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Friday, 19 September 2008

Eden Lake, 2008 - Movie Review

Director: James Watkins
Starring: Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender
Running time: 91 minutes

Score: 8/10

This review by Alex Chambers. May contain spoilers.


Rarely does a film manage to anger me in such a myriad of ways as Eden Lake did.

The film's premise is that of a couple spending a romantic weekend at a disused quarry before it is built over for apartments. Whilst enjoying the sites of the beautiful Eden Lake, they run into a gang of loutish youths. What begins as thuggish behaviour, slowly escalates into the couple being more and more pushed by the kids until the crescendo is reached and the couples car is stolen (by the kids, as seen in a later scene.) Our 'protagonist' asks for his keys back as the kids, amused, profess innocence. As the intensity increases, knifes are suddenly pulled out and during a struggle, the groups dog is killed. Thus starts an extreme, horrific, and infuriating ride that is Eden Lake.

I said at the start that this film enraged me, and to begin with it was for all the wrong reasons. Yet again, I thought I was about to endure a stereotypical classification of young chavs as poor, stupid, and one track minded - thugs of society that have no respect for anything. And to begin with this is what we get, a classic case of the good vs evil, an innocent couple plagued by a younger generation with no morals.

And then the film flips itself around with a monumental scene following the aftermath of the dogs death. Before, the group were all enraged by this act against them during the night, but then as the camera follows the girlfriend towards noise in the coming day, we see Steve tied up, beaten severely and bleeding profusely. The scene that follows is impeccably done, just enough realistic, cold barbarity with reason as the leader forces the doubters into cutting the man so that they are all 'in on it' - a horrifying extremity of the weapon that is peer pressure, all whilst being videoed by the girl of the group. It is here that the characters come to life, the ones that follow the larger, goaded in by acceptance into a group, ones that do not mind laughing when nothing is at stake but humiliation. However, once the reality of excessive force is shoved in their face, and the situation is starting to unfold into an all too real nightmare, their morality comes calling and the plead to take it no further, here we see the main thug (played very well by the young actor) for what he is, a 'headcase' as one of his friends puts it.

Yet, this glimmer of rationality dissipates, and they fold to fear and act, cutting the innocent man that lies before them where the others have done so before them. Then starts the chase of the girlfriend. The cinematography is stunning, the level of grime upon the character of Jenny growing as the darkness of the film broods.

Up until this point, we still had the good vs evil, the plagued woman trying to escape her brutal assailants, and this is where the genius of the film escalates with a simple yet harrowing scene. She breaks the glass of a nature reserve stand in order to retrieve a map, sees the glass and, after hesitating, rips some of her dress off to wrap around the slither of glass - a weapon has been made. On comes one of the younger boys that was so hesitant before. He approaches cautiously, and with the look in his eyes it is apparent he wishes her to escape so the nightmare can be over for him just as much her. She whips round and stabs him straight in the neck, a shocking scene as she has become the feral monsters she tried to escape from, eye for an eye, revenge being the only driving factor. Slowly it dawns on her what she done to the young boy and he slowly dies in her arms as she screams in horror of what she has become, what she feels she was pushed to do.

THIS is where the real conflict and message of the films is placed for me. Do we act on revenge? Is an eye for an eye a motto to live by, and is that acceptable? She aimed for the neck, she aimed to kill, and in the aftermath, we find ourselves feeling sympathy for the dead child, an innocent victim of youth culture. Or is he? Along with another child that dies later on, are these children truly innocent? They did wish it to escalate yet they did nothing, they protested meekly but did not stand up as a group. Later, the girl who videoed everything runs away, she has had enough. Jenny sees her in the road, hit the accelerator and mows her down with no sympathy.

This is a film that highlights and is commenting on the worrying state of today's troubled British youth, and how often it only takes one to start off a chain of events which escalates out of control. Yes, this situation is an extremity, but it is not too far-fetched, you only need to take a glance at the amount of youth stabbings in the last year to realise this.

We only need to pick up a paper to hear about yet another stabbing or act of warrant destruction. This film gives depth to those characters and does not display them as simply mindless dregs. Yes it is extreme, but that is the point, to highlight a stark extremity with horrifying plausibility.
Perhaps the film is so powerful because of its stark reality. There is no boogeyman, alien, or ghost here - these are children, children tainted by those with troubles (end of the film hints at why, brilliant) and it is in that horrific plausibility, that we find the truly gripping and infuriating anger at the injustice of it all.


Have you seen it? Do you agree or disagree with the review?
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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

This movie is well done. It is really disturbing to sit 91 minutes of enraging scenes of hostility and emotional rollercoaster only to see the ending much more depressing. I usually do not watch this type of movie, but after seeing it, I thought I needed some counseling. Much worse, I couldn’t sleep the night I watch it. It is stuck with me for a while.

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