact revenge on his psychotic opponent to help get his kind unhindered passage to a new home.

With three of his strongest ape colleagues – Luca (Michael Adamthwaite), Rocket (Terry Notary) and Maurice (Karin Konoval) – beside him, they pick up the only surviving member of a fallen zoo, Zahn’s unaptly-named Bad Ape, and Miller’s Nova, who can’t speak after a new strand of the Simian virus, which wiped out most of humanity after the events of Rise,  left her without the ability to talk.

This also proves to be the main agenda with the Colonel too, as he sees this new strand potentially destroying the last pockets of human civilisation on the planet – thus opening the door for apes to be the dominant species.

But despite the thriller maybe being a bit slow and methodical for some tastes, that really lays the foundations for a finale in the Colonel’s compound that is the ape equivalent to The Great Escape – with more than enough subtle twists and turns that should truly leave a satisfying taste in the mouth of most movie-goers.

Reeves’ stewardship really deserves immense praise – particularly as events are dominated by the emotional reactions of the movie-dominating computer-generated primates – but what even trumps that, is the superbly-crafted story that really pulls on the heart strings.

And what this all adds up to is a sensational piece of cinema that should undoubtedly be mentioned in the same breath as the year’s best.

If you were worried about Ben Affleck’s first solo outing as The Batman, don’t be . . . Reeves is directing – so it’s going to be in safe hands.

Gavin Miller

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Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Amiah Miller, Toby Kebbell, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Michael Adamthwaite, Judy Greer & Gabriel Chavarria

Running Time: 2 Hrs20 Mins

Director: Matt Reeves

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