Directed by Nick Murphy
Starring Paul Bettany, Stephen Graham, Mark Strong and Brian Cox.
A psychological thriller charting the disintegration of a police family as two brothers living in the shadow of their father investigate the murder of a young girl…
Supernatural noir is not usually something you would associate with the UK crime output of recent years. Mockney accents and slapstick humour yes, but intense expressionistic layers of guilt ridden dread? None too often, sadly.
Thankfully then, this new movie from Nick Murphy (The Awakening) manages to address the balance somewhat. Based on writer Bill Gallagher’s TV miniseries Conviction, it largely succeeds as a tightly webbed thriller with gothic and psychological horror touches.
Concentrating on the investigation into the death of a teenage girl, the film brings the personalities and internal workings of the two brothers ascribed to the case sharply into focus. Their relationship with each other and their retired detective father is the central element of the film, and one that is communicated with extreme power.
Paul Bettany (A Beautiful Mind) Stephen Graham (This is England) and Brian Cox (Manhunter, The Bourne Identity) all offer terrific performances as the battle scarred Fairburn family of detectives, while Mark Strong (The Guard) is equally good as their obsessive friend and colleague.
While it would be a crime itself to give too much away on a deceptively fragile production such as this, it is safe to say that this is more of a whydunnit rather than a whodunit. The film rapidly shifts emphasis in the first third from an outward police job into an internal psychological one. The pressure on older brother Joe (Bettany) in particular is given a mature and at times terrifying concentrated analysis, and one that leaves the audience wondering how long he can hold out.
The versatile performer brings some of the menace that he displayed so fiercely in his 2000 breakthrough Gangster No.1, but here on the other side of the law it is a more of a haunted, suffocating form of protracted rage. Complementing this evocation of dread, Graham’s portrayal of the almost childlike younger brother is a fascinating and disturbing watch.
Presenting a disarming vision of almost any British city and seaside surroundings, the camera takes stock of the family’s destructive lives with eloquent and contrasting dreamlike images. As the dreams become nightmares, the audience can also expect to be swept away…
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.