Brian Cox locks down atmospheric prison drama
DIR: RUPERT WYATT
ST: BRIAN COX, JOSEPH FIENNES, DAMIAN LEWIS, SEU JORGE
An excellent supporting actor, it’s rare that Brian Cox ever gets the chance to take centre stage. The last time was playing a paedophile in 2001’s drama about alienated suburban teens, L.I.E; now here, for debuting writer/director Rupert Wyatt, he plays another character on the wrong side of the law, albeit one striving to wring some meaning from his wasted existence.
Cox plays Frank Perry – currently serving a life sentence in prison – with a warmth and subtle performance that belies his physical bulk. Roused to escape by news of his daughter’s drug addiction, Perry recruits a team including taciturn pugilist Lenny (Joseph Fiennes) and drug dealer Viv (Seu Jorge). Prison guards aside, Perry’s biggest problem is boss-con Rizza (Damian Lewis) and his monstrous brother, who has sadistic designs on Frank’s young cellmate Lacey (Dominic Cooper).
Thanks to the hallucinatory multi-flashback structure, you’re kept wondering if they’ll get away and whether you can cling onto the storyline. Wyatt shot on a shoestring in London and Dublin and wrapped it in a hectic 26 days, having successfully created a hellish “prison that time forgot”, all sweltering heat and claustrophobia. It’s a world away from big budget movies like Bourne and X-Men that dot his CV, but clearly the kind of vital, energised film making Cox responds to.