After many years of not really doing very much actor Ray Winstone returned to full-time acting, his first major role saw him acting in good friend Tim Roth’s movie The War Zone, an adaptation of the gritty novel by Alexander Stuart.
Teenager Tom (Freddie Cunliffe) is disturbed by his departure from London, all the friends he leaves behind and the style of life he has. Settling in a small Devon village, Tom gets to grips with life in a place where technology and new trends don’t even seem to exist; and with a family he feels strangely alienated from. His dad (Ray Winston) is a man of few words, and a nasty temper, his mother (Tilda Swinton) is heavily pregnant and fairly depressed, she too says very little. But it’s with his sister Jessie (Laura Belmont) that he finds the best connection. That is until one day walking along the rocky Devon coastline he finds an old army bunker, inside his father and sister are having sex.
The War Zone is a gruelling painful view of a family rocked to its very core by incest and abuse.
I remember first seeing The War Zone nearly 10 years ago, and its harsh visions stay with me to this day, I was reluctant to watch the movie again because I found that it sickened me the first time round. I can’t say that I found my second viewing anymore appealing, in fact I probably found it worse because I knew exactly what to expect. What I will say is that things that only casually passed by in my mind were to the forefront this time round.
Despite the importance of the message of this movie, and the interesting reactions to the events that happen within the movie, this is not a movie I’d recommend to anyone other than a hardened movie fan. The War Zone is the sort of picture that could put you off watching another British movie for some time, don’t worry I will explain why. Tim Roth the movies director had been studying a lot of European films of the early 80’s I can only assume, because he delivers those uncomfortable silences to this movie when really there does not need to be, almost like all the characters are on a deeper plane of intelligence than the viewer, these elongated scenes of nothing often go on for many minutes, just like those early 80’s European Art-House movies that had little story, and even lesser padding. Sadly The War Zone has rather a lot of story to tell, rammed into a small piece of time due to Roth’s decisions on how to shoot the movie. Although I’m not the greatest reader my partner is and she informs me that there was a lot missing from the novel that could have nicely gone into the movie in order to make it more agreeable to the average viewer. Instead Roth focuses on both the coldness of the location, and the family environment, and despite the problems I find it difficult to believe a family could be quite this cold. By the movies conclusion your still left with a lot of questions, something that I feel is only good in a movie that has taken your heart and soul, The War Zone is really not one of those.
A big issue with the movie is that you feel no empathy for any of the characters except for Jessie, but even then I kind of wanted to give her a good slap, she voluntarily goes to the bunker for sex, this is no heartless rape, while her father may have some strong mental influence you cannot help but think on some level of conscience she is almost inviting this activity. Outside of this rather disturbing relationship her social life hits the skids too engaging in all the sort of behaviour you’d least want your children too. But as for the character of the mother played by Tilda Swinton (an actress I can’t get to like either), I find her incredibly cold, and perhaps a little too knowing of what is going on under her own roof, although she does attempt to hide it.
The most disturbing part of the movie is the nudity, you may be shrugging your shoulders in disbelief, but let’s face it how many late 30 to early 40 year olds look good naked (unless they really take care of themselves), both Swinton and Winston are a little bit overweight, and incredibly unattractive, cellulite and rolls of fat are visible on every nude scene, also the duo seem somewhat dirty, I wanted to drag them off to the bathroom for a really good wash.
I personally feel that The War Zone lacks depth, the whole impact on the family is literally just touched upon, I’d like to have seen the outcome to a variety of events, because otherwise it almost seems to condone certain actions. The thing about The War Zone is you always read the same things, it’s a very important movie, it’s a tale that needed to be told; but how often do you see someone say that they really like the movie? These comments are few, far between, and frankly nonexistent. Yes The War Zone is an important story, but there are better ones, would I watch it again? Not until Hell freezes over!
Colin Farrell fans will be pleased to see the actor in one of his earliest onscreen performances. Shaun Of The Dead’s Kate Ashfield also has a small role.