SIGHTSEERS

7 out of 10

Release Date: 30th November 2012

Director: Ben Wheatley: (Freakshift / Free Fire / High-Rise / A Field In England / Kill List / Down Terrace)

Cast: Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Eileen Davies, Richard Glover, Jonathan Aris, Monica Dolan, Tony Way, Rachel Austin, Aymen Hamdouchi and Richard Lumsden

Writer: Amy Jump, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram

Trailer: Sightseers

The UK’s most exciting filmmaker, Ben Wheatley drops his third feature film on the public.  It’s taken a while for the nation at large to cotton on to his movies.  His first film Down Terrace came and went without making much of an impression on anyone beyond a group of critics.  Lucky filmgoers who caught Kill List would’ve gone back to find Down Terrace.  That’s likelier to happen on a larger scale after even more people have been drawn to Sightseers.  It is a pity though that Wheatley’s largest film is also his weakest.  But a weak-er Ben Wheatley film is nowhere near a bad film!  Sightseers is just way slighter than his previous two. It’s also the first film that he hasn’t written with his partner Amy Jump.  Lead actors, Alice Lowe (THIS IS JINSY) and Steve Oram share the writing credit.  It’s this factor that makes Sightseers an altogether different proposition.

Storywise both Down Terrace and Kill List took you on a bit of mystery tour. Sightseers sets out on a clearer mission. The plot can be summed up thus; “A deranged couple go on holiday and murder anyone who crosses them.” It’s essentially a violent Nuts In May but less funny.  Alice Lowe (THIS IS JINSY) and Steve Oram are perfect as the twisted pair and the former’s acceptance of his penchant for killing is convincing within the confines of the film.  Some of the events come across as an exercise in wish fulfilment.  The end of a litter bug had several audience members clapping their hands.  It’s very much a reflection of our times that we are applauding mass murderers. But that’s what this film’s for.  As I said the plot is thin and there is absolutely no mystery or twists in the story that you won’t see coming.  A string of vaguely famous actors wander in but don’t get to wander back out.  The murders themselves are mainly played for laughs and a quick and brutal. Steve Oram is a revelation as the almost laid-back killer Chris.  Tina is a great character barely hanging onto her sanity. It’s no wonder she hooked up with Chris (at Capoeira classes no less).  Alice Lowe is perfectly cast, I’m not familiar with either her or Steve Oram.  It’s a slight shame that the wrong Ben Wheatley movies garnered all the hype because it’s not as good as the first two.  It’s still very funny, very timely and very well made. The ending is great too and destined to become a talking point over the next few years.  Here’s hoping his fourth film is a return to the originality that made Ben Wheatley a name to watch.

7 out of 10 – Not quite the challenge I was hoping for. But I’d still prefer to watch this guy’s films compared to most other directors around today. Sightseers is slight but in equal measures it’s both shocking and funny. Great lead performances from Steve Oram and Alice Lowe and some wonderful locations give this a lick of originality.  A change in writers hasn’t been of benefit this time but at least he’s learnt how to delegate. Megalomania can be lonely.  Recommended as it’s a great British attempt at a Saturday night popcorn flick.

**SEE JOE PESCI’s even better review below… I think it fulfilled some fantasies he’s been harbouring – hahaha – SPOILERS**

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

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One thought on “SIGHTSEERS

  1. 9 out of 10 – Joe Pesci II’s brilliantly personal thoughts on SIGHTSEERS.

    Don’t get in the way of love! Or you will die! That may be the moral of SIGHTSEERS. Then again, SIGHTSEERS isn’t a film about morals and messages. Just as you think you’ve got the measure of it, just as you settle into thinking ‘I like/dislike/ this character’ or ‘I approve/disapprove’ ‘he deserved that’ or ‘he didn’t deserve that’ it pulls you in a completely different direction and makes you reassess both the film and yourself.

    On the face of it it’s a bleak black comedy about a couple of misfits who embark on a tour of some of Britain’s more offbeat beauty spots and esoteric attractions (a pencil museum!). Along the way, our doting sweethearts run into a bit of trouble and find that the simplest way out is through brutal yet casual murder. Alas for them, their misdeeds have consequences, though perhaps not the ones you might expect.

    SIGHTSEERS is brilliant, if you like twisted road movies where innocent people get bludgeoned to death for being a bit smug, and dogs fall prey to absent-mindedly-placed sharp implements. Which is odd, because I don’t, and yet I still loved this film. ‘Loved’ is very much entirely the wrong-est word to use there. It is squirmingly funny – whether an embarrassing meeting with some caravaneers, intense slow-motion irritation at a discarded sweet wrapper, an evening out, or the casual thudding of innocent bodies into lifeless lumps – it kind of covers everything from ‘I’ve done that’ humour to the nastiest bits of your mind which you prefer not to admit are there. Definitely not a film to love.

    Director Ben Wheatley’s previous film, the bafflingly brilliant KILL LIST saw death as one of those things people deal with, and indeed, deal out. Something similar happens here; the difference is that in KILL LIST the audience is kept at an objective distance, perhaps because we never know what is going on. In SIGHTSEERS our two protagonists, played with cringe-inducing authenticity by Alice Lowe (brilliant as Liz in GARTH MARENGHI, and looking the spit of Elisabeth Sladen) and Steve Oram (never seen him before and looking like Brit Pic Dick’s long lost twin with that beard), are only too happy to talk things through, keeping us in touch with their frankly lunatic world-vision (one murder is committed in order to save Tina’s honour from someone who would have been a rapist-nobleman had they been around a couple of centuries earlier – that sort of thing). As the bodies stack up, and they delude themselves into believing it’s all for the best, we find ourselves being alternately repelled and beguiled. Yes, you think, I’d have killed someone who did that, in my head at least. But then moments later you want to scream at the screen ‘no, you’ve completely lost your moral high-ground this time you goons, clean it up!’ That they play this game with the viewer’s mind all the way through to the end is evidence of a deceptively clever refusal to simply regard the viewer as someone who is just looking to bestow empathy.

    Oram’s failed (and probably fictitious) writer Chris is an uneasy portrait of someone who knows there’s something else but is too small-minded to do anything about it (best bits – killing people; being unexpectedly understanding about something obscene). Lowe’s Tina is clearly insane (best bits – deciding their newly stolen dog is a reincarnation of the one she killed; becoming a muse; knitting; believing her own fibs; the end). In a way, they really are made for each other, but oh the course of true love and all that. And being stuck for a week with anyone in a caravan is asking for trouble.

    Of the victims and innocent bystanders, I particularly liked Richard Glover’s mad inventor, and it’s always good to see Richard Lumsden. Eileen Davies is brilliant as Alice Lowe’s vindictive/lonely mother (you can see where she gets it from). But the focus is resolutely on our ill-tempered lovers. Perhaps they play the ‘let’s not this ruin our holiday’ joke a little too much, but that’s the only real criticism I can make of this agreeably vile film. It’s a celebration/indictment of our petty obsessions with ourselves. These two are so determined to be together that anyone else can just be pushed off a cliff in order to make a point. Is it a satire on our own materialistic and selfish desires for happiness? Probably not, but I’m an OU student and we have to look for stuff like that.

    As our (anti-)heroes run out of bits of Britain to visit and find themselves almost innocently on the run (‘police are looking for a ginger faced man and an angry lady’), followed only by a man in a carapod, it would be easy to say that the film darkens. Except it doesn’t – it’s been dark from the outset. In fact, you could argue that the end is, if anything, a lightening of the mood, a letting go, but we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves.

    Wheatley is also arrogant/good humoured enough to send himself up. The shamans
    sacrificing some poor farmer’s chickens is comically reminiscent of the weird KILL LIST finale, and it’s almost as if Wheatley is trying to prove (I think) Marx’s thing about history being tragedy repeated as farce. Did I mention I’m an OU student?

    And another thing. On seeing that the film was scripted by its two stars, I was worried. One fear was that there would be lots of actorly speeches. There are none. The other fear was that this was a euphemism for ‘improvised’. I have nothing against improvisation as such, but it can all too swiftly degenerate into actors standing around swearing at each other a lot (see films as diverse in quality as A NIGHT IN THE WOODS, BIG FAT GYPSY GANGSTER and even KILL LIST for this particular failing). SIGHTSEERS avoids this as well, pretty much. The script has a tight (arguably predictable) structure. In a way, it’s a bit like an episode of TERRY AND JUNE as scripted by Irvine Welsh. I mean that in a really good way.

    Caravanning around Britain has never been this much fun. Hopefully in years to come there will be people following in Chris and Tina’s footsteps – visiting the locations I mean, not slaughtering the locals, that would be bad. OK, SIGHTSEERS may not be the film our tourist board needs right now, but it is the sort of film British film needs: it may not be original as such (NATURAL BORN KILLERS meets NUTS IN MAY perhaps), but it is done with sufficient originality, with an eye for detail, with total disdain for keeping its audience happy. It’s what comedy should be and so rarely is: provocative, thoughtful, uncomfortable. And funny.

    And at no point did this film remind me in any way of Brit Pic Dick and Mrs Brit Pic Dick’s recent road trip to Yorkshire. Not even the beard. (You can cut that bit Ed.)

    *Ed – I can see the funny side of that. (Stroking my non-ginger beard). Did he tell you he was an Open University student BTW? C*nt.

    9 out 10

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