Please understand, and do not be confused: this film is horrific. It's true what they say, the genre while arguably a family drama, with flights of crime/suspense ultimately falls under horror. I'll agree with that and say it conceals itself in the former two categories well. Do not be fooled by the first two acts, which go by very curiously and enlarge our interest in where exactly it's heading.
My favorite part was getting through the last thirty or so minutes having not a single clue where it was going. Then arriving at our destination seemingly pulled the from the deep innards of the Bermuda triangle. Boy, was that fun.
Inside the film, there is a regular occurrence of a reverse bell toll and slow, sloshing music in a dark, unyielding tone. It doesn't exactly stop, almost, but when it's not sounding, we feel it's presence has done it's job to give us feelings of dread. Things--as well as you'd think they'd go with two contract professionals--don't exactly go that way. What did you expect? A movie where the hit list is quietly executed and then it's Bob your uncle?
We open the film with a wild screaming match, oh, no, that's just a daily force-of-habit by husband and wife Jay and Shel.
Shel pulls anger and thrusts it at her husband seemingly out of thin air at various times throughout the film. Shel as a fiery as any wife can be. She is this way, not out of hatred, but love. So take comfort in it. She is played by Swedish born Myanna Buring with a pitch perfect London-proper accent and is very, extremely beautiful. We hear her middle America in The Descent and even in this, she's spouting sad and quick Swedish into the phone to her relatives. Buring brings a good sense of interpretation and has a good handle on herself as any everyday woman, who can love, fight, kiss and get scared too, with authenticity, and not just being the hot, blond mom/wife in a movie.
Two men, "best mates" Gal (Simpson) and Jay (Maskell) are ex-military who now serve the way of the gun, and do it for hire. The best part about it is: their just regular ol' chaps. They drink beer out of cans, curse and smile and make sex and guy jokes, and are even a bit sloppy on the job. They are not polished American assholes in some big budget movie where they are supreme martial artists and always get the upper hand. Jeezus that would be fucking boring.
After some nasty undisclosed business they did in Kiev, Jay is shaken and uneasy about the next assignment Gal is asking him about. It's a list, three men, local job, open and shut, and good money. It's been eight months and no work for Jay (so we angrily hear from his wife), and the money's simply running out. Gal, his best mate, tells him it's okay, don't worry. Yeah, sure. Whatever Gal says. By job number two, it's clear that strings are being pulled, and these targets are simply not what they seem. And rather then go forward with the plot. I'm abruptly stopping here, I might have already said to much.
I don't think I've ever seen art-house horror before, and I am hard-pressed to think of something even similar, if We Need To Talk About Kevin took a slightly more dangerous and nasty turn, I trust the mood and atmosphere this one invokes would be the shoes it wears. And it does it very well, creating a tense, wavy atmosphere of a uncozy feeling, giving us rain, green wet leaves, dreary skies, a nice rainbow, ect. But none of these things ever come off with beauty or in the spirit of prettiness (a word I promise). They carry the baggage of a foreboding wave of, anxiety? Or maybe it was just plain old fashion hebby-jebbies. Let's go with that. Set on slow-boil, the water is sure to spill out of the pot. or at least, it damn well feels like it might.
Our two leads, the credits tell us that additional dialogue was done by the cast, which is a way of the filmmakers kindly giving credit where it's due. The script written tactfully by Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump, was obviously put off in favor of improv and in-the-moment feelings coming through the mouth. We get the sense that these are well rounded people with legitimate things to say, not dripping their feelings but simply being honest, and at times, darkly funny. We're grateful in deed. Because so much of the power of the film comes from the candid portrayals that Buring, Smiley and Maskell give us.
Mostly on Jay and Gal, who seem, nearly sloppy in some of the decisions they make. They most certainly do not like look like their profession, but then again, isn't that the point? And even more, who really does besides anyone from the Matrix I suppose? They have good old fashioned levity together, and we get the sense their legitimate friends outside the film. A few scenes of shouting, wrestling and a great one involving Super-Christians at dinner with a guitar come to mind. And they fit well inside the world that Wheatley has shaped for us.
If I close my eyes, I can almost piece the sparse details and clues given to us together and make sense of the finality of the story. I'm very tempted to tell you what I feel is the true motivations of certain characters and ultimately even the story as a whole--but I wouldn't dare ruin it for you. And even without that pondering, the end of this almost make complete sense, in their way, and if they don't, am I angry?
Should I care the end was certainly bemusing?
Wouldn't it be nice to be banging my head against the wall at such an unsettling and truly jarring climax for once? To go and puzzle over an ominous, fearful and definitely bizarre ending?
When it's done this well, I'd like to think so.