Opening the Gates: A look ahead to the British indie films of 2010

You might be forgiven for missing a few new films this past Christmas season, given the gargantuan shadow Avatar has cast across our cinemas but maybe next time, with a bit more warning, you might notice that the British indie is on the way up. Celador€™s Slumdog Millionaire success could well have made waves enough to assure more financial risk on the British film slates; possible too that we€™re now settling into the digital age, giving way to cheaper HD shoots or maybe it€™s that finally the UK is honing something more satisfying than grit-flicks and costume dramas into the feature format? Whatever it is there has been a host of quality British films recently from new directors, now sidling up to the Danny Boyles' and Shane Meadows€™ of the UK cinema scene. After the jump, a review of the surprisingly large number of Brit films 2010 has delivered us already, and a close look at some great looking titles yet to come... The Christmas season started early for home-grown indies when Paul King€™s feature debut Bunny and the Bull slid onto the psychedelic helter-skelter with an inventive and bizarre tale of a Boosh-esque duo on an imaginary European road trip. We then saw into Turner Prize nominee Sam Taylor Wood€™s Nowhere Boy; an intimate window into the life of a young John Lennon (now gaining notoriety in the US with a release from The Weinstein Co. scheduled for the 27th of January). Mat Whitecross€™ warts-and-all biopic of Ian Dury,Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll is pacey, vibrant and features a truly Oscar-worthy performance from Andy Serkis. Then, just last week, yet another debut feature opened to critical acclaim with Malcolm Venville€™s kidnap/gangster flick 44 Inch Chest. To name a few, but it seems that despite the recession, the British film industry is healthier than ever with even more in store for the coming year. 2010 will see daring directorial debuts from the likes of Christopher Morris (The Day Today, Brass Eye) in the jihadist comedy Four Lionsto a double whammy of 9th Legion films from Neil Marshall (The Descent, Dog Soldiers) in Centurion and Kevin Macdonald (Last King of Scotland, Touching the Void) with The Eagle of the Ninth. Whatever the secret ingredients spicing our burgeoning scene, I say keep it coming and hopefully, with some luck (and another few Oscars!) there€™ll plenty more en-route to be excited about. Here€™s a little taster of the indie films I€™m tipping to be larger than life this year:

Never Let Me Go

Status: Post-production Opening: 2010 Director: Mark Romanek Cast: Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins Based on the Kazuo Ishiguro novel of the same name that was short-listed for the 2005 Booker Prize, Never Let Me Go is the story of a group of friends struggling to piece together the memories of their past in order to understand their role in a refreshingly cliché-free dystopian future. With a screenplay adaptation by writer Alex Garland (The Beach, Sunshine), a great cast and a €˜hot€™ director NLMG promises to be an awards contender, but having been in post-production for so long it€™s possible they€™ll delay further and we won€™t see anything until closer to the 2011 awards season. Please please never let me go . . . on that long!

Four Lions

Status: Completed Opening: 2010 Director: Christopher Morris Cast: Riz Ahmed, Kayvan Novak, Nigel Lindsay, Adeel Akhtar, Arsher Ali Christopher Morris has never been one to shy away from controversial subject matter and his latest comedy offering may well be his most inflammatory yet €“ a comedy about four British terrorists plotting to bomb public places in London. A statement issued by the production company Warp Films goes some way to putting this in context:
€˜As €œSpinal Tap€ understood heavy metal and €œDr. Strangelove€ the Cold War, €œFour Lions€ understands modern British jihadis.€™
Four Lions premiered last weekend at the Sundance Film Festival, but there is as yet no date set for release or screenings here in the UK.

Submarine

Status: Post-production Opening: 2010 Director: Richard Ayoade Cast: Craig Roberts, Noah Taylor, Paddy Considine, Sally HawkinsSubmarine is a comedy that follows a 15-year-old boy with two objectives: to lose his virginity before his next birthday and to stop his mother from leaving his father for her dance teacher. With this feature film directorial debut from actor/comedian Richard Ayoade (Garth Marenghi€™s Darkplace, The IT Crowd), based on the novel by Joe Dunthorne and boasting such a brilliant cast, we can be sure our funny bones will snap like fortune cookies revealing one fate; that of dying; of laughter.

Centurion

Status: Post-production Opening: 23 April 2010 Director: Neil Marshall Cast: Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko, Noel Clarke, David Morrissey One can only speculate as to why Celador€™s latest film has been held back until this year as everything looked set for an autumn release in 2009, but finally there€™s news that Neil Marshall€™s Roman centurion epic will hit UK cinemas this year on April 23rd. The film depicts a splinter group of Roman soldiers fighting for their lives behind enemy lines after their legion is decimated in a devastating attack. With a solid squad of actors and a past of tense and thrilling action films from Marshall, Centurion is likely to reinvigorate that old Gladiator nostalgia in all of us.

The Eagle of the Ninth

Status: Post-production Opening: 2010 Director: Kevin Macdonald Cast: Channing Tatum, Mark Strong, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland Another Roman epic set to stir some ancient blood lust in their Saxon descendents is Kevin Macdonald€™s The Eagle of the Ninth, a tale of a young Roman soldier searching for his lost legion€™s golden emblem in order to honour his Father€™s memory. Yes, it is the same legion destroyed at the outset of Marshall€™s Centurion €“ a strange coincidence that a thousand-year-old event is being depicted in two separate British films released at almost the same time, so naturally comparisons will be drawn. However, from the emotional stills released late last year and bolstered by the masterful depiction of human suffering in previous films by Macdonald, TEOTN looks to be more of a coming-of-age-drama-epic than an action-thriller-epic and so there is hope that there will arise two distinct visions from the settling dust of that bloody massacre. Whilst I love to see emerging talent and new directors whittling away at their craft there are plenty of Brit films due out this year from major directors that deserve a mention too: The latest €œUntitled Mike Leigh Project€ by, guess what, when and who, Mike Leigh should give us another funny and insightful look into some poor souls world whilst Route Irish by Ken Loach will undoubtedly tell a gut-wrenching account of a private contractor in the Iraq war. Danny Boyle€™s 127 Hours is due to start shooting soon but unlikely to get turned around for a 2010 release and so it€™s more likely that this time next year I€™ll give it a mention!? In the meantime, here€™s a still from Neil Jordan€™s new film Ondine of Colin Farrell and Alicja Bachleda €“ enough to get every man and woman glued to their seats; sizzling!
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