Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Film Review: Cleanskin

Certificate: 15
Directed By: Hadi Hajaig
Cast: Sean Bean, Abhin Galeya, Charlotte Rampling, Tuppence Middleton, Tom Burke, Sam Douglas
Budget: £2 million
Runtime: 108 minutes
Trailer: Watch

Ever since the BBC television serial of Bravo Two Zero I've never been able to shake the picture of Sean Bean being the main protagonist, Nick Stone, in Andy McNab's subsequent authorial works. His role in Cleanskin solidifies that notion, playing an embittered British secret agent named Ewan who is surreptitiously tasked with tracking down some missing Semtex being used to wage a terror campaign across London. A game of cat and mouse ensues as Ewan races to thwart the radicalised young man (Galeya) behind the attacks.

For everything this tries to be - action shooter come political thriller - what's most interesting is filmmaker Hadi Hajaig's attempts to show both sides of the coin. The film divides its time between Ewan dealing out his brutal brand of justice and protagonist Ash's descent into radical Islam. But it is Ash's story which is the more captivating of the two, a probe into the fundamentalist psyche which seeks to explain the 'complex' motivations of young, Westernised muslims who seem inexplicably drawn toward ideologies supporting murder. Yet despite Cleanskin's attempts to pierce the popular nomenclature found in the Western press, Hajaig's exposition isn't perhaps as insightful as it thinks it is.

The problem with Cleanskin is that it is an unashamed exploitation movie. For all its allusions to something deeper it scarcely knows how to deliver it as the film ends up abasing itself via its own simplicity. The motivations for the two main characters for example are cringe-worthingly incredulous. Ewan is a man on a mission to stop every Islamic terrorist because his wife died in the London bombings (groan). Ash on the other hand is subject to racial prejudices by a fellow student and doesn't like promiscuity or drug taking, despite happily consuming alcohol and indulging in sexy times with his Western girlfriend. Oh boo-hoo, someone call the waambulance.

None of this is really helped by the constant flashbacks used to flesh out Ash's journey into terrorism, punctuating the film at various points to show the 'critical' moments which moulded his views. But rather than painting a convincing tapestry which explain his future motivations, the liberally dispensed nature of this device serves to convolute proceedings by breaking the pace of the film and leaving it all feeling rather disjointed. Momentum is consequently lost and any sense of suspense quickly dissipates.

Indeed, there's nothing inherently convincing in this gritty, realistic world being attempted here. Cleanskin plods in the most unremarkable manner.