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SYDNEY 2011 Review: TYRANNOSAUR

rating: 5

From its audacious profanity infused opening to its hard-hitting finale one can see why Paddy Considine's directorial debut was one of the talking points at Sundance. Set in the Northern town of Leeds, the film follows the volatile, foul-mouthed day-to-day existence of jobless widower Joseph (Peter Mullen) - a man prone to sudden uncontrollable bursts of violent retaliation and tortured by ghosts of the past. One day after vandalising a post office window he seeks refuge in a charity shop run by kind-hearted Christian-worker Hannah (Olivia Colman - a real revelation in a rare dramatic turn). Feeling his plight the Good Samaritan offers to help Joseph and prays for him. At first Joseph slams her for her god-worshiping ways and apparent idyllic middle-class existence, then later learns that Hannah's home life is far from rosy. It transpires that Hannah's husband James (Eddie Marsan - seriously scary) is a jealous possessive monster, prone to bouts of physical violence and sexual abuse. When James catches Hannah with Joseph in the shop it fuels another jealous rage which culminates with Hannah being beaten and raped. The events spur Joseph on for bloody revenge. What evolves is an uncompromising tale of friendship between tortured souls who believe in very different human values. Considine compels us to question whether a relationship between two people from opposite sides of the track can work or whether it is doomed to failure - revealing how outside forces continue to complicate the couples friendship. As the film progresses Hannah becomes emotionally unstable and more reliant on Joseph's hidden compassionate side - she is a lost lamb in a field of wolves. This is a harrowing and strangely captivating drama but one that never revels in predictability. It is often intense and features profound performances from an inspired cast. The story is principally driven by Peter Mullen - who is a tour-de-force as Joseph; his frequent outbursts of bad language and erratic behaviour hiding an emotionally perplexed soul. It is utterly heart-wrenching to see such a misguided character erupt into uncontrollable fits of rage and then breakdown into despair as the realisation of his acts come crashing down. The audience too are caught in a moral dilemma - not knowing whether to fear, feel pity for or be disgusted by Joseph's actions. It's a confronting predicament that is all the more unnerving for keeping you on the edge of uncertainty. Scenes of violence - particularly that of the domestic abuse Hannah suffers at the hands of her husband - are a difficult and intimidating watch. Particularly unnerving is a scene where Hannah, knowing she is in trouble with her husband, goes on an anxiety fuelled drinking binge to delay the inevitable abuse she will suffer when she returns home. Her predicament is all the more harrowing as she attempts to make tearful, continuous ill-fated apologetic calls to her husband. Colman is particularly impressive in these scenes - the fear and hopelessness of the situation is deeply heartfelt and terrifyingly tangible. But its not all depressingly grim - comedy emerges from the most unlikely of places. One of Joseph's misfit friend's swearing is so frequent it actually becomes comically endearing, while a wake is given a light-hearted touch of pleasing drunken proportions. Also the Spielberg inspiration behind the film's title is revealed in a bittersweet recital by Mullen. We learn that it was the nickname pegged for Joseph's overweight wife - who used to stamp around the house making the water in his glass ripple just like the approaching Tyrannosaurs in Jurassic Park. And if you think you have the ending figured, then think again. Considine brings us a shattering conclusion that offers no easy solutions, is completely faithful to both characters and offers revelations about them and their actions that are shocking but somehow disturbingly apt. Tyrannosaur is social drama of the highest order. On the strength of this Paddy Considine is now a serious directorial force to be reckoned with. Oliver Pfeiffer, our man in Oz attending the Sydney Film Festival. Check out all his reviews HERE.
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Oliver Pfeiffer is a freelance writer who trained at the British Film Institute. He joined OWF in 2007 and now contributes as a Features Writer. Since becoming Obsessed with Film he has interviewed such diverse talents as actors Keanu Reeves, Tobin Bell, Dave Prowse and Naomie Harris, new Hammer Studios Head Simon Oakes and Hollywood filmmakers James Mangold, Scott Derrickson and Uk director Justin Chadwick. Previously he contributed to dimsum.co.uk and has had other articles published in Empire, Hecklerspray, Se7en Magazine, Pop Matters, The Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle and more recently SciFiNow Magazine and The Guardian. He loves anything directed by Cronenberg, Lynch, Weir, Haneke, Herzog, Kubrick and Hitchcock and always has time for Hammer horror films, Ealing comedies and those twisted Giallo movies. His blog is: http://sites.google.com/site/oliverpfeiffer102/