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Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Veteran

Directed by: Matthew Hope

Produced by: Debbie Shutar

Kim Leggatt

Screenplay by: Matthew Hope

Robert Henry Craft

Story by: Matthew Hope

Starring: Toby Kebbell

Brian Cox

Adi Bielski

Music by: Mark Delaney

Cinematography by: Philipp Blaubach

Editing by: Emma Gaffney

Studio: DMK Productions

Release date(s): April 29, 2011

Running time: 98 minutes

Country: United Kingdom

Language: English


Alright, another little update here. This review will followed by one for Drive, which will be my last full review for a film in 2011, because I want to make time for my best and worst of the year. In taking this decision, I will not be doing a 'Movie of the Month' for January. Nevertheless, I am continuing to watch films, having seen Senna and Troll Hunter today, and I will gather all of these films into a collection of five-line 'capsule' reviews for the rest of these films, and they will be eligible for inclusion in my best and worst of 2011. All that's is left to say is keep your eyes posted!

The film that is standing before The Central Scrutiniser (one for the Zappa fans!) is Matthew Hope's The Veteran. My chance encounter with this film was just that, so I will give y'all a little context on the matter. I rented out four DVDs from my local Xtravision in Holywood, Drive, Troll Hunter, Senna and Insidious. However, as I was about to watch Insidious, I found that the DVD I was given was not the one I had in mind, but instead The Veteran. After a few minutes of much grumbling and deliberation, I did a little research and found that The Veteran was a film released in 2011, so I thought "what the hey" and decided to review it. Toby Kebbell, who made his screen debut as the mentally challenged younger brother of Paddy Considine's army veteran Richard in Shane Meadows' excellent 2003 film Dead Man Shoes, switches shoes and plays the eponymous 'Veteran' soldier. Robert Miller (Kebbell) has returned from Afghanistan to his London council housing estate, only to find it overrun with drugs and gun-crazy youths. Through his ex-army friend Danny (Tom Brooke), he gets work for Danny's brother Chris (Tony Curran) and Gerry (Brian Cox) in undercover surveillance investing a network of suspected terrorist cells.

To start with what is good about The Veteran, I must focus on the central performance by Toby Kebbell. One of England's most versatile young actors, he is completely believable as the film's protagonist. The subtlety of his acting shows his character to be emotionally restrained, and the pent-up intensity of his expressions had me thinking of Robert de Niro and Peter Mullan. Furthermore, it is easy to get behind him from an audience perspective, for despite the restrained emotions and physical situations his character gets into, he remains a sympathetic figure. Also, there is a fine polish to the film's cinematography. Philipp Blaubach does a good job of making a London council estate look like a battlefield, and shoots the various going-ons of Miller with a visual flair. The film's editor Emma Gafney is generous to Blaubach, deciding to let many of the shots continue for longer than the average shot length, placing the emphasis on performance and the mobile camera. Finally, Matthew Hope handles the film very well, and makes a number of strong artistic decisions. For instance, his direction ensures that all-round, this is a well-told film based on the principle of visual storytelling. This is some strong work, and I would be interested to see where hope goes from here.

However, while I like this, there are a few problems that stop it from being more than a good film. Sonically, while I like some of the more bass-heavy beats as themes for some of the more 'action' based sequences, I found myself getting cross at the hint of a guest appearance by the Emotional Heartstrings Orchestra, because there is no excuse for a film that tells a good visual story to have the music overtly attempt to reinforce the point. Regardless, the film's central problem is that it suffers from an identity crisis. I'm not comparing it to other films, but in order to get my point across I will invoke two specific ones. On the one hand, Kebbell's Miller is an intense character who is disgruntled at the injustice in his estate, and as such this arc of the story is similar to Taxi Driver. On the other, the film is a conspiracy thriller not unlike the Bourne movies. While both of these separate aspects would work alone, I think both together do not, and it as a result, it does not succeed in being worthy of either Taxi Driver and the Bourne franchise.

Despite these problems that give the film an identity crisis and a problematic score, both of which threaten to throw the finished work into overkill, I liked The Veteran. Toby Kebbell gives a very good lead role, technically it is well-made, with an almost experimental emphasis on visual storytelling, which makes the film's setting come across not just as the proverbial battlefield, but also a dystopian nightmare. Furthermore, I think Matthew Hope shows great promise as a director, for The Veteran is a stylistically interesting film, which he has handled with care and is worth at least one watch.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.2/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Good (got a lot done today!)

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