Sunday, 23 March 2014


Eric enters his new space like a stealth missile, silent and unnoticed until point of impact. He's here to cause maximum havoc with minimum threat, and being some years younger than everyone else here gives him a sure advantage, particularly given that he is so able to cause maximum havoc. But Eric is just another inmate, once his explosive entrance has been allayed, albeit with intensive emotional re-education and no minor amount of major disturbances. It is this narrative theatricality which Jonathan Asser disguises with as many cunting utterances of the cunting C-word as cunting possible, and makes an audacious attempt to pass off as grit. Whether it's the structural staginess or the stylistic simplicity that holds Starred Up back from hitting as hard as it so plainly intends to, or the sincere but unconvincing juxtaposition of the two that does it, is unclear, but what is clear is that Asser's ambitions needed curbing. Achieved in the vast pool of potential created by his varying aspirations is a good deal of powerful acting, mostly from Jack O'Connell as Eric - in truth, this isn't even all that O'Connell is capable of, yet he takes chunks out of his fellow professional cast members both figuratively and literally (what's a proper prison movie without plentiful violence?). The more seasoned actors among this cast respond strongest to the more innately dramatic tendencies in the script, and are thus outacted by the relative newcomers, who approach their roles with ease and honesty. It is their presence that dominates the film's key scenes of, group therapy, essentially, which make up in immediacy what they lack in originality. That may, indeed, be true of the film itself. The setting is as old as they come, and the path we follow through it lacking in much insight, but it feels fresher than it maybe ought to, and hits hard enough, in the end.