The War Zone Reviews
This is a remarkably dark drama. The pace is slow and the mood is always heavy. While I understand that the story and subject matter fit the dreary atmosphere, I couldn't help but think that I'd rather slit my wrists than continue watching.
There is little energy behind most of the performances, which often amount to pensive, angry looks in steady shots. This is true save Ray Winstone, whose character has life and a humanity despite his depravity. The one compelling moment is in the third act when Tom finally confronts his father with his suspicions. Winstone gets to show off his talent, but the rest of the cast is left in the miasma of the film's heavy climate.
I realized just now what would/could have made this film perfect: more scenes with dialogue between the brother and sister. Just more verbal communication between those two would have altogether changed the dynamic of the film from nihilistic and bleh to ambiguous and arresting.
For the most part, I will just bitch because I'd get quickly tired of making a list of all the things that this film does well. I will say the setting is my favorite component.
This is quite emotionally loaded for being so slow, uneventful, and unevenly paced; that's because when something does happen, it is gigantically dramatic like (SPOLIERS) a graphic car wreck with the entire family racing an in-labor Mum to the hospital or Dad anally raping Jess while Tom watches .
A family has moved from London to a remote seaside area where they are isolated with their immediate familial problems: Mum has just had a baby, Tom is coming of age sexually, and Dad is fucking Tom's older sister who is close in age to Tom. The story is meant by cinematic suggestion to be told from Tom's point of view, but that is a major deficit as I feel his character is so underdeveloped to the extent that he has no uniqueness besides his detached demeanor.
Everyone besides the actor for Tom delivers intriguing and multi-layered performances or real people. Perhaps Tom is meant to be stilted and removed, like the camera that simply records. It would mean that we have to do a lot of filling in the blanks for Tom's internal monologue, so in a way, our thoughts could become projected as Tom's. So whether or not the director intended this, it works.
There are some detrimental sound mix issues, as some of the dialogue is inaudible even at quiet moments, and then the ocean roars or engine drones over the already near-muted speaking.
This is a very bleak film, both in color tones and story theme. I doubt there is much of a traditional market for a work this serious about itself, but those who do see it certainly will not feel any closure about this film.
Ultimate in conveying the ambiguity of reality to a point that you will be left in an ambiguity haze after seeing this film. That's what makes this so good and ALMOST earned it an extra half star; it is an art house melodrama that does what it's meant to. Watch to find out.
Anyway, it seemed kind of pointless, as dramas usually are. The rape scene was kind of cool, but then, I like rape scenes (which is why I found the movie in the first place, I have strange interests). Um.. yeah and the brother was really creepy which didn't help the 'believability'. The dad was really good though.
'The War Zone' follows an isolated British family living in the lush green hills somewhere in England. The family consists of a dad (Ray Winstone - Sexy Beast), a mum (Tilda Swinton - The Deep End), a baby (Megan Thorp), a in-her-late-teens daughter (Lara Belmont) and a in-his-younger-teens son (Freddie Cunliffe) who's perspective the film is shot from. Everything seems to be going so excellent for this new family with the new baby and all, until one day the son sees something he's not supposed to -- the dad molesting the daughter. This tears this seemingly happy family apart and it comes to a huge, yucky boil at the end of the feature.
'The War Zone' moves a little slow towards the beginning but in a way that it is it's only flaw. Tim Roth does a semi-amateurish but mostly consistent job directing while Alexander Stuart provides an incredible screenplay that should have picked up an Oscar nomination. The cast is astounding with a powerhouse lead performance from Ray Winstone that proves him to be perhaps one of the finest British actors working in film today. Tilda Swinton is excellent for the limited screen time her character as 'mum' has, while the movie in a way belongs to the kids. Freddie Cunliffe is extraordinary in his role, while newcomer Lara Belmont is spellbinding in every scene and never ceases to bring emotion out of the viewer. Supposedly she was working at 'Burger King' before she did the film. I think it's safe to say she won't be working there anymore. The camera-work is really low-budget and the DVD frustrated me because it had no subtitles.
All in all, Tim Roth's 'The War Zone' is an amazing motion picture but a crappy DVD. The poorly-formatted DVD is worth buying just because of the awesome quality of the movie itself. If you love and appreciate film and think you have a strong enough stomach for this one, be sure to do a 100-meter dash to the videostore and snag a copy of 'The War Zone'. Grade: A-
Roth's direction is moody and austere--it emphasizes the simple details of domestic life, and the ways in which families unwittingly collude to avoid the truth. They live in a comfortable cottage on the countryside, sheltered from city living, where life revolves around the kitchen table. Roth favors scenes that appear to be about nothing: Mum (Tilda Swinton) talking on the phone in the background, while in the foreground Dad (Ray Winstone), bounces the new baby. He lingers on these uneventful moments -- as if to imply that such genial routine can provide a smoke screen. One of the lingering questions is whether Swinton's character knows what's going on. The son begins to suspect of incest, piecing together evidence, but unsure of how to address the abuse.
The performances are excellent throughout--but perhaps the most impressive scene is a raw exchange between the two non-professionals, Freddie Cunliffe and Lara Belmont. As she implores him to physically abuse her by placing a cigarette lighter to her bare breast. Her desire to manifest her psychic scars, and her mistaken belief in her complicity are unbearably heartbreaking. Belmont's performance is stunning and painful. Cunliffe does credit to Tom by underplaying his role, and reacting that builds to a dramatic breaking point. The final shot of the film is of the siblings huddled together alone in the bunker. It's framed like a painting, and held long enough that the pain and damage done to these children is apparent to every viewer in the audience. When the credits begin to roll, you are almost powerless to move. A father who loves his children, and wants the best for them -- but can't stop himself from destroying what he cherishes most.