Wyatt ,UK/Ireland, 2008, 102 mins
Cast: Brian Cox, Liam Cunningham, Dominic Cooper
Review by Carol Allen
First time feature director Wyatt has assembled
a terrific cast for this downbeat drama set in an men's prison.
Cox plays Frank Perry, resigned to doing his time, which
in his case means life. Until that is he learns that his
beloved only daughter is critically ill. In order to see
her before it's too late, he decides to escape and recruits
a small team of fellow prisoners to join in the plan. Sounds
like a fairly straightforward plot. But there's rather more
to it than that, as Wyatt's story intercuts between the planning
of the escape and its execution, revealing his characters
and ultimately leaving the audience with an intriguing unanswered
question, which makes you look back over the film and reassess
what you have seen.
The first thing that strikes one is
that if life in prison is even half as awful as shown in
this film, as a society we should be doing something to
improve it. The grinding boredom, the noise, the smelliness,
which is communicated visually and the dehumanizing effect
of this enclosed lifestyle makes for uncomfortable viewing.
It's reminiscent of all those American prison movies but
with a British contemporary voice. The location of the
prison itself is left deliberately unspecified, as are
the crimes which have put these men inside. The main characters
are strongly drawn. Cox as Frank and Cunningham as Brodie
are like two grizzled old bears as they hatch the escape
plan over their games of dominoes. Jospeh Fiennes as escape
team member Lenny, whose main characteristic is his enthusiasm
for boxing, is the least well defined but up and coming
Cooper (The History Boys) as the
vulnerable rookie James, whom Frank takes under his wing,
when James is threatened by the prison's hard men, is very
good indeed. Said hard men are played by Damian Lewis, chilling
as Rizza, the man who rules the roost in this claustrophobic
all male world and Steven Macintosh doing his twitchy psycho
menace number as Rizza's sadistic, drug addict brother Tony.
The scene where Tony rapes James, a staple of many prison
movies, is effectively scary and disturbing without rubbing
our noses in the details. The inter cutting between the planning
and the escape itself is a bit tricky to follow until you
get the hang of it but Wyatt maintains the tension; helped
by some effectively edgy soundtrack music and Cox in particular
communicates a lot about his character with very little dialogue.
The scene where his wife visits him in jail and he is totally
unable to talk to her speaks volumes in particular.
It’s all very brutal and male
but has a freshness about its approach, which bodes well
for Wyatt's future work. He is a very promising new talent.