|SHADOWS ON THE WALL | REVIEWS | NEWS | FESTIVAL | AWARDS | Q&A | ABOUT | TALKBACK|
dir Toa Fraser
scr Glenn Standring; prd Matthew Metcalfe
with Mark Strong, Jamie Bell, Abbie Cornish, Martin Shaw, Emun Elliott, Ben Turner, Aymen Hamdouchi, Tim Pigott-Smith, Robert Portal, Colin Garlick, Andrew Grainger, Martin Hancock
release US 18.Aug.17
On the case: Bell and the SAS team
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Muscular direction and an insistent tone maintain a sense of urgency all the way through this fact-based account of a terrorist siege. The quality of the production is very high indeed, although the somewhat on-the-nose screenplay and a pulsing musical score leave this feeling more like a quickly produced TV movie than something 35 years in the works. Still, it's a fascinating account that builds to a superbly staged finale.
In April 1980, with terrorist attacks at an all-time high and Thatcher's policies causing division across Britain, a group of Middle Eastern militiamen storm the Iranian embassy in London demanding that their colleagues are released from prison in Iran. BBC reporter Kate Adie (Cornish) is on the scene immediately, followed by police negotiator Max (Strong), who wants to resolve the situation without violence. But SAS officer Rusty (Bell) is leading the assault team, based in the building behind the embassy and chomping at the bit to rescue the hostages as each day passes.
There's an odd lack of texture in almost implausibly over-confident characters who dive unwaveringly into the situation. So while Standring's screenplay is careful to portray everyone as a hero, it's up to the actors to add texture by revealing some uncertainty. But the script never cracks the surface, sticking only to the facts at hand without fleshing things out. What happens is exciting, even though it's never resonant or emotionally involving. At least the final act is skilfully shot and edited to get the adrenaline pumping.
Each actor is excellent, making the most of his or her role. Strong has the most engaging character as a thoughtful man desperately trying to defuse a potentially calamitous situation amid growing pressure from the nervous kidnappers (Turner and Hamdouchi), the isolated home secretary (Piggott-Smith) and the impatient military colonel (Portal). Meanwhile, Bell offers an intriguingly beefed-up turn as a tough guy with lots of untested ideas, while the always-solid Cornish is left in the margins.
Editing in actual TV footage is an eye-opening reminder of the shift since these events to more sensationalistic news coverage. SAS preparations in an aircraft hangar outside London feel over-dramatised to add some action to a story that's mainly about negotiations, but the buildup to the now-infamous military assault is carefully orchestrated to maximise suspense. This climactic sequence is clearly the entire reason the movie was made, and it's thrillingly staged. And some more character detail to balance the narrative could have made it powerfully timely as well.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
|Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.|
© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
HOME | REVIEWS | NEWS | FESTIVAL | AWARDS | Q&A | ABOUT | TALKBACK