Sunday, October 19, 2008

From the director of Bridget Jones’ Diary comes a film about terrorism. If you think that sounds like a recipe for cinematic gold then you must be demented.

As you’d expect from someone who made such a wretched piece of fluff, the emotions here are laid on rather thick. This isn’t a film that knows a whole lot about subtlety. They might as well have just issued a box of hankies at the door.

The film begins with an exceedingly cute child having fun with his mummy. He’s so damn cute and so damn loveable that you know he’s not going to make it through the film alive. And then when you realise that the film is called Incendiary, you know he’s going to get blown into a million little pieces.

Now having your son die in a terrorist attack is bad enough, but the film decides to make it several degrees worse. First of all, the mother in this film, played by Michelle Williams, is no longer that enamoured with her husband. She thinks he’s a miserable sod. Therefore their relationship is rather loveless. However, not to fear, a sleazy journalist played by Ewan McGregor pops up. And no sooner have they exchanged a few words than they’re exchanging bodily fluids on the young mother’s sofa. Crikey. (And no ladies, you don’t get to see Ewan’s penis in this film. However, you do get to see everything else.) And as they’re humping and pumping, they have a football game on the television. And at this game are the woman’s husband and young son. And would you believe it, as Ewan’s boning the shit out of her, the stadium goes ka-boom and it’s goodbye husband and son. Me thinks that that’s a shag she’s not going to forget for a long time.

After this you’d kind of think that the woman would suffer some pretty serious psychosexual problems. But this doesn’t stop the woman from having sex with the head of the anti-terrorist unit (the woman’s husband was in bomb disposal, so this guy was a work colleague). And this guy seems really nice. He just wants to look after her. Nevermind that he’s dull as ditchwater and that he loves caravans. He’s just a good, honest guy. Well, or so you’d think. I guess the woman should have noted the fact that the man has a beard, and as we all know, men with beards always have something to hide. Why else would they cover themselves in facial shrubbery? You see, the man knew that the terrorist attack was going to happen and did nothing to stop it. Oh, that’s pretty bad, isn’t it? You were cheating on your husband as he went up in flames and now you’ve shagged the man who could have stopped it from happening. Maybe those psychosexual problems will finally kick in.

If this all sounds far-fetched, it’s because it is. But the film isn’t finished with the nonsense. The woman strikes up a friendship with the young son of one of the bombers. Okay, this has potential for bonding and mutual healing. But no, there’s a sequence where the two of them are at Waterloo train station. The kid is still unaware that his daddy was one of the bombers – he thinks he’s just gone away – and as he’s waiting for the woman to buy tickets, he sees newspapers with his dad’s face plastered all over them. Needless to say he’s a bit upset and begins behaving a little erratically. He then runs away. The police see this and because he’s Asian and has a backpack, they take chase. The woman chases as well, and they all end up on an empty train platform. Every party shouts a lot, and as the boy reaches into his jacket, the police prepare to shoot. But as a marksman pulls the trigger, the woman steps into his sights and gets shot in the head by mistake. Holy Jean Charles de Menezes, Batman, the police fucked up again!

But don’t fear. The woman only gets grazed by a bullet so everything is hunky-dory.

Amongst all this ridiculous melodrama there are a few good scenes. The best one is when the mother seriously begins to lose the plot and thinks that her son has come back. She spends all her time in the flat playing with him. She then leaves to get some food and the spell is broken when she actually has some real human interaction. When she rushes back her son is no longer there and she’s devastated.

However, this scene leads directly to another one of the film’s maudlin flights of fancy. In response to the tragedy, a barrage balloon for every victim hangs in the sky with a picture of the victim on it. This to me sounds like an awful idea. Could you imagine that? You’re just trying to get over the ordeal and you look out of the window and see your little Billy grinning from the sky. Yeah, nice one.

And so the woman realises that her son is really dead and decides to visit his barrage balloon. And to do so she has to stand on a tall roof and teeter on the edge. Will she kill herself or not? Now the barrage balloons I hated (even though they make a neat visual, the very idea is incredibly OTT), but we now have another one of the film’s few decent sequences. We see the boy and the father talking about the Great Fire of London. The boy asks what they did back then, and the father says that everyone had a cup of tea. We then have a voiceover where the woman says that many people have tried to destroy this city but no one has succeeded. Every time someone tries to knock it down, we rebuild. And that’s what she’s got to do with her life. She’s got to rebuild it. The film didn’t deserve to generate any emotion, but a love of my home city meant that for once I actually felt something in this preposterous movie.

A couple of other things that are wrong with this film: the attack is meant to happen at an Arsenal game. However, probably because of licensing problems, the fans and players wear fake kits. A real Arsenal logo is nowhere to be seen. And we also have lots of moments where we hear the woman writing letters to Osama bin Laden. She wonders whether he celebrated when he heard about the bomb. Have the filmmakers forgotten that Osama is a massive Arsenal fan? For greater authenticity they should have had him blow up Tottenham Hotspur. Or at the very least, West Ham United. Maybe then it might have seemed a bit more real.

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