Preest is a masked vigilante detective, searching for his nemesis on the streets of Meanwhile City, a monolithic fantasy metropolis ruthlessly governed by faith and religious fervor. Esser is a broken man, searching for his wayward son amongst the rough streets of London's homeless. Milo is a heartbroken thirty-something desperately trying to find a way back to the purity of first love. Emilia is a beautiful art student; her suicidal art projects are becoming increasingly more complex and deadly.
Directed by: Gerald McMorrow
. Starring: Eva Green
, Ryan Phillippe
, Sam Riley
, Bernard Hill
, James Faulkner
, Stephen Walters
, Art Malik
, Susannah York
, Richard Coyle
, Kika Markham
, Helmut Christian Kirchmeier
, Hilary Sesta
, Matthew Flynn
. Music by: Joby Talbot
It's not fair to criticise just for the sake of it, but it's not possible to state my criticisms without spoilering the movie big-time. So if you don't want to read spoilers, stop here.
We have four seemingly unconnected story threads. One concerns a man called Preest (Ryan Phillippe) wearing a full-face hood in a dystopic alternative reality place called Meanwhile City, where he expects to carry out an assassination. The second concerns Esser (Bernard Hill), travelling from Cambridge to London in search of his son. The third concerns Emilia (Eva Green), carrying out suicide attempts as a kind of performance art project. The fourth involves Milo (Sam Riley), moping around with all sorts of personal problems following his wedding not taking place. These threads limp slowly onwards with nothing much happening until the two-thirds mark at which point we finally begin to find stuff out (spoilers start here). We discover that Preest is actually Esser's son, that he is a mentally disturbed serviceman who has escaped from a mental hospital, killing someone as he did so, and that Meanwhile City is nothing but a highly detailed delusion. And we discover that Milo has had an imaginary friend Sally since childhood who helps him through bad times: played by Eva Green in a bad red wig, she has now put in a reappearance. Things come to a conclusion when Preest invades Emilia's flat in order to carry out the assassination of his father (who is someone else in Preest's fantasy) in the restaurant across the road. Preest shoots and wounds Milo (who has accepted that fantasy Sally doesn't really exist) and blows himself up in Emilia's flat. Emilia (who, of course, looks like Sally, what with Eva Green playing both of them) and Milo, both wounded (both physically and psychologically, see, I got that) stumble into each other's arms, the end.
I have no problem with movies which present narratives in fantasy and real worlds, where the former can be explained by reference to the latter (Wizard of Oz, A Matter of Life and Death etc.). Neither do I have a problem with stories where seemingly disconnected threads twine together by the conclusion - after all, if you track back any incident in real life to origin points in the lives of participants, then take those as individual starting points, you will end up with something which looks like coincidence.
My problems came from something rather more fundamental. Number one, the four stories simply weren't very good. For much of the film I found myself thinking "When these threads finally make contact with each other, the payoff had better be spectacular if it's going to justify sitting through this tedium." Well, the payoff was distressingly inadequate.
Number two, while I don't have any problem with coincidence per se, I do like my coincidences to be credible. The denouement here required three certifiable nutjobs (schizo soldier, suicidal art student, full-on imaginary befriender) to wind up in the same place at the same time for no reason other than coincidence. Pull the other one, do.
Number three, you could have removed Milo's thread completely and it would have had no effect on the rest of the movie. That shows how completely inconsequential it was in terms of narrative importance.
Heaven knows I'm not a very demanding film-goer - I'm easily pleased, and have thoroughly enjoyed movies which have come in for some heavy duty criticism. But I do like to be entertained and I don't like being bored. This film bored me and failed to entertain me and left me feeling distinctly unsatisfied. I got the impression that the film thought it was a great deal cleverer than I thought it was. I encourage potential viewers to read Will Wright's criticisms - a well-reasoned critique from someone who knows what he's talking about.
Bernard Hill was excellent: his character was boring. Eva Green was excellent: her character Emilia wasn't boring (Sally was, though). She was sexy and deeply worrying - she can be very scary. She was much more scary than Ryan Phillippe who left no impression on me at all. Neither did Sam Riley.
Oh, and who or what is Franklyn? I know Bernard Hill queried seeing the name on some document or other (with no explanation or clarification), but did I miss it being mentioned elsewhere?
Review from the Internet Movie Database.