Friday, 7 October 2011

Review: Tyrannosaur

Rating: 18
Duration: 91 mins

Based on the BAFTA winning short, Dog Altogether, Tyrannosaur sees British talent, Paddy Considine, assume control of his first feature both behind the camera and in charge of the quill. Starring Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman in a drama that'll shock, grip and emotionally affect you with the authentic nature of its subject matter, audiences are presented with a chillingly real depiction of domestic abuse and anti social behaviour.

Considine is utterly confident in his debut as he asserts himself with such assurance behind the camera; you’d think he’d been doing it for some years.

The pacing is methodically slow, but works well with the raw imagery and subtly realistic performances that form the illusion of two societal classes (working and middle) clashing, gelling and inevitably merging into one. Colman plays Hannah, the wife of successful, sports-car-driving husband, James (Eddie Marsan), juxtaposed with Mullan’s Joseph, whose roughest-of-the-rough lifestyle is evident. He lives alone, surrounded by the underprivileged, including young Samuel (Sam Bottomley), a character that temporarily eases the depressing nature of life with beyond-his-years charm as well as innocence.

The edit is also slick and direct with pinnacle-moment cut-aways, voyeuristic observations, as Considine is clearly objective and non-sentimental, which serves the end product well.

The script is brutally honest at times, as it maintains tension with the sheer volatility of personalities, most notably Mullan, who recklessly explodes mainly because there are no repercussions for him. There's no one in his life to question such actions, until Hannah that is. What's worth noting is that it took a mere seven days to write the 90 minute film, albeit it with the aid of an existing premise, context, characters and cast, which translates into a fascinating commentary on human behaviour, restraint and subserviency; you’ll notice a parallel within each character’s life, with constant shifts from disdain to empathy. The real beauty of the piece as it displays the talent of the director/writer, and how tonally he construes the idea to the big screen effectively. Joseph, who is essentially the film’s protagonist that suggests redemptive undertones, accentuates this perfectly with his obnoxious and frankly disgusting behaviour, yet at points it is hard not to support him in his plight.

Performance-wise, Mullan more than convinces as a dishevelled, well-worn man who's living an unfulfilled existence since the death of his wife. A close-up shot of his face resembles the dry, wrinkly scales of said film title, yet isn’t what it refers to. In fact, the title can be likened to several intrinsic elements, and is only explicitly referenced at one point. 

The driving force and heart of the script is the stand-out offering from Olivia Colman. For someone very much typecast to comedy, especially British TV series Peep Show, she displays remarkable resilience to avoid falling into her familiar role, instead delivering an opposite-end-of-the-spectrum performance, with a completely contrasting character that has no remnants of the bubbly Sophie. Certain for BAFTA, if not Oscar nods, Tyrannosaur is a break-through film that introduces Colman as a genuine, serious talent and merely confirms Mullan's already fantastic ability, too.

Tyrannosaur is gut-wrenching, both as a result of its violent and emotional outbursts we bear witness to. An underlying notion of danger and trepidation generates some unbelievably intense moments, which is strangely complemented by tender embrace. The acting is intensely flawless and unforgiving, as Considine deserves praise for an engaging, compelling and superbly crafted first attempt.