There is no badassery in there, no sense of heroism (except maybe from the family rescuing him). Sides seem harder to define as the film goes on, describing these troubled times in a formidably gripping fashion.
There are plot points that feel too convenient, but all in all this is an extraordinary debut by Yann Demange, in which he showcases great aptitude for suspense and poetic reality. Some scenes will undoubtedly stay with me for a long time.
FNC '14 Incredible directorial feature debut from Yann Demange which viscerally puts us into 'the troubles' through the eyes of a young soldier who finds himself left behind by his squad and struggles to find a way back to the barracks while factions from all sides want him dead. Muscular direction, impressive cinematography and editing and a star making turn by Jack O'Connell make this quite memorable.
Flaws? There is an oversimplification and generic quality to the "them versus them" story, which is something I expected from the director. But otherwise this was easily the grittiest and most tense film of the year - if not many - and certainly is not to be missed. The camera work is hypnotic and disorienting with a pallid atmosphere, the performances are brilliant, and the soundtrack pulses with fury.
Once I passed the triteness of its opening and closing parts and some conveniences of the plot, I couldn't feel any other way but astound by the pace and gripping cinéma vérité style of newcomer Yann Demange. Paranoia, rage, discomfort or panic are some of the myriad of emotions dexteriously captured to give substance to a survival drama that in some other hands wouldn't be as effective or thrilling.
The sad legacy of the Bourne series and the last two miserable Bigelow films keep on to be felt in current cinema: shaky camera pounding around the characters and spaces, random-pitched editing that creates noise rather than setting space(s). However, towards the end, the director found a tripod and structure what had despised meanwhile: density and time, making a good movie at those moments.
Effective as an action/thriller, particularly during the slow, nervous escalation of the first half, but much less so as a political film. Screenwriter Gregory Burke takes great pains to show characters on all sides of the conflict, but the tactic is less about a democratic evenhandedness than it is about populating the world with generic stock characters to corral the plot.
Has Sean Harris ever NOT played a bastard?