Monday, 10 February 2014

Filth Review

Director/Writer: Jon S. Baird

Starring: James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan, Imogen Poots, Joanne Froggatt, Shirley Henderson, Jim Broadbent

Synopsis: Desperate to get the Detective Inspector promotion at work, copper Bruce Robertson (McAvoy) will try every dirty trick in the book to get ahead. The only issue is his chronic alcoholism and drug-taking, getting in the way of lucid transition.

The work of Irvine Welsh is brash, boorish and brilliant. You needn’t have read his books to have seen the impact of his stories on popular culture. From humble beginnings in Scotland, his work has been heralded across the globe as caustic cult. Hear the title Trainspotting and you realise you know the man after all. Most of his work has been adapted over the years, but due to Danny Boyle’s pitch-perfect take on the heroin-fuelled odyssey of Renton and co. the bar was set very high for future adaptations (most of which didn’t live up to the power of the prose).

17 years after Trainspotting left its enduring mark, Jon S. Baird has helped breath fresh cinematic life into Welsh’s work. He’s chosen Filth, the story of a bipolar Detective Sergeant trying to win back his wife and daughter with a promotion at work. The title says it all; Filth is a no-holds barred tale of corruption and excess, all the while laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Removing the narrative exploits of Bruce’s tapeworm that takes over certain parts of the narrative in the book, the film still hones in on the hallucinatory aspects of the story. Cutting from a third-person point of view to a singular, fourth-wall-breaking address, the world we see is warped. You often feel very close to Bruce (both compelling and repellent) or extremely distant. It makes for a character you can’t quite put your finger on and wonderfully different from the exposition-laden personalities often seen in contemporary cinema.

James McAvoy as the protagonist is simply superb. No stranger to lead roles, McAvoy doesn’t, it seems, always make a grand impression on the films he’s in. Here, however, he excels like never before. Snubbed by too many award ceremonies, McAvoy has rightly picked up the Best Actor win for the few nominations he’s had. Shifting from drunkenly ecstatic, to hungover and forlorn – with all those off-kilter exploits that come in between – he expertly moves through the trials and tribulations of this character. Helped by his Scottish nationality, with a clear understanding on the Scottish and, more specifically, Irvine’s Welsh’s humour, McAvoy seems born to play this part. Until we see another game-changer from the 34 year-old actor, this now stands as his best performance.

With a sterling supporting cast (including a scene-stealing Eddie Marsan), Filth is a wonderful companion to Trainspotting, complete as it is with a host of great characters. As easy as it to compare it to Boyle’s 1996 film, there’s another similarity between the two – an eargasmic soundtrack. Paired with Matthew Jensen’s dense yet demonstrative cinematography, reflecting the tone perfectly, the formal quality of the film is seamless. Baird has brought the tale of a Machiavellian, repugnant sort to life in such an entertaining fashion you’re bound to be revisiting it soon after.

Extras: Some hilarious deleted scenes, including an interaction between Bruce and a naive American; extended scenes that don’t add a great deal to the final cut; some funny outtakes; interesting interviews with many of the cast and crew; best of all, a commentary for the film from Jon S. Baird and Irvine Welsh. ****

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