Joy Division

Joy Division


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

No, this is not The Ian Curtis Story. In fact, the title is baffling, like so much else in writer/director Reg Traviss's debut.

Despite the appearance of a sensitive German actor, Tom Schilling, in the joint lead role of Thomas As A Young Man, and Bernard Hill, who never disappoints, as a KGB spy, the acting is on the stiff side of embarrassing, especially Ed Stoppard's Thomas As An Older Man, who makes pine nuts look sexy.

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Traviss uses a multiple flashback/forward technique, designed to confuse you so much you won't notice that the MI6 agents are behaving like suspicious characters from an Edgar Wallace B-picture. Also, by having everyone speak English, it is not immediately obvious who is fighting whom.

There are two films shoehorned together. The German defence of Berlin against the Red army is by far the best, or rather the least bad. Thomas As A Young Man is a teenage soldier, clueless and scared, who, with the help of a girl, escapes the battle zone and joins the refugees. It doesn't do any good, because when the city falls, he is gathered up and retrained at Soviet Spy School to become Thomas As An Older Man and sent to London to check out the loyalty of KGB operatives.

The London section is as nourishing as sandwich spread. Thomas As An Older Man moves into a boarding house, run by a friendly Jamaican, which is surprising in racist Britain of the Sixties, and, without having to make any effort, except look limp and mysterious - the mystery being, is he alive? - he shacks up with the old man's niece (Michelle Gayle), a giggly art student. Occasionally, he goes to a pay phone in the street outside and rings his contact, who talks in riddles. Afterwards he has a few pints with Hill, who tells him things are getting heavy. TAAOM hasn't noticed.

The early section, starring TAAYM, is like every other modern war movie, in which actors leap about in ruins, being shot at, and the bad guys, in this case Ruskies, murder and rape girls, like American troops in Iraq. It is not only baffling, but nasty and derivative. There is a romance of sorts that fits into the First Love category of a Mills & Boon catalogue, but end-of-the-war mayhem keeps getting in the way.

To his credit, Traviss has taken a huge subject - East Germany's fight for freedom - and given it his best on a budget that might cover Madonna's monthly wage bill. The London section says nothing and goes nowhere. It's like making Enemy At The Gates and having one of the survivors come to Liverpool and find work as a brickie, simply to add contrast.

Reviewed on: 17 Nov 2006
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Joy Division packshot
A teenage German soldier in the Forties is trained to become a KGB agent in the Sixties.
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Director: Reg Traviss

Writer: Reg Traviss, Rosemary Mason

Starring: Ed Stoppard, Tom Schilling, Bernadette Heerwagen, Bernard Hill, Michelle Gayle, Lea Mornar, Bernard Kay, Sean Chapman, Suzanne von Borsody, Thomas Darchinger, Levente Törköly

Year: 2006

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK/Germany/Hungary


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