Starred Up, film review: A prison drama with real conviction
(18) Dir. David Mackenzie; Starring Jack O'Connell, Rupert Friend, 106mins
Friday 21 March 2014
Nineteen-year-old Eric Love (Jack O'Connell) has been "starred up" – that is, transferred from a Young Offender Institution to an adult prison two years ahead of schedule – because of his uncontrollably violent behaviour. On his first day in with the big boys, he almost kills the man in the opposite cell, attacks two correction officers with a chair leg, and comes close to biting off the genitals of a third.
Starred Up, which is at least the hardest hitting British prison movie since Alan Clark's 1979 film Scum, and probably hits a little harder, poses two questions.
Firstly, whether or not Eric, a sneeringly smart but snarlingly feral young man in a permanent state of readiness for violence, is damaged beyond repair. And secondly, if he is redeemable, whether the prison system is fit for the purpose of rehabilitating him, or only, as the warden says, of warehousing him.
It isn't an issues movie, though. It is an incendiary, visceral, riveting drama with a fascinating Oedipal twist; a brutal-realist depiction of male behaviour and prison culture, with the bitter tang of authenticity, during which the viewer, like Eric, is kept in a constant state of adrenalised high alert.
And Jack O'Connell, who had already made several notable screen appearances since he was in This Is England in 2006, and who is in the centre of almost every frame of this film, announces himself as not just a fearless and fearsome screen actor but a star.
After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violencefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
- 2 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 3 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 4 A third of employers never check job applicants' qualifications, survey finds
- 5 James Foley beheading: Fox news presenter Megyn Kelly annoyed by Ferguson update during broadcast about murdered journalist
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
The Top Ten: Horrible buildings
JK Rowling writes new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing 'Singing Sorceress' Celestina Warbuck
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Celebrity Big Brother 2014 line-up: Meet the contestants from Lauren Goodger to Kellie Maloney and Audley Harrison
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women