Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson, Danny Sapani, Matt Cross, Wahab Sheikh, Tuppence Middleton
Written by: Joe Ahearne and John Hodge
Running time: 101 mins
Release date: 27th March 2013
Danny Boyle is a national treasure. After pulling off the greatest Olympic opening ceremony, he is back where he belongs, behind a camera making movies (even though he shot this before the Olympics and edited after). He is back, playing with our minds with a viseral thriller that, while not his best, is still a far better than most other filmmakers best.
Simon works in an auction house, handling very expensive paintings. Told that should the house be robbed, that a human’s life is far more precious that a work of art, he doesn’t heed to those words when the auction is under attack by Frank and his gang. After a very rare painting, Simon risks his life by trying to save the item but is knocked out by Frank, who runs off with the stolen property. He soon discovers that the painting has been cut from its frame and that Simon must have. However, Simon has amnesia and cannot remember anything so it is up to hypnotherapist Elizabeth to put him under to find out where it has been stashed. Nothing is as it seems and Elizabeth wants a part of the money is the painting is found but she holds some very dark secrets.
The film is like a complex web, with each strand leading to an even more complicated strand. It’s a film that you can easily get lost in, as Boyle delivers another visual feast, playing with narrative, using light and colour to fog up the clarity of the plot and, of course, music is as important. It is a masterclass in style and creative use of the camera. It could be very easy to just film a straight forward, unflashy film that allows the actors and the script to do their thing but Boyle wants to give more to his audience and along with cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantler, they certainly do that. It is massively impressive in its contents.
The performances are pitch perfect too. James McAvoy, who was playing tough cop recently in the excellent Welcome To The Punch, is back playing vulnerable here. It’s the strength of his acting ability that he can switch from one to the other and still come across completely believable. He is an actor you can relax around and here, he takes you on this journey that you feel safe going along with. Vincent Cassel is always excellent value, especially when playing bad and as Frank, he delivers another cool, smooth villain who is also walking that fine line of being a total psychotic.
The big surprise here is Rosario Dawson. Even though she has had a reasonably successful career, she has never been allowed to show her true acting muscle. Here, Boyle gives her the opportunity to do so and she steps up to the mark brilliantly, playing the doctor Elizabeth who is as cunning and shrew as both Simon and Frank, she is quite breath-taking. You never know where she stands in all of this and it is full marks to her performance for making you feel that. Maybe from now on other film makers will appreciate she is more than just a pretty face.
When I say this isn’t one of Boyle’s best, it’s mainly because the plot is so heavy with twists and turns it does get bogged down in the middle part but that doesn’t mean it’s an out and out failure. Far from it. It’s still full of so many surprises and delights that you find yourself in awe at the master at work. It’s not going to be for everyone and Boyle knows that. There will be those who will go in expecting another Olympic opening ceremony but as Boyle says himself, this is as far removed from that as could possibly be. He is absolutely right. It is unsettling, brutal sometimes (and men, beware, there is one scene you are really going to feel some pain!) and it will shock those who think Boyle is a nice man who makes family friendly stuff. Hey, this is the man who gave us Trainspotting, remember?
As far as thrillers go, it’s gripping enough to keep you hooked and the visuals alone will keep you watching. Boyle is this country’s most exciting directors. He is a film maker with extraordinary visions and style and long may he keep producing fine work such as this. I, for one, will be there every time.