Top positive review
30 people found this helpful
Terrorism On British Soil: This Action Film Covers Familiar Territory, But Finds A Unique Voice As It Progresses
on September 2, 2012
Truthfully, I'd give any movie with Sean Bean in it a chance and that was a primary point of interest in checking out Hadi Hajaig's "Cleanskin." Include the marvelous Charlotte Rampling, and it's an added bonus that's hard to resist. "Cleanskin" is yet another British action film that examines the effects of terrorism on domestic soil. There have been so many films and TV shows on this subject, it might well be impossible to offer up anything new. "Cleanskin," from a plotting standpoint, certainly isn't breaking the mold you've come to expect. It opens with a bold action sequence, obvious budget constraints, and sketchy character development. After about thirty minutes, I'd almost written it off as unimaginative and completely routine. But the uneven tone of the opening slowly starts to settle itself into a groove and the picture begins to get progressively better. Credit must be given to Bean. He doesn't have a lot of shading, but his relentless brutality is riveting. Even better, though, is Abhin Galeya. Galeya, as the terrorist, is given the story's most complex arc and really paints a compelling foe who is surprisingly identifiable.
Bean is an undercover operative within the British Secret Service. On assignment, he loses some explosives in a violent heist. His disappointed superiors (Rampling and James Fox) task him to right the situation, still keeping the entire operation off the books. Bean is single-minded and uncompromising. With a new partner, he'll do whatever it takes to achieve mission goals. In addition to this story, we also meet Galeya and (through flashbacks) we see how he developed into a violent extremist. While the earliest flashbacks have a little awkwardness (and his recruitment isn't particularly compelling), they do serve as an introduction that the screenplay builds on. As you might anticipate, the alternate plot threads have Bean tracking the explosives and Galeya moving toward the ultimate goal of using them. As the two intersect, who will emerge victorious? Can Bean stop the next attack? And can he trust those around him?
As I said, the beginning of "Cleanskin" is incredibly uneven. But stick with it. Galeya, whose initial motivations are relatively unexplored, gives a strong and compelling performance. Although not a big budget spectacle, the action sequences have a gritty brutality that serves the piece well. Even the plot gets twistier and more involving as the film progresses. Although not perfect, I'd definitely recommend this to fans of Bean or of the genre. The movie gets stronger and stronger and ends with a pleasantly grim final act well worth waiting for. I didn't expect to, but in the end I really came to like this spare and vicious little film. Starts at 3 stars, finishes at 4 1/2. KGHarris, 9/12.