Starring: Toby Kebbell, Brian Cox, Tony Curran, Ashley Thomas, Adi Bielski, Tom Brooke
Director: Matthew Hope
Writer(s): Matthew Hope
Cinematography: Philipp Blaubach
Original Score: N/A
Running Time: 98 Mins.
Toby Kebbell is a bloody good actor, there I said it, we got that vital piece of The Veteran puzzle out-of-the-way, he has proven his worth in some home-grown flicks including Dead Man’s Shoes and Rock ‘n’ Rolla and followed those up with a couple of high-profile supporting turns in (expectedly) huge Jerry Bruckheimer Blockbusters, alas both failed to set the box office alight and did little for Kebbell’s career, despite him often being mooted as the best thing in both The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. So back to Blighty he has come, taking his first lead role as a para veteran returned from Afghanistan to his London council estate home to find that he is frequently mired by memories and trauma of his past and met with two factions who wish to use his “skill-set” for their own gains.
The Veteran is effectively an attempt at melding two distinct drama plots into one and largely failing to make either prove convincing, let alone mesh well together and alongside one-another. The first sees Kebbell’s character Miller contemplating rising up against the stereotypical hoodies on his estate as his friend is terrorized and said friends brother corrupted by the gang, imagine if you will a half-baked Harry Brown with a younger (but equally talented) vigilante. The problem is so little time is intermittently spent on this part of the film you wonder why they bothered with it at all, and every time we cut back to see what is going on any momentum is lost and the less said about the OTT finale the better.
On the other hand is what seemed to be the initial idea for the film, having Miller be embroiled in a story that sees him uncover a terrorist cell operating in the UK at the employment of shady “government” operatives Cox and Curran, both of these men do little more than bark orders and then disappear adding little heft that is suggested by their presence (particularly Cox who often makes a film with the smallest of parts). The mission is not quite that simple however and so many people become involved (Russians, Pakistanis) that it veers very close to a Guy Ritchie film minus the smarts and the humour, in fact this is a film that wants to be self-righteous and just fumbles it at every step meaning the worthy speeches given on terrorism and war that seek to make a point simply feel like sermonizing without any backup in the film overall.
Thanks then that we have an actor as good as Kebbell to keep us at least watching and engaged in his character if nothing else, Miller is a man lost somewhere between being Harry Brown and Travis Bickle simmering with intensity and yearning to do something worthwhile, it is a great shame the man doesn’t have a better plot to weave this character into. More than this though there is proof, f proof were needed, that he can be a total badass pumping people full of lead left, right and centre…somebody give this man a meaty role to get his teeth into and get him the notice he deserves!
The Veteran succeeds only in demonstrating that Toby Kebbell can rise above even the most muddled material and forge a great performance despite all the elements going against him, two poorly executed plots and a half-baked attempt at a serious message about terror do not help the film as it lives only on the energy and conviction of its star.