LFF #4 – Blood

Welcome to our coverage of this year’s London Film Festival. We’ll be going live with an in-depth review of a specific film that’s playing at this year’s festival daily, while you can keep an eye on our Twitter feed for broader reaction. 

One of the greatest problems with making the transition from the small screen to the big is in the translation of the material. Despite what some might say, the two mediums remain very different, and no amount of “Cinema is dead, Long live HBO” grandstanding will change that. It’s not a question of quality, but more-so a matter of difference. In Blood we face an interesting prospect, in that not only is the source material a derivative of a work that originally appeared on television, but that the films director, Nick Murphy, is a figure whose past is ground firmly in episodic drama (although Murphy has already directed one feature, 2011’s supernatural Rebecca Hall thriller The Awakening). 

From an aesthetic’s perspective Murphy has successfully produced a work that is firmly cinematic. Eschewing the traditional tropes that one might expect of a film labelled loosely as a crime thriller, Murphy has gone out of his way to create a work that is ground in the mystique that one might expect of a product of the silver screen. He purposefully neglects to detail anything that would stipulate place or time, with the location an anonymous seaside locale that merges the real with the hyper-real. Similarly, Murphy prevented his cast from questioning or interacting with their real-life equivalents prior to heading in to production. As such, the protagonists behave like the sort of police figure one might expect to see in a movie, as opposed to one ground in realism. It’s a beautiful looking film too, courtesy of DoP George Richmond, with the heightened imagery and the impressive use of dark and light recalling David Fincher’s Seven at times.  

At the top of the cast stands Paul Bettany as the conflicted officer of the law whose own instinct proves fatally flawed. His tale plays out like something akin to a Greek tragedy, as the man pushed to the edge soon unravels when faced with the reality of his own actions (which in itself proves a neat twist on the reality skewing nature of the films stylistic pattern). Bettany is on something of a roll at the moment, following the quiet success of J.C. Chandor’s under-seen Margin Call. Stephen Graham and Mark Strong also turn in strong performances, each subverting the expectations that audiences may have of their particular character types (has Stephen Graham ever played a character this fragile?). It’s in this anarchic approach to character types and expectations that the film succeeds most impressively, as it adds an unpredictable element to what is traditional a rather ordinary type of picture.  

Looking in from the outside Blood may appear to be any one of the great number of works produced in this key in any given year, yet delving further inwards one is rewarded with a superior British crime drama. 

Blood has a tentative theatrical release date of March 2013. 

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