In a few reviews of films based on true stories, I have mentioned that I can find it hard to be fully engrossed in them when I know how the stories end. I’ve also mentioned before how it really annoys me when films put so much of the story in the trailer that the entire film is playing catch up to the trailer when you watch it. Who’d have thought I’d finally see a film that combines both? Lucky me!
I’m not underestimating that by the way, if you watch the trailer then you’ve seen the film. I mean, sure you miss the final five minutes (possibly less), but other than that the trailer is basically a condensed version of the film. I kept waiting to see something new, to see a plot point that propelled the final third of the film into an area I didn’t expect, but nope, just same old, same old.
I think this films biggest problem is it’s a bit too Colin Firth-ey, not Tom Hardy-ey enough. Colin First is a great actor, this cannot be denied, but a lot of films he is in, they tend to be kind of twee and lovely. Tom Hardy, however, chooses film roles in films that could break your spirit. That’s what this film needed. It needed darkness, it needed to stop focusing on beautiful scenery (and it is beautiful, don’t get me wrong) and focus more on inner turmoil. It also needed to stop CUTTING AWAY FROM THE MAIN CHARACTER. I mean, seriously, the film is about a man hopelessly lost and completely isolated from those he loves. The most effective way to do this would be to keep him as the main focus, you focus so much on his on this small boat that you begin to feel trapped with him. You begin to miss the other characters just as much as he does, you feel his loss. This film doesn’t give you an opportunity to do that, it continually cuts back and forth between him and his family, in both the present and the past. I get why they did that, it’s showing what he’s missing and has left behind, I just REALLY don’t agree with it. If they didn’t show that nobody would think “yeah, it’s just his family though, why’s he so bothered about that?”. It’s his family so the initial assumption is that he loves them very much, we don’t need to see it and the fact we do hurts the flow of the film and means we never really get to feel trapped with him, because narratively we’re not.
There’s a great story told somewhere within this film, I just felt the director was the wrong choice. I’m not saying James Marsh is a bad director, but not every story is suitable for some directors, you wouldn’t expect Tim Burton to do a historical drama, if Michael Bay was doing the new Saw it would be a mess. Marsh’s style is focused on beauty, this film needed to be uglier to work, then it could have been truly spectacular.