Monday, 5 December 2011

TYRANNOSAUR (2011) - 4 STARS

 'I feel safe with you'
'Nobody's safe with me'
 
 
When you think of the title of this film, you'll get a few dimwits who think it's a film about dinosaurs. True the mention of a T-Rex comes up at some point in the story, but that is to describe the struggles that concur for one of the characters involved as actor-turned-writer/director Paddy Considine examines the destructive effects of violence and aggressive behaviour through two different individuals who are drawn together by their developing friendship. After being awarded the BIFA (British Independent Film Award) for Best Film recently, the film has a sincere chance of striking a cord with the BAFTA's thanks to its impeccable writing and raw acting from its leads which shares similarities to another actor's first gritty directional effort from 1997; Gary Oldman's Nil By Mouth. The comparisons here are almost ironic....


Grizzled and angry widower, Joseph (Peter Mullan) displays rage and aggressiveness towards anyone or anything in his rough community from viciously kicking his pet dog to death to tossing a brick through a post office window. But when he hides out in a charity shop, he meets Christian worker Hannah (Olivia Colman) who offers to give support to him when his anger gets to him but during another encounter he becomes nasty about her religious beliefs and coziness upon learning about her background. However it turns out there is something deep about her background when it turns out her home life is dogged by her abusive marriage to her vile and cruel husband James (Eddie Marsan). Joseph himself is plagued with dismay about his close friend being on the verge of death but he does show some humanity towards his young neighbour whose mother's boyfriend bullies him with his vicious dog leading to the fiery Scot sticking up for him at times. Both tortured souls, the unlikely friends find solace with each other and develop a friendship which tries to help them put aside their horrid lifestyles with complicating results....


Paddy Considine can be hugely satisfied with his brutal first feature film which at times is compelling and intense to watch as it takes us to the deep end of violence and cruelty but leads us through to a sense of redemption as foreclosed in the film's final couple of scenes. As typical a kitchen sink drama you'll see and sharing similar distinction to films from Shane Meadows, Tyrannosaur delves deep into its characterisation with a punishing story which at times is difficult to watch as our characters' lives are laid bare for the whole audience to look at. Joseph uses his fists to tackle his problems whether it be confronting a trio of lads in his pub or using his baseball bat to trash his shed, while Hannah tries to cover up her wretched background by carrying on with her Christian beliefs but is clearly in denial. Mullan starts the film off as brutish and distanced from society but as the film progresses, he accepts more responsibility and the realisation that he may never be able to overcome his problems with the audience growing to like him more at the same time. But it is Colman who is most striking as she puts aside her comedy roles in Peep Show and Hot Fuzz to portray a woman who is conflicted in her religious beliefs and becomes too naive to believe her husband will change whilst showing care and judgement towards Joseph's maniacal lifestyle. Marsan makes a mark as the selfish and bullying James whose first scene is simply un-human and makes us dislike him straight away and although we get a brief glimpse of his regrets about the way he mistreats his wife, that 'sympathy' goes straight out of the window in another horrific act later in the film.


Where Considine seems to go a bit wrong with the film is the lack of a stretched plot to advance the narrative which is not uncommon in modern British films showing a lot of familiar traits that its predecessors did before without providing anything new to the sub-genre. It does also try too hard to shock like Nil By Mouth did especially with the early scene of the dog death (which will probably appall animal lovers) and James's actions which are almost as deep to watch as Ray's in Mouth but it seems to be familiarised in many British films nowadays.

VERDICT: A little unoriginal but ultimately a compelling and raw (roar!) feature from the writing to its phenomenal acting by its leading pair, Considine takes the plaudits for one of the best films of the year with plenty of grittiness and emotional to prove why us Brits do kitchen-sink dramas well. Bravo Paddy!

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