Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

Having wound up drenched in blood in 2005 horror The Descent, Alex Reid and Shauna MacDonald return in another above average Brit flick, this time from rising talent Simon Welsford.

Reid plays Grace, although her name is only revealed to us some time after we find her washing up on a desolate, cold English beach. She comes across another drifted body, a man (Jamie Draven), who promptly attacks her when she revives him. Soon she’s on the run with a computer disc in her pocket, raising questions for us despite nary has a word of dialogue been spoken.

Copy picture

So begins Welsford’s cleverly structured, drizzle-grey espionage thriller. Episodic flashbacks begin falling into place to reveal more of Grace’s job as an undercover operative spying on an eminent scientist (Cal Macaninch) in London, with each segment drip feeding us information and introducing other mysterious characters. In between, we revert back to that bleak coastline with increasing tension building towards the inevitable resolving denouement.

Revolving around a well-thumbed MacGuffin the set up is pure pulp fiction, borrowing elements of other higher standard surveillance films, such as The Conversation and last year’s The Lives of Others. When Grace’s continual spying leads to more involvement with her subjects than protocol asks of her we’re quickly in familiar territory. There are, however, many different ways to flick this bug and Welsford pins a lot on a killer reveal, which he pulls off with great poise. The film's weakness lies in that it asks a lot of Grace’s character and doesn’t really ring true, but nonetheless it’s a pleasing enough structural coup.

It’s a credit to Welsford’s tight script, control and sustained style that he manages to spin things out for a fair stretch of the film without the narrative seeming too corny and twisting for its own good (although it does try your patience a little). There’s not much going on underneath the conspiracy-serving dialogue but everyone delivers their spy talk with straight-faced conviction and sufficient urgency. Not surprising, given that Welsford filmed the whole thing on the hoof in just 14 days. He divides his camera work well between shaking, spontaneous handheld frames on the coast and more static and circumspect shooting when in the city. It’s an approach that serves the tones of his plot well and shows off his obvious directorial and scripting talent.

It may not sucker-punch with the ingenuity of Memento but this is still a well-polished calling card for Welsford.

Reviewed on: 30 Oct 2007
Share this with others on...
An unconscious woman washes up on a beach, with intrigue in tow.
Amazon link

Director: Simon Welsford

Writer: Simon Welsford

Starring: Alex Reid, Jamie Draven, Shauna MacDonald, Cal Macaninch, Adam Shaw

Year: 2007

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: UK


London 2007

Search database:

If you like this, try:

The Lives Of Others