It’s hard to recommend a film with such a depressing and unsettling premise as this story has, and understandably so. It’s a movie which on paper you’re not going to wish to view and I can assure you it’s a tough two hours of unrelenting bombardment of doom. But dear god man, it is a truly powerful film with immense performances from it’s star Sean Connery and the strong supporting cast.
The reason I went for this film is the fact that legendary director Sidney Lumet is a genius and has an incredible body of work under his directing vision. So many of my personal favourites, Dog Day Afternoon, Fail Safe, Serpico and the recently watched, Prince of the City and of course that little debut film of his, the mighty 12 Angry Men.
However, there are a fair few I’d missed and I’m making up for that and boy did this film deliver a power punch to the stomach and face, just as if Detective Sergeant Johnson actually reached through the screen and sucker punched me.
Not wishing to go into the details of the case itself due to its harsh nature but really that story is just the bases for what is to be told.
Tagline – After 20 years what Detective-Sergeant Johnson has seen and done is destroying him.
Sean Connery plays Detective Sergeant Johnson, a burnt out cop who loses his rag whilst interrogating a suspect in police custody. It begins with a slow motion scene filmed with a faded out light and a haunting soundtrack. Pushing the mood and look of the film in a gritty and dark fashion. This is a grim film and shows a dirty bleak Britain of the seventies with cops stalking the streets looking for suspects amongst the dodgy geezers, dark alleys and concrete buildings. Weirdly Michael Caine was nowhere to be seen!
The first hour builds the tension to what becomes effectively three set pieces of one on one conversations with sean connery on blistering angry form. These three scenes felt like a play and on further reading discovered it was in fact based upon the 1968 stage play called This Story of Yours by John Hopkins, who also did the screenplay. All three of these performances are brutal, relentless and utterly absorbing. They just have you transfixed. Such raw emotion is shown whilst Sergeant Johnson is plagued with visions and memories of hundreds of past cases imbedded in his mind and frustratedly and desperately wants to solve this case.
The three main players alongside Sean Connery are Detective Superintendent Cartwright played by Trevor Howard, Sergeant Johnson’s wife Maureen played by Vivien Merchant and the suspect Kenneth Baxter played by Ian Bannen. All four of these actors give a blinding performance and even through the doom you can take pleasure from watching these scenes unfold.
If you like hard in your face, grab you by the balls, no nonsense scripted films, then I wholly recommend this movie but proceed with caution. If not please move on as soon as you can.
I’m watching Sidney Lumet’s The Hill tonight, incidentally also starring Sean Connery and Ian Bannen, and another bleak one but very highly rated, The Pawnbroker starring Rod Steiger soon. Both I have not seen before.
Do you have a favorite Sidney Lumet film? Please let me know.
Further Reading Links