Two ex-cons execute a well planned kidnap, but all is not what it seems. Secrets will out leading to paranoia and fear in this highly strung drama from writer/director J Blakeson. The poster promises action/thriller excitement and the skeletal cast, Martin Compston, Gemma Arterton and the instantly recognisable Eddie Marsan suggest that this film will be another clip in the montage of great British modern cinema. But I’ve seen better written and better directed British movies.
My principal gripe with this film is that it should really be a stage play! Most of the action takes place in the kidnappers converted prison lair where they hold their hostage. Most of the “raw” and “gritty” emotion takes place there. However, if this script were done in a theatre it would soon become apparent that the plot twists (implausible though some of them are) would not be enough to sate the audiences attention and that the writing itself was cliched and ineffectual. Significant moments in the story look like they were straight from an improv workshop and relied heavily on the shots being moody and artistic.
Gemma Arterton is not good and plays extreme emotions with “stage school” acting. Martin Compston was, for such a complicated character, rather two-dimensional. Eddie Marsan was superb but was clearly lacking the support an actor of his calibre deserves and so stood out.
This was clearly a film on a budget (course it was, it’s British) However, that should be no excuse. Indeed some of the best films ever made were done on a budget and even set in one room (Cube). But lack of finance required these films to rely more on a use of invention and imagination in telling us their story. This film, alas, was a bit more text-book. And that’s not a compliment.