Starring: Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, Helen Mirren, Andy Serkis, John Hurt, Sean Harris, Steven Robertson
Director: Rowan Joffe
Writer(s): Rowan Joffe, Graham Greene (novel)
Cinematography: John Mathieson
Original Score: Martin Phipps
Running Time: 111 Mins.
Some films pulsate with a sense of doom, like an approaching storm, the dark clouds (figuratively and, occasionally here, literally) gather overhead and the mood builds to a tense and what could only be described as an explosive crescendo that really isn’t going to end well…for anyone. This descriptive mood fit many a film in the golden days of Hollywood, and the earlier phase of British cinema before it was overtaken by the cartoon characters of Lock, Stock and its ilk or the fumbling-bumbling of Hugh Grant, it was the era of noir. An era that Rowan Joffe (son of Roland) has decided to hark back to in a big way with his directorial debut.
That Joffe chose a remake of Brighton Rock for his modern-noir is hardly a surprise, the original was the pinnacle of the UK noir movement upon its release and has influenced many a great director since, Martin Scorsese and Terence Malick to name but two, one need look no furthr than Scorsese’s Shutter Island for very obvious visual nods. In fact this new Brighton Rock sits nicely along-side that DiCaprio starrer as a more intimate companion piece, echoing the themes of a fractured psyche and men with truly dubious agendas set against the cracking waves of an ominous ocean and the aforementioned dark clouds offering a British sibling to its Atlantic counterpart.
Without the comparison to the original (I’ve yet to watch it) this is very much a stand-alone review, I cannot draw comparisons between a “masterpiece” and its redo set in the confines of a new era, to me the mods and rockers backdrop of 1964 Brighton offers a setting that simply adds to the over-lying issue of the uprising of “youth” culture and perhaps even the beginnings of such an issue as we know it now. The story sees Pinkie, a young man and wannabe gangster find his hopes slowly build as he takes every opportunity to further his status in the town, after an altercation that results in Pinkie brutally murdering a man he must set about silencing a girl who may have seen too much…
This is not your usual guy falls for the girl under strange circumstances tale, something which endeared itself to me a lot. Going against expectation and sticking to your guns is admirable but the admiration does not end there, as Pinkie Sam Riley is hugely disturbing to watch, unpredictable and brutal with his emotions (largely held in) and his actions, every time he is onscreen, which is most of the time, the dread simply builds to unbearable levels. Without an excellent supporting cast however this would stand for very little, from Mirren to Harris each role is cast superbly and gives the film a level of gravitas (effortless from Hurt and Mirren to be fair).
Though performance, script and mood are all very well handled it is in the direction and cinematography that the stakes have really been raised, Joffe has an eye for a shot that is not always apparent in someone’s first feature, something which only makes me wonder where he will go from here visually. I’ve mentioned the mood and that is all thanks to the pacing, lighting and shots, seemingly abstract scenes of crashing waves and the masses of lights on the pier going out thump as the score in Shutter Island did (there are even echoes of that foghorn here), while that final inevitable conclusion approaches you are left wondering not whether anyone will come out of this well, but rather quite how badly everyone will come out of it…
Brighton Rock is a true noir, and you don’t get all too many of those nowadays, Joffe builds the tension to unbearable levels while Riley proves to be one of the most genuinely disturbing screen presence of British cinema for some time…Brighton certainly is on the move.