Thursday, 12 April 2012

Movie Review - 'Tyrannosaur'

Every once in a while one comes across these heavy melodramas - exercises in tortured despondency that are showered with critical praise but leave the viewer feeling like the characters in the film - tortured, and despondent. Then there are the rare occasions when films like these have that little something extra to elevate them beyond the realm of competent dramatic fare. Those are often the very best movies. If you watch the trailer for Paddy Considine's directorial debut Tyrannosaur, you would be forgiven for placing the film in the former category. But one look at that gorgeous poster meant there was hope for it to fall into the latter. In fact, that poster was so good that I jumped at my first opportunity to see Tyrannosaur. And what did I discover? I don't want to say this too easily, but quite possibly the best film I've seen this year so far (and I've seen more than 100 already). Hit the jump for my review.

Tyrannosaur is a study of two seemingly opposite characters: Joseph (Peter Mullan), a man possessed with simmering volatility and anger which instills in the viewer a constant sense of foreboding; and Hannah (Olivia Colman), a seemingly happy and wholesome Christian charity shop worker. However, things are not always what they seem, especially in the godforsaken part of the world where these characters live (I think it's Leeds). Despite the vast differences in personality, you start off hating Joseph and Hannah equally (if for different reasons), but as their paths intersect and interweave, things do change quite substantially. We all have secrets, skeletons, some darker and more painful than others, and they only become exposed when we dig deep below the surface. That's what Tyrannosaur is all about.

I'm growing tired of complaining about Oscar snubs, but in a better world, Olivia Colman and Peter Mullan would both have golden statuettes on their mantelpieces right now. They aren't particularly well known either: you should recognize Mullan from a vast number of smaller roles (most recently he was the father in War Horse) and Colman from The Iron Lady (she played Margaret Thatcher's daughter Carol). However, over the past year, I have seen no performances more visceral and powerful than these two. Their downtrodden, wounded personalities, and the way they interacted with one another and the dregs around them, left an indelible impression on me. Speaking of dregs, the various supporting performances were all phenomenal as well.

But strong performances don't always make a film (just look at J Edgar and The Iron Lady), and without Paddy Considine's remarkable directing confidence (on debut to boot), it would all probably have fallen flat. He made all the correct decisions, especially in his use of violence, music, silence, close-ups and humour to tell his story (yes, he wrote the script too). Do you know who Paddy Considine is? He's that guy who acted in In America, Dead Man's Shoes and The Bourne Ultimatum (among other things). I find it amazing how some actors make the jump to directing so easily and effectively.

In a nutshell then, Tyrannosaur is brilliant: an emotive and rewarding account of rage and anguish, but ultimately, compassion and redemption. The bad news is that there is currently no release scheduled for Tyrannosaur in South African theaters, but it is available to import on DVD or BluRay.

9 out of 10

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