X-Men: First Class ★★★★
This, the fifth film and first prequel in the X-Men franchise, is a sweepingly rewarding origins story, tracing – under the sure direction of Matthew Vaughn – the roots of founder Professor X (played with wry English suavity by Scot James McAvoy), and his future nemesis, Magneto (a lithe, teeth-gritting Michael Fassbender). Going back to Nazi-occupied Poland in 1944 for a striking opening sequence, the action moves to the early 1960s for some effective, witty training sequences, and a climactic clash off the coast of Cuba (yes, they’ve audaciously co-opted the actual Missile Crisis). Nicholas Hoult and then-rising star Jennifer Lawrence give personality to the youthful cast.
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