Fine performances from both leads, and great little moments of humour to break up the bleak tone of the film, especially the explanation of the name, 'Tyrannosaur'!
A day later, in retrospect, I do question whether Joseph's violently destructive motivations and character were sufficiently conveyed to the viewer. Did I miss something, or did he get this way just because [and I don't mean this lightly] he lost his wife? If so, the message seems to be about glamourising rage in Joseph's case, for no real just cause, whereas at least Hannah garnered some level of sympathy and was almost driven to it.
As most films of this genre have the cinematography was designed to feel realistic and increase the feeling of verisimilitude, it felt a bit like 'Snowtown' in that sense, but not as well done. 'Tyrannosaur' does have some interesting things to say but at some points you will just want it to shut up.
Joseph (Peter Mullan) is a widower living on a housing estate and prone to fits of uncontrollable rage. One day, in a charity shop, he meets devout Christian, Hannah (Olivia Colman), who offers to pray for him. Hannah has her own problems at home though, as she is being physically and emotionally abused by her husband James (Eddie Marsan). Joseph offers to help her, in return for her kindness, and allows her to take refuge with him but the consequences of violence still linger despite the chance of redemption.
When British cinema is afforded the best of it's talents, it can deliver some very hard-hitting drama's. This can be included amongst the finest of recent years, or any year for that matter. It's raw, emotional storytelling, anchored by excellent central performances; Peter Mullan has rarely been better as a damaged and brutal man, full of inner rage and Eddie Marsan is perfect as an abusive and cowardly creep. It's Olivia Colman - who's better known from the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost TV comedy show "Spaced" - that's the real revelation though. She is absolutely superb. Going on this evidence, Colman thoroughly deserves more dramatic roles in future. It's quite simply, one of the finest female performances from 2011. Speaking of which, could somebody please explain why this was, yet another, quality drama with searing performances, that was omitted when the Academy awards were being dished out? Proof, yet again, that films of this type are so often overlooked across the pond. Thankfully though, Considine and Colman recieved Bafta's for their outstanding work. Having already proved his writing potential with "Dead Man Shoe's" this is another powerful drama that augers very well for Considine's writing and directing future. If he continues to deliver work like this, he can consider himself amongst the great UK auteurs like Ken Loach and Mike Leigh.
A stark and depressingly ferocious film that also has heart and a real sense of hope. Like most films of this type, it can be difficult viewing but also worth it. British, working-class "Kitchen-sink" drama's have rarely been better.
The obvious and rather trite thing to do at this point would be to draw up Alfred Hitchcock's old quote that actors should be treated like cattle, issue a half-hearted warning about the perils of actors getting behind the camera, and then patronise Considine for having done so well. But the fact is that he has really done his homework, having learned much from his collaborations with Shane Meadows. If one had to draw a comparison, it is probably closest to Dead Man's Shoes in its brutal violence and unconventional depiction of revenge. But Tyrannosaur is more than Shane Meadows-lite: it stands like its main character, alone and deeply terrifying.
When Roger Ebert reviewed the film, he remarked that "this isn't the kind of movie that even has hope enough to contain a message. There is no message, only the reality of these wounded personalities." He couldn't have put it better. Tyrannosaur is a film which draws no quarter, offering no answers, let alone easy ones, to the problems faced by its characters or the society that produced them. Hope, optimism, sentimentality, generic conviction - any way out is refused, dismissed as impossible and out of reach. Even calling it nihilistic feels too straightforward.
Tyrannosaur is something of a rarity in today's filmmaking culture: the product of someone doggedly determined to do it their way. Just as the characters do not resolve their problems with a feel-good ending, or laugh them off with a smile, so you get the sense of Considine really putting his foot down at every stage of production, resisting the urge to bow to commercial pressure or retreat to the comfort zone of convention. At a time when films are increasingly not just written but directed by committee, his determination is commendable even before we examine the film artistically.
The film is completely unapologetic in its realistic depiction of violence. The carnage on show is not the balletic bloodbaths of Sam Peckinpah or high-end comic book films like Kick-Ass. Instead it is as real and as horrible as Kill List, earning its 18 certificate in the first five minutes. At certain moments, such as the killing of dogs at either end of the film, the camera turns away, mirroring our flinching and repulsion at what unfolds. By starting with something so horrible, we are forced to confront these characters and their problems head on, with no safety net and no way out.
Tyrannosaur is a film about three deeply damaged people, all searching for a form of release or redemption while feeling all the time that they are either unworthy of it, unable to attain it, or alienated by what society expects of reformed characters. Joseph (Peter Mullan) is desperate to get out of his spiral of self-destructive rage, but is so far gone that he increasingly knows no other way to live. He picks fights with the boys in the pub, kicks his dog and bashes his shed because he is at a loss of what else to do.
Hannah (Olivia Colman) is a kind and compassionate woman who is assaulted and abused by her husband James (Eddie Marsan). He protests that the way he reacts isn't the real him, and yet his jealousy and possessiveness manifest themselves in horrendous ways, from urinating on her while she sleeps to beating her up and raping her. Hannah struggles to reconcile her faith to the harsh realities of her life - there is nothing cosy in her position as a Christian.
What makes Tyrannosaur so rewarding is that it keeps wrong-footing us. It doesn't do this in the manner of Super, which kept serving up misjudged or awkward moments on account of not knowing what it really was. But its choice of character developments throw us off the scent, reinforcing the film's desire to reflect life as it is rather than offer hope of how it should be. Our two main characters don't end up together, or take the young boy into their care. The film is closest to The Arbor in its reams of ambiguity, as we are left wondering how well the characters really knew each other, or how much they even cared for each other.
It is also refreshing to see religion, and more specifically religious faith, depicted in a manner which is utterly free of caricature. Perhaps no British film since Whistle Down the Wind has approached the issue of personal belief with such a steady hand, resisting the urge either to unconditionally accept it or, more commonly, dismiss it as empty, irrational or a waste of time.
The film depicts how hard it is to be a Christian without falling into the trap of many modern Christians, who foolishly claim to being persecuted in 'their own country'. Hannah is by no means perfect, being just as capable of violent outbursts as Joseph is. She is only in control when James is not around to torment her, and while she feels drawn to helping Joseph it is never clear how comfortable she is being around him. Joseph may start and remain a cynic - there is no moment on the road to Damascus for him. But the release of emotion in the charity shop, and his kindness towards Hannah, suggests some kind of spiritual impulse, even if he refuses to acknowledge it.
In hindsight it was good that Tyrannosaur was helmed by someone with acting experience, because the film depends so strongly on the three main characters being completely believable. And Considine delivers on all three, directing with passion and integrity. Peter Mullan is great, possessing so much texture and nuance in his face and managing to appear threatening without simply making us run for cover. His is a compelling threat, and we are drawn to it like moths to a flame.
Eddie Marsan is rapidly corning the market in threatening supporting roles, turning in a performance up there with his menacing turn in Philip Ridley's Heartless or his neurotic driving instructor in Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky. Most striking, however, is Olivia Colman, who is quite simply a revelation. Having gotten used to seeing her in mother hen-type roles in shows like Peep Show and Green Wing, we are completely unprepared for the emotional range and depth of this performance. At the very least she doesn't just let the make-up do the acting for her in the difficult scenes: she is constantly working hard and deserves every accolade she has received.
Considine's direction in Tyrannosaur feels meticulous without being overbearing. He has made clear in several interviews that the film is in no way autobiographical, and it makes sense therefore for the film to lack a particular visual stamp in the way that Meadows' works might. The film still looks amazing, with gritty cinematography from Submarine's Erik Wilson and very good compositions on the part of Considine. But running through everything is a resistance to design: the camera is there to observe, not to judge or create an impression of reality.
Tyrannosaur is a gripping and gut-wrenching debut, and one of the best films of 2011. Its completely lack of visual or narrative compromise will be a test of viewers' mettle, but like Kill List it earns the right to be this brutal, being horrible and repulsive in all the right ways and for all the right reasons. Considine has the makings of a great actors' director, creating three compelling characters within a genuine piece of cinema. It is an extraordinary first feature film which lingers long after its final frame.
There are fewer higher cinematic pleasures than watching Peter Mullan, one of the best actors around, fully inhabit a character like Joseph, who is simultaneously reckless, unhinged and complex. And Eddie Marsan who has played his share of villains finds a new direction for the one he plays here. On the other hand, "Tyrannosaur" cannot be considered fun in any sense of the word as it contains all manner of abuses to humans, animals and other sentient life forms. But there are more subtle forms of behavior that are just as dehumanizing which is how the title comes into play. While there is just a sliver of hope presented in places, the movie is not exactly kind towards religion but we take no comfort in the revelations of Hannah's domestic life. There is a twist at the end which does little harm to the movie and does make sense. Anything that it robs from the movie says more about us than anything else here.
When we first meet Mullan's bitter angry Scot he is kicking his dog to death. This is followed up with a scene of him racially abusing Post Office staff before bricking their window. Amazingly, an hour of screen time later and we're rooting for him. After hiding out in Colman's charity shop to avoid a beating, he reluctantly becomes involved in her life and discovers she is the victim of domestic violence at the hands of her husband Marsan. Their relationship is established brilliantly with Marsan urinating over Colman as she pretends to sleep. The next morning they small-talk like an everyday couple while Colman struggles to get the urine stains out of their couch.
Everytime you think this film is headed in a cliched direction it takes a sudden shocking detour. Compare this to a similarly themed film like "Gran Torino" and you'll see how easily it could have ended in mediocrity.
The acting in this is superb, Mullan is perfectly cast as the sort of guy we cross the road to avoid, Colman plays her victimised wife brilliantly, it's impossible not to want her to get revenge. Ned Dennehy is an Irish guy whose entire career has been spent playing odd looking bit parts. Here he gets a meaty supporting part as a pathetic yet likable acquaintance of Mullan.
In 1997 Gary Oldman made the brilliant and similar "Nil By Mouth" but sadly hasn't directed anything since. Hopefully Considine won't wait so long.
Paddy Considine is a very good actor, and apparently a hell of a director as well. "Tyrannosaur" marks his feature debut at the helm, and what an impression it leaves. The film is brutal, unrelenting, mournful, depressing, hopeless, and tough all over. It does not sugarcoat any of its themes as it refuses to divert from realism. One could even say that it is grounded in that particular world. But this is good, because a movie like this requires believability; and while most directors might have whipped out the cinematic spice to give their very own slice-of-life narrative some extra punch, Considine decides to show it how it is, for all it is. Something tells me that a lot of Hollywood's dramatic "talents" could learn a thing or two from the man. He seems to have a firm grasp on what makes human drama effective and how to properly develop his characters over time. Even more impressive is the fact that he is working from entirely original material; aside from taking whatever he can from the harsh reality that he faces and delivering it to us on a silver platter. But artistically speaking, this story hasn't quite been told before; and if it has, not only do I want to be told immediately, but I also want to be reassured that it hasn't been told like it is here.
Peter Mullan gives one of the most chilling and overbearing performances of 2011 as Joseph; widow, alcoholic, possibly psychopath. His establishing scene makes for one of the saddest movie moments of last year or any year at all; in which Joseph is thrown out of a bar and in a drunken rage gives his pet dog a kick in the rib that sends the poor animal to doggie heaven almost immediately. He then carries it home and digs a grave in his backyard, where he buries this old friend. Joseph spends every day either drinking, destroying his shed, letting loose profanity at a rapid and plentiful pace, or struggling to both get out of bed and refrain from endangering those around him. He is an angry man; not clean-shaven, balding, aging, somehow still surviving. He hates the world and the world hates him. Joseph's only family member is bed-ridden and dying. The rest have abandoned him; and his only friends are the fellow bar-dwelling drunks who share his disgust for the people that surround him. It is heavily implied that he could be self-destructive, but why not?
Joseph comes across a small charity shop not far from his house, run by a woman named Hannah (Olivia Colman). At first, they don't seem to identify with one-another at all; Hannah is very kind and religious - even stopping to pray for both Joseph and his ill father - and Joseph is cynical and violent. But as the story progresses, we learn that this is merely a mask. After a day of smiling at customers and taking it as easy as she can, Olivia returns home to a sadistic husband (Eddie Marsan) who says she "fucks like a dead animal" and will sometimes beat her, prompting the poor woman to arrive at work the next day with a black eye. Her most common excuse is that she fell. She tells this to Joseph and he doesn't seem to believe such a tall tale for one moment. But the tragedy of these two tortured souls makes way for a shared connection between the two, something that one person sees in the other that they both find kind of relatable. One is simply better at hiding their demons than the other.
For a while, we wonder why Joseph is so angry at everything and everyone. Eventually, the source is somewhat revealed, although I was not entirely convinced that this one thing could contribute to such uncontrollable ferocity. Perhaps it is an accumulation of that - which I will not name - and all the other things I have mentioned thus far. Life is kinder to some people than it is to others, and Joseph is simply among those others. He lives in a neighborhood that is uncompromising and filled with cruel and vile souls (including a man with a barking dog who harasses his young son and frightens his wife), drinks the ever-so-strong but self-sacrificing drink, and cannot let go of what he has lost in life. Negativity is his cross to bear. And at first, Hannah appears to be some sort of savior; although Considine makes it very clear that he has no intention of going in this direction. Instead, he would rather explore the character's problems and let the two work it out both together and within themselves, where the best kind of resolution often occurs. But these things cannot be accomplished without help.
I've seen a few films in which Mullan has played a small, supporting role; but Joseph is the sort of character that allows him to shine as a merciless dramatic performer. The film in a whole is not a particularly pleasant experience, and while Considine's overall filmmaking techniques that range from taut suspense to bleak depictions of broken down North England neighborhoods certainly contribute to the mood, Mullan's acting expertise prove to be the heart and soul of the picture and its rather grand success. Then there's Olivia Colman, who I only know from another British production - the hilarious cop/buddy comedy "Hot Fuzz" -. She really surprised me here, only having known her from that one movie. Of course, "Tyrannosaur" and "Hot Fuzz" are two very different films, but I don't really see anything in common between the Colman performances in either film, when I put them side-by-side. But maybe that is - in itself - the magic and charm of the performance and the performer. These are two very diverse and talented actors who should have been recognized by the Academy for their brave work in this film.
You probably won't enjoy watching "Tyrannosaur". I know I didn't. It's one of the coldest, meanest, and saddest movies I have ever had the pleasure - or displeasure - to see (or rather, endure). But if you can get through the entirety of it, there is an impressive reward to be found at the end. No, it isn't a message - the only one I can think of here is the familiar "life sucks and then you die" spiel - but rather an aftertaste, and whether you like the film or not isn't going to matter at this point. The film is going to leave you feeling something; whether it's emptiness, fulfillment, a tear rolling down your cheek, or a sense of emotional isolation. In all honesty, Considine's film made me feel all of those things, and more. Joseph is an identifiable cinematic anti-hero in the vein of Travis Bickle and Norman Bates; we know his pain, we would love to just lash out at material things like he does, but we have self-control, something he lacks. The real tragedy is that Joseph was damned at birth; however many he went through, figuratively, in life.
Okay, the film isn't that bad slow, but it does get rather dull, sometimes to the point of being unengaging. That lack of engagement certainly isn't helped by the lack of immediate development, as well as some loosely-edited scenes and repetition. Running at just a tiny bit over an hour-and-a-half, this film can't totally afford to not have overdrawn scenes and repetition, but it does slow down the film to the point of feeling as though it's drifting along in a somewhat meditative fashion. Meditative storytelling is almost always problematic, but what you probably wouldn't expect is the fact that meditative storytelling is something that an emotional character study like this can't afford to have. It makes the emotion feel overstylized, but most of all, manipulative, an also problematic element exacerbated by melodramatic writing, particularly when it comes to the dislikable tertiary, and even some secondary character that seem almost wildly exaggerated, with the writer going so far as to have almost every person spout out the most vile obscenities every other word; and no, I'm not usually offended by obscenities, unless it's overdone or totally beyond the realm of realism, and boy, the stuff they say in here is so ridiculous, I was waiting for some bum to stare at a child, dead in the eyes, and begin firing off F-bombs like a 14-year-old that just got "Showtime"; and sure enough, they wasted no time in having that early on. It's stuff like this that damages the message and intentions of a drama like this, and for this particular film to be all message and intentions, it should, by all counts, be utterly forgettable. However, this film is more than that, because for all of its manipulations and exaggerations, director Paddy Considine knows how to back himself up when he needs to.
I jokingly alluded to it in the opener, but I'd like to further discuss this film's super manipulative opening, in which Peter Mullan's character, Joseph, in a fit of rage, kicks his dog, accidentally to death, and then proceeds to carry him home, hold his paw and let it limply fall to the sofa, and then bury him. Now, call me heartless, but unless it's a cat (Man, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" was brutal), I'm hardly, if at all moved by the death of an they have developed no early resonance for, particularly when it comes to dogs, because it's so manipulative and so overused to the point of desensitizing even some of the most caring people who have seen the trick pulled over and over again. However, here, Considine does manage to summon that resonance, and although it is still manipulative, it's effective and sets up the emotional tone for the rest of the film. From then on, he keeps emotional resonance going when he has to, and although things get a little too manipulative to buy, more often than not, you're touched by all this. Of course, what might carry the resonance the most are the performers. Where Olivia Coleman's character, Hannah, loses her faith, Peter Mullan's character, Joseph, regains his faith, but no matter which side of the spectrum you're on, the performers carry their weight with much compelling emotion and layers. Both performers are at their highest as the film draws to its conclusion, and as we watch our performers complete their transformation, it's hard not to feel the power of it all wash over you and leave you with much to ponder over; and it's all thanks to Considine's deeply emotional direction, as well as Mullan and Coleman's deeply emotional lead performances.
In conclusion, its looseness, slowness and repetition creates a meditative atmosphere to manipulate the emotional manipulation created by spotty writing; but what Paddy Considine lacks in writing emotion, he makes up for in directing emotion, which is further carried by the strong lead performances by Peter Mullan and Olivia Coleman, ultimately leaving "Tyrannosaur" to stand as an improvable, but still generally effective emotional film.
2.5/5 - Fair
This film is cruel, violent, very gritty and just downright grim. Anyone with half a heart or conscience (and in fairness those who dont) is given the full blast of all the injustices and pain that life has to offer. But this is not demonstrated for titillation or the sheer fun of it. It is done to show that class or wealth is no guarantee of a life without violence or abuse and this film probably tries to suggest that all our lives are subject to these issues? I think it also tries to show how difficult it is to change your life once you get into a rut or the cumulative effect of an abusive relationship. Once your self esteem is damaged, then its a rocky road as you end up believing that you deserve to be where you are? But there are positives if you persist and you might even take joy in some of the darker moments towards the end?
Special mention to the lead performances. You are encouraged to dislike Joseph and this isn't difficult to do but paradoxically, I also found myself willing him on as the story progressed yet chastised myself for doing so. Hannah is someone I would be privileged to call my friend. Giving, loving, unselfish and warm yet her kindness is seen as a weakness by most. Colman plays this role in such a way that you would forgive her for anything and my heart bled for her on many occasions and I desperately wanted her to be happy in her life as I felt that is what she deserved. Also gotta mention Marsan as I like him in almost everything he turns his hand to.
A couple of questions that I found myself asking afterwards (always a good indicator of a film IMHO) were If someone recognises their faults but carrys on regardless, is this enough to cut them slack? Also, if you find love or comfort in someone that deep down you know is a "wrongun", do you deserve the bad that will inevitably follow?