Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Paddy Considine
Stars: Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, Eddie Marsan.
This hard hitting and confronting drama marks the directorial debut of actor Paddy Considine (In America, etc). Considine appeared in a number of films by British director Shane Meadows (A Room For Romeo Brass, Dead Man’s Shoes, etc), and he seems to have absorbed the gritty, uncompromising and bruising style of his mentor. Tyrannosaur is an intense and disturbing study of male violence, rage, abuse and its consequences.
Peter Mullan (My Name Is Joe, etc) brings a fierce and brutal presence to his role here as Joe, a hard drinking, lonely, violent and bitter man propelled by rage on a self-destructive journey following the death of his wife. “I’m not a nice human being,” he admits. When we first meet him he is kicking his dog to death in an alley. But he finds a chance for redemption through Hannah (Olivia Colman), a shy and deeply religious woman who works in a charity shop. Hannah is trapped in a loveless marriage to the brutal and abusive James (Eddie Marsan).
Joseph and Hannah form a connection based on their own mutual miserable circumstances and a desperate need to escape from their own cycle of violence and despair. The relationship between the three leads to a devastating denouement. Joseph also lives opposite a foul-mouthed neighbour with a pet pit-bull terrier, and this subplot reveals another dimension to Joe’s personality. But it leads us into some dark territory also.
Tyrannosaur has been developed from characters Considine first introduced in his BAFTA-winning 2007 short, Dog Altogether. Tyrannosaur is a blistering character study of some wounded and deeply scarred characters, and the corrosive effects of violence. The violence here is visceral and deeply unsettling. The film offers little hope of redemption. The film’s unusual title comes from a moving speech Joe delivers about his late wife.
Mullan has a real working class quality, and he projects Joe’s sense of loneliness and deep despair. He also has a quite intimidating physical presence here, and his portrayal of a man driven by rage bursts off the screen. But surprisingly, Mullan also makes his Joe a pitiable character who earns a measure of sympathy by the end of the film. And Colman, who is better known for her comic work, delivers a solid performance that captures Hannah’s vulnerability and desperation, but also her inner reserves of strength. Marsan is quite chilling as the vile James.
Like Steve McQueen in Shame, Considine understands the power of silence in heightening tension and drama, and there are many effective dialogue free moments throughout the film. Cinematographer Erik Alexander Wilson (Submarine, etc) captures the grimy squalor of the film’s settings and his washed-out colour palette emphasises the bleak nature of the material. Tyrannosaur captures that same gritty realism and searing quality of the dramas of Ken Loach and the like.
A confident and assured directorial debut from Considine, Tyrannosaur is certainly unpleasant viewing, and many may find it tough to sit through without occasionally flinching and ducking for cover.