Filth- The Review

Throughout watching Filth, yet another Irvine Welsh adaptation joining the likes of Trainspotting and Ecstasy, I had no time to react to what I was seeing. The film actually plays faster than your comprehension of the situation; from one breakneck scene to another your only reaction can just be to stare, jaw-dropped, at the barrage of drugs, sex, swearing and general filth of the title, whether in admiration, or in disgust. Filth is unforgettable. It will play on your mind for days afterwards; it will leave many speechless well after the final credits. There is nothing else quite like Filth on in the cinema at the moment, and also nothing quite as exceptionally good either. It’s wild, it’s crazy, and it is one of the best films of the year.

Bruce Robertson, the most dirty and crooked of all coppers (played by James McAvoy), is vying for a well sought after promotion, and to get it he plans to manipulate the other front runners for the job into public humiliation, in a show of psychological warfare he refers to as ‘the games’. While attempting to pick off his colleagues one by one, he is also dealing with a murder investigation of a Japanese student, and the combined pressure of these tasks, plus snorting more cocaine and drinking more whiskey than even he can handle, truly pushes him to the edge of his sanity. He starts hearing voices, he starts seeing terrifying things that no one else can, and his scheme for promotion slowly spirals out of control, along with his life. It can’t have been easy to have written an adapted screenplay from this particular novel; many classed the book as unfilmable due to its wild and controversial nature, plus a bizarre narrative structure which at one point involves a talking tapeworm. Nevertheless, the screenplay is exceptional, the dialogue crisp and exciting, and the direction fantastic, and for all of these things we have newcomer John S. Baird to thank, who on his directorial debut excels, and on adapting an ‘unfilmable’ book has really put his own personal stamp onto the project, even if the original writing of Irvine Welsh is there for all to see. Filth never pauses for breath, and never stops retaining the fierce energy that makes it such a guilty pleasure.

James McAvoy is extraordinary in Filth, as he completely humanizes a detestable and sadistic figure.

James McAvoy is extraordinary in Filth. His performance is remarkable, and to say he completely and extravagantly steals the show is a huge understatement. His screen presence is fantastic, and in an almost Shakespearean touch, he occasionally looks and performs a little speech to the audience, cackling like a hyena as he does so. Although the film has been advertised as a comedy, his performance is often terrifying, and the final scene will stay with you for a long time. If the movie itself wasn’t so wild and controversial and downright filthy, I would recommend James McAvoy for an Oscar; it’s the finest performance of his career so far, and he really highlights what an exceptional talent he is throughout the movie. Every twitch, every sniff and every horrible, terrifying laugh is utterly believable and entirely engrossing. The film actually relies on creating sympathy for this character apparently without morals, without grace and without heart, but it is entirely to McAvoy’s credit that he pulls it off. Bruce Robertson is outrageous and he does entertain, but towards the end of the movie his madness increases and his life rapidly unravels, and James McAvoy pulls us down with the character, through the corruption and tragedy of this confused, bitter mans’ life. A different director, a different actor, and maybe Filth becomes a lot less interesting; most of the challenge in making this film is the conundrum of how to create sympathy for such a disgusting character. John S. Baird and James McAvoy absolutely nail it, and this sense of pathos towards Bruce Robertson is the film’s greatest triumph.

For me, Filth is many things: brilliant, exciting, stylish and jaw-dropping to name but a few. One thing it isn’t though is subtle, and this may be a problem for some people. Filth never holds back, and its scummy, oppressive atmosphere hardly ever lets up, and in some ways it can be quite an unpleasant experience. Obviously, and unsurprisingly, some people won’t like it; it isn’t a mainstream film, nor is it an overwhelmingly likeable film. Also, while the film is being advertised as a comedy, it isn’t actually that funny, which many will be disappointed with. I don’t believe John S. Baird set out to make a comedy when he adapted this Irvine Welsh novel, although there is a very black satirical comedic edge running through it. There is no real way to describe Filth; it isn’t a comedy, nor is it a drama, nor is it a thriller. It is a unique experience that whether you like it or not, is absolutely essential to see this year.

Best Bit

The ending had me breathless. No spoilers here, but it really is a stunning piece of cinema. It’s a cinematic moment which I am never likely to forget.

Worst Bit

It is so intense, so unforgiving, and so brutal, that it can easily be mistaken for a film that is controversial for the sake of shocking people, which while cannot be further from the truth, also highlights how perhaps the film goes a little too far in conveying its story. This is hardly a criticism; the film is called Filth, but it can be seen as an aggressive atmosphere and tone, which will no doubt alienate many people as a result.

Overall

Filth is one of the most controversial, wild and shocking films of the year, and also one of the best. It’s a fantastic piece of modern cinema, one which is challenging and brave in its execution, bolstered by a jaw-dropping performance by James McAvoy as corrupt copper Bruce Robertson. Not only has Filth reminded us all of the enormous talent James McAvoy holds, but it has also introduced the world to a very promising new filmmaker in John S. Baird. An extraordinary and admirable film.

5/5

Prisoners- The Review

The greatest strength of Prisoners, a new dark and suspenseful thriller by director Denis Villeneuve, is that it creates such a wonderfully harrowing atmosphere, a horribly engrossing sense of hopelessness that overwhelms the viewer. The chaos and destruction caused by a child abduction, and one father’s monstrous desperation to get his daughter back is deeply felt by the audience, thanks to great performances from a cast including Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano, who like all good actors, fully become the people they are playing. You believe every tear, every cry of despair, and every act of vengeance they bring to the screen. Although Prisoners does so many things right, it stumbles and falls on the final hurdle, leaving an unsatisfactory ending and a sense of missed opportunity.

Hugh Jackman plays every father’s nightmare, a man who has to face up to the reality of having his child abducted. The police start an investigation, led by Jake Gyllenhaal, and almost immediately arrest a likely suspect, the owner of a vehicle seen at the scene only minutes before the abduction occurred. The suspect, played by Paul Dano superbly, is a stereotypical Hollywood weirdo; shy, huge glasses, and the IQ of a 10 year old, who never seems to understand what’s going on, yet leaves cryptic messages for the families to go crazy over. Hugh Jackman, in his fragile state, convinces himself this is the man who has taken his daughter, and manages to perform an abduction of his own, roping him to a sink in an abandoned building and torturing him. All the while, Jake Gyllenhaal searches for the truth, but yet getting drawn into suspicions of Jackman’s actions. It’s harrowing stuff, and the cold, repressive atmosphere never lets up for a moment; Prisoners is brutal filmmaking.

 Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal are terrific actors, and in Prisoners they deliver fantastic performances to really raise the film an extra level, which perhaps the script doesn’t deserve. Jackman in particular is terrific, his portrayal of a desperate and slightly deranged father losing his mind in worry is utterly convincing and actually quite disturbing, especially when he is finding new and shocking ways to torture his captive suspect for information that might lead to his daughter. He and Gyllenhaal make a very appealing pair of leads, and the scenes with them together are among the best in the film. Paul Dano, as the weird and supposedly obvious child abductor is incredible; he conveys such an expressive range of emotions without saying more than twenty words throughout the entire movie. Even though we the audience and the characters think this weird, stupid man is to blame for all this misery, the torture scenes are still very hard to watch. The lines between good and evil become very blurred, as Hugh Jackman’s character slowly becomes more desperate and more ruthless. As a desperate father is threatening to smash a mentally disabled man’s hand, I really did not know who to care for, who to trust, who to side with. Prisoners never fulfils the cliché of asking the audience “What would you do?” but I thought it all the same, which is of immense credit to the writers and the actors. Another brilliant element of Prisoners is the stunning cinematography, which I think may be some of the best i’ve seen since the Swedish modern horror classic Let the Right One In. Although it is raining most of the way through the film, it also displays quite stunning scenes blanketed by snow, especially at night, where car headlights stand out through the darkness. Again, it raises Prisoners up to another level, a height which goes above the average dark thriller released every year. Rarely are films so excellently crafted by both the director and cinematographer as Prisoners is, which makes the disappointment all the greater when the momentum and suspense falters in its final act.

Paul Dano is excellent as the main suspect who is ruthlessly interrogated by both the police and the family of the victim.

Although Prisoners does do an excellent job of refraining from ticking off a bunch of thriller clichés, it invariably falls into the age old cliché that the mystery and the suspense is far more interesting than the actual conclusion. For a film that builds suspense so masterfully, and keeps the audience hooked for so long, the ending is quite sloppy in comparison, as if the writers hastily chucked the ending in later as an afterthought. It’s not an awful ending, it’s just a disappointing and underwhelming one which feels like it has been taken from a more idiotic, generic movie. Another suspect the police arrest, who seems to be more of a credible child abductor, is wasted as a character, and is cleared before we can really explore his immediately interesting story. Considering Prisoners is overlong anyway, wouldn’t it have made more sense to have cut the final half an hour, and made this suspect the actual abductor? This change would have made it a shorter movie, but perhaps a better one.

Best Bit

Although it was horrible to watch, the scenes where Hugh Jackman’s father figure tortures the defenceless Paul Dano for hours at a time are shocking and disturbing in the best way, and successfully blur the lines between justice and vengeance, good and evil.  Prisoners isn’t a film for the faint hearted, and the highest compliment I can give to these scenes is that thanks to them, I don’t ever want to see Prisoners again. That’s a good thing.

Worst Bit

The ending feels lazy and unclear, leaving us with the old cliché that the mystery is a lot more satisfying than the conclusion. It isn’t a disaster, but it does feel like a shame that the film couldn’t keep up the good work, and the final thirty minutes let the rest of the film down somewhat.

Overall

Despite a lacklustre ending, Prisoners is one of the smartest and most atmospheric thrillers of the year, thanks to terrific performances from Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, plus some incredible cinematography which really raises the film above the average Hollywood thriller. Be warned: Prisoners is very dark and very hard-hitting, and it can’t be seen as a casual cinema trip. It’s an overwhelmingly bleak picture, but is all the better for it.

4/5