Sunday, November 27, 2011

Tyrannosaur: Power in Faith; Peril in Reality

Written and Directed By: Paddy Considine
Starring: Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, and Eddie Marsan
Director of Photography: Erik Wilson, Editor: Pia Di Ciaula, Production Designer: Simon Rogers, Original Music: Dan Baker and Chris Baldwin
Rated: Unrated, but brutal violence and explicatives throughout.

            Bad things are all around the world of Paddy Considine’s Trannosaur, which begins with a dog being kicked to death and ends in bloody violence. The gray skies pepper this grisly drama that is more of a punch to the gut as it observes the lives of two people living in a brutal world. Mr. Considne, a great actor known for roles in In America and The Bourne Ultimatum, brings the same aesthetic to his writing and directing as his acting: everything is raw and unfiltered, as he explores a story of faith.

            The film begins with Joseph (Peter Mullan), slowly banging a bat against his head, as if trying to smash the demons of his past back into his head. Joseph lives alone in a small English town (as someone mostly unfamiliar with the country, it’s very difficult to say if it’s a particular region) where he mostly drinks, swears, and beats people to a bloody pulp. His only friend is a young kid who lives across the street with an unsympathetic mother and a dangerous boyfriend. After one particularly nasty day, Joseph runs into a donation store where a middle-aged Christian woman named Hannah works.

            Played with ferocious repressed energy by Olivia Colman, Hannah doesn’t scream for the police. Instead, she slowly approaches him and prays for him. This act of kindness both infuriates and enlightens Joseph, so much that he returns to her shop over and over, first to question her faith but then to discover her. Hannah may have placed her faith in God, but it appears she has turned more in circumstances after an extremely abusive husband (Eddie Marsan), who greets her one evening by pissing on her while she pretends to sleep. The film’s title comes from how Joseph describes the lumbering sounds of his now deceased wife, but what Mr. Consdine suggests is we all have the power of an angry beast, waiting to be unleashed. Some show it by each day, and others hide it under a happy fa├žade and a smile, just waiting for the perfect moment of an unsuspecting prey.

            Tyrannosaur is not an easy film to watch by any measure with its brutal depictions of violence and abuse, and Mr. Considine never shies away from it. At a point, the film almost takes too many punches, when shying away would reveal more. While Mr. Mullan and especially Ms. Colman bring an authenticity to their characters, Mr. Considine as a writer still has some issues—the theme of religion is quite a unique one for this story, but he never pushes it past a surface interest, and the final five minutes take an easy way out by adding a voiceover coda that skips perhaps what would have gotten at some of the film’s most emotional truths.

            But it’s Ms. Colman’s performance of sound and fury that lasts much longer than any narrative issues. With a quiet stature and beautiful smile, Ms. Colman plays between complex lines as she slowly reveals a woman in need of dire help that she must turn to a despicable man to find any sort of relief. “I’m safe with you,” she tells Joseph at one point; a fact that confuses him more than comforts him. When she screams and unleashes her own sound and fury though, is when Ms. Colman transforms from the innocent prey to the titular predator. 

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