Kill List (Ben Wheatley, UK)

Ben Wheatley’s much talked about Kill List is a dark, claustrophobic and disorientating journey into hell.  It follows the descent into madness of Jay, a man haunted by the violence he has seen and committed both as a soldier in Iraq and in his post military career as a hit man for hire.  Whether that descent into madness is internal or external is not clear and I will leave that up to you to decide.  What is not in doubt though is that this is visceral, gut-wrenching, low budget film making at it’s very best.

The film starts relatively normally as a tale of domestic disintegration as Jay is still struggling to come to terms with a botched job 8 months previously.  The largely improvised dialogue and handheld verite style of the film place it firmly in the British social realist genre of Leigh, Loach and Meadows.  Things soon start to take a turn for the weird as Jay and his partner take on a mysterious new job.  It is at this point that the film really comes into it’s own as an exercise in creating a claustrophobic and unsettling atmosphere.  Jay starts to unravel as things get increasingly out of hand and escalate towards a truly horrifying and upsetting denouement.  Whether we are to take the events of the film literally or as some kind of manifestation of Post Traumatic Stress I am not sure and ultimately it does not really matter as for me it works either way.  It is clear though that Wheatley has crafted a highly original and unsettling film that will undoubtedly become a cult classic in years to come.

Some have criticised Kill List as 2 different films clumsily welded together but the move from thriller to horror in the final part of the film is a masterstroke and left me reeling despite expecting this change of focus.  It will not be for all tastes and indeed some of the people I watched it with absolutely hated it.  What cannot be denied though is that love it or hate it Kill List will stay with you long after it has finished.


Tyrannosaur (Paddy Considine, UK)

Paddy Considine’s directorial debut is a bleak and uncompromising film that shows that as well as being arguably the finest British actor of his generation, Mr Considine also has considerable talent behind the camera.

Tyrannosaur is not for the faint of heart but if you have the stomach then it is well worth putting yourself through it.  Peter Mullan plays Joseph, a middle aged alcoholic consumed by rage and impotent anger at the world.  His booze fuelled bitterness brings him into the world of Hannah (Olivia Colman), a do-gooding Christian whose own life is far grimmer than her positive, outwardly smiling persona initially suggests.  It is this central relationship and the incredible, brave performances from the two main actors that create the film’s heart and drag you along when the going gets really tough.  Colman in particular is outstanding and should be a serious contender come award season.  Her performance brings to mind that of Kathy Burke in the very similar Nil By Mouth (clearly a touchstone for Considine) in that an actor known mainly for comic roles proves more than a match for more experienced “heavyweight” actors.

There are a few missteps in Tyrannosaur, a lazy montage sequence for example that borrows too heavily from Considine’s good friend Shane Meadows as well as some clumsy music choices.  Considine does show a definite visual flair in Tyrannosaur though and his use of close ups and focus as well as some interesting drony soundtrack choices (reminiscent of this years Snowtown) give the film a stronger visual style than most British realism.

Whilst I initially found myself a little disappointed with Tyrannosaur the film’s final 20 minutes absolutely floored me.  This is a film with flawed characters living flawed lives where nothing is black and white and no easy solutions tie up the loose ends.  A triumphant debut and the first step in what is sure to be a vital new voice in British cinema.


Movie Dance Scenes #2

FROM THE CANS OF SAND BLOG ARCHIVES

Why is it that so many of my favourite films have a little dance scene tucked away in them somewhere?  This one is from the phenomenal A Room For Romeo Brass which is for my money the best film Shane Meadows has made so far.  The scene is a pivotal one in the film as it occurs just before we find out that Morell is not quite the child-like innocent we initially thought.  Taking the boys out on a day trip to Chapel St Leonards whilst bunking school Morell unleashes a plethora of astonishing moves much to the delight of the gathering of old age pensioners seated around him.  The scene is even more affecting for being part of a fantastic montage of them wandering round a bleak out of season English seaside town.  Paddy Considine is simply astonishing in this film and if you haven’t seen it then make sure you do as quickly as possible.