By Craig Singleton (Wigan, England)
starred-up-1

 

One of the most ambitious prison based films since Shawshank comes from Scottish filmmaker David Mackenzie and boy does it shock you for its graphic content and its realism. The film stars Jack O’Connell as Eric Love though there’s not much love in him, at least in the start there’s not as he gets transferred from a youth offender institution to an adult prison hence the reason of the title name.

Now, coming from a youth offenders to an adult prison must be a very daunting prospect, but not for this kid. Eric is a young man without fear and wouldn’t let anyone step on his toes. Being in a prison without anyone to back you up can be dangerous as new prisoners can get a tough ride, but luckily for him his dad Neville played by Ben Mendelsohn is there and viewed as the top-dog. They don’t have a loving relationship and haven’t seen each other in a few years.

I thought the film would be about a father and son bonding and the son learning the ropes of how to cope everyday prison life, however Eric wants nothing to do with his dad. He wants to survive on his own and make believe the other inmates know that he’s not one to be messed with. Eric has extreme anger issues and bursts himself at another inmate in confusion of the situation so he gets landed in therapy to calm him down.

Okay, the film in the way it was shot was quite risky as there were no scores throughout until a climatic, chilling scene towards the end. Music can help create tension and drive emotion out of a viewer, but the film tries to make it look as real as possible by making the viewer hear the quiet, intense atmosphere. The fast cut edits is what gives the film it’s pace and shocking yet exciting scenes.

It is basically a boy becomes a man story in realizing his mistakes and trying to become a better person even though the system doesn’t always create for the perfect criteria to do so. Jack O’Connell, just like his performance in Eden Lake, is a beast so to speak as he’s a very welcome driving force. His acting is incredibly intense, serious and very committed. He has all the chances of being a big star with the upcoming biopic Unbroken coming out later this year which could be a strong contender in the awards season.

My score for the film is 84%. Lowest mark for soundtrack, highest for acting. There’s so much I can say about this impact-full drama that can having you thinking about it days after you’ve see it. It takes a hard look at prison life and doesn’t miss it’s opportunity to leave a mark.

 

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