View Full Version : THE VETERAN (Matthew Hope, 2011)

Paul L
08-31-2011, 05:59 PM
This has just been released on home video here, and I watched it tonight. I thought it was a great little film, albeit a picture with some flaws and areas of confusion.

It opens with an almost wordless ten minute sequence depicting its protagonist Miller's (Toby Kebbell) return home to his council estate in Britain after serving with the Paras in Afghanistan. (IIRC, the 1988 film FOR QUEEN AND COUNTRY had a fairly similar opening sequence.) It's a great sequence which foregrounds Miller's alienation - making great use of some visual tricks to emphasise this (a reverse zoom dolly as Miller washes dishes at his kitchen sink, for example). There's a similarly effective sequence later in the movie, when Miller finds himself on some rooftops at night, as on the soundtrack we hear radio communications that underline the flashback that Miller seems to be having.

Back home, Miller finds the estate overrun by a gang of yobbos. Finding it difficult to adjust to civilian life, Miller is eventually recruited by a man who claims to work for the Home Office (played by none other than the great Brian Cox) to help with the tracking down of a group of 'sleeper cells'. At the end of the film, the two narratives (the yobbos on the estate and the plot dealing with the sleeper cells) dovetail quite nicely.

It's a very bleak little film, with a very naturalistic depiction of Miller's environment. There's some haunting (symbolic?) use of semi-derelict environments, especially in the closing sequence in which the estate that Miller lives on is clearly meant to function as a metaphor for some of the zones of conflict Miller experienced during his time in the Parachute Regiment.

There are some flaws: the climax is quite clumsy, for example. However, what I liked most about the film was that it took its time: it's definitely a slow-burner, and reading some of the reviews on the Internet, the film's pace seems to alienate quite a few viewers. The moments of violence are sudden and abrupt (think of some of the scenes of violence in Johnnie To's ELECTION, and you're halfway there), defying Hollywood conventions. I will also add the the missus didn't like some of the areas of ambiguity and the downbeat resolution, but I thought the ending was perfect and liked the fact that the filmmakers didn't feel it necessary to spell everything out for the audience and left some narrative events (eg, the fates of two central characters) shrouded in ambiguity.

The promo material for the film references HARRY BROWN, but to my mind this was more like TAXI DRIVER, FIGHTING BACK, THE DEFIANCE or THE EXTERMINATOR.

I'm assuming this will/has been released outside the UK. It's worth tracking down.

There's a trailer here:

There's a good line by one of the antagonists - 'We're all somebody's bitch now' - that sums of the film's worldview pretty nicely.

The Silly Swede
08-31-2011, 06:02 PM
I agree completely. It feels a bit clumsy all through and there are to many loose ends. For queen and country was much better in capturing the feel also. This feels a bit to cliché. Brian Cox is underused and it feels a bit like they tried to mix to genres and failed, in the "ghetto" movie and the "spy" movie.

Still, worth seeing but it isn't exactly a masterpiece.

Paul L
08-31-2011, 06:09 PM
Yep. I'm trying not to 'spoil' the film for anyone who hasn't seen it, but Cox's final scene felt rushed and the ideas put forward in it were underdeveloped (imo, of course); this is probably my biggest gripe with it. But it's definitely better than most of the British films I've seen over the past few years.