PRESSURE

7.5 out of 10

Release Date: 21st August 2015

Director: Ron Scalpello (My Name Is Lenny / Offender)

Cast: Danny Huston, Matthew Goode, Joe Cole, Alan McKenna, Ian Pirie, Gemita Samarra with Daisy Lowe and Paul McGann (voice)

Writer: Louis Baxter, Alan McKenna and Paul Staheli

Trailer: PRESSURE

pressure-2015.36195A great little thriller for fans of derring-do under the sea. Much like last year’s Black Sea, the ocean floor takes on alien qualities as survival becomes crucial and our protagonists get cut off from the outside world. Movies like this have much in common with sci-fi movies in that danger lurks around every corner and death claws at the edge of each frame. The isolation is palpable and rising panic is often infectious as outside elements (water / poisonous air) threaten to end all life in no short order.

In Pressure‘s case, a diving bell is dropped to the ocean floor. It contains four engineers / deep sea divers. They have to complete the job quickly because of an incoming storm. Predictably the bell becomes cut off leaving it’s four occupants to problem solve a way to back to the surface. The actors are all solid and well cast. First off we have Danny Huston (THE CONGRESS) as the seasoned operative, Matthew Goode (STOKER) (inexplicably sporting a weak American accent) is the underexperienced leader, Joe Cole (THE SECRETS IN THERE EYES)  is the rooky and Alan McKenna (WAYLAND’S SONG) is the drunken soak with issues. Experience clashes with authority and youthful improvisation leads to plot twists and turns. Being set predominantly in one setting the movie never bores and you easily caught up in the desperation of the situation. As the cast predictably dwindle so do the odds of survival and as much of the film plays over real-time it adds to the fear factor.

Director Ron Scapello expands on his debut which was another drama about danger in enclosed spaces, prison drama Offender. His lead, Joe Cole returning here as the most impressive of the four actors who turns his fear to his advantage as he uses it practically in order to live. The cinematography and economic soundtrack are both brilliant. It’s a solid movie which deserved a wider cinema release than the one it got as it goes blow for blow with it’s larger American, similar, starrier competitors..

Unlike a lot of disaster movies, like World Trade Center, Everest and The Martian, Pressure refuses to fall back on the ‘meanwhile at the rescue centre / families hanging on the telephone wire for news’ prop. I personally find those scenes a distraction and the tension just drains out of those films because of that release from the action. The momentum is slowed and I don’t really care about those out of the line of fire. The soapy Castaway and the superior The Grey and All Is Lost realised this to their story’s advantage. However, here we get the obligatory, Timotei advert flashbacks of dead girlfriends. As their watery grave beckons these flashes take on a significance, thus earning their place in the story, but nonetheless, until their presence is explained they are pretty annoying. Who thinks about their exes, dappled in sunset-dappled light? Not sure I do. Characters in movies always do.

I can’t fault Pressure, except for two things and they both involve the uniformly excellent Matthew Goode. One is plot related, the circumstances surrounding his ‘exit’ are a bit too convenient in the dramatic stakes and his rotten accent. There’s no need for it. It’s a British film, he’s English. Danny Huston‘s American but chooses to use no accent. Some actors just can’t do accents, Matthew Goode is one of them. It’s distracting but luckily the film is strong enough to paper over this flaw.

7.5 out of 10 – A solid thriller with sound solutions and a good knowledge of how underwater survival works and just how dangerous a life at sea is. Never turn your back on it.

Read Matt ‘Flippers’ Usher’s review below

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Danny Huston: The Last Photograph, Wonder Woman, Frankenstein (2015), Big Eyes, The Congress, Hitchcock, Stolen, Boxing Day, Wrath of the Titans, Made In Dagenham (voice), The Conspirator, Robin Hood (2010), Edge of Darkness, X-Men – Wolverine, How To Lose Friends and Alienate People, 30 Days of Night, The Kingdom (2007), Number 23, Children of Men, Marie Antoinette, The Proposition, The Constant Gardener, The Aviator, Birth, Silver City, 21 Grams, Hotel (2001), ivansxtc, Timecode 2000, Anna Karenina, Leaving Las Vegas, The Maddening (dir), Mr North (dir), The Human Factor
  • Matthew Goode: Birthmarked, Guernsey, The Sense of An Ending, Hatton Garden Job, Allied, Self/Less, The Imitation Game, Belle, Stoker, Cemetery Junction, Watchmen, A Single Man, Leap Year, Brideshead Revisted, Imagine Me & You, Match Point
  • Joe Cole: Woodshock, Peaky Blinders (TV), Green Room, Secret In Their Eyes (2015), The Falling, In The Blood (2015), A Long Way Down, Now Is Good, Offender, Skins (TV)
  • Alan McKenna: The Hitman’s Bodyguard, ABCs of Death 2, Wayland’s Song, Doctors (TV)
  • Ian Pirie: Calibre, The Last Photograph, Tommy’s Honour, DaVinci’s Demons (TV), Sunset Song, I Am SoldierWho Needs Enemies?
  • Daisy Lowe: Tulip Fever, Absolutely Fabulous – The Movie, Confine
  • Paul McGann: Brakes (TV), Luther (TV), Dr Who – Day of the Doctor, Dr Who (TV), Lesbian Vampire Killers, Gypo, Queen Of The Damned, My Kingdom, Downtime, The Three Musketeers (1994), Alien 3, Afraid Of The Dark, Paper Mask, Dealers, The Rainbow, Empire of the Sun, Withnail & I, The Monocled Mutineer
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One thought on “PRESSURE

  1. Review by Matt Usher aka Joe Pesce!

    This is a manly man’s blokey film about men being men and water being death. (That doesn’t mean it’s saying washing is a bad idea, it’s all a bit more elemental than that). We start with some ‘don’t try this at home’ advice as a caption warns us about the perils of deep sea diving (or rather stopping deep sea diving too quickly). It’s a bit of a worry when films start by explicitly explaining some rules though it’s better than having a couple of characters clunkily telling each other something that they both know (particularly as it’s probably the first thing they teach in submarine school).

    PRESSURE is about four men in a very small diving bell. They work for a callous oil company which is happy to leave employees to die whenever things get a bit inconvenient (i.e. almost any oil company). Obviously, things get a bit inconvenient. They have to fix a pipe on the ocean floor before a storm hits. The storm hits, their ships sinks, and our masculine quartet is soon running out of air and hope. But they’re a resourceful bunch and make the most of their time even as their small number gradually depletes.

    This is a relentlessly grim film (I was going to add grimy but it has quite a shiny sheen to it), which is fair enough seeing as it’s about four men (who inevitably have a few dramatic tensions between them and are made up of the usual disparate personalities as demanded by drama) facing certain death. But it’s an action and adventure film first and foremost so it’s mostly about them trying to escape rather than face their fate which is just as well as it’s at its weakest in the moments where the characters are talky and thoughtful and recycling their back-stories. It’s much more successful when they’re running about coming up with hopeful/hopeless schemes. But that leads to some of the film’s other problems. For a long period it’s predictable and not particularly exciting. The character clashes come straight out of the stock character clash manual and the characters themselves aren’t exactly an unexpected or particularly fascinating group. We have a religious team leader, a stoical pragmatist, a rookie and a drunk. What idiot thought it would be a good idea to put them together? And they’ve each got a personal demon to wrestle with. Obviously.

    And then there’s the overwhelming manly manliness of the film (which I may already have mentioned). (Indeed the film’s only women – in flashbacks – are either naked or dead.) It’s all very male and blokey, the movie equivalent of a Bear Grylls eating raw tadpoles at a Top Gear convention at Wembley Stadium attended by fans of extreme fishing, trainspotting and the SAS whilst wearing boiler suits and earnest expressions. And I wonder if it’s that earnestness which saves the film as it progresses.

    Because by the end I was surprised at how good it was. Despite the stereotypical characters, and despite having to remember all the things that you’re taught at the start of the film, and despite the fact that you know death is inescapable for a significant percentage of the cast, it nevertheless works. It really really shouldn’t, but

    somehow the claustrophobic atmosphere and the thin slivers of hope and the grim earnestness of the acting combine to produce an unexpectedly gripping finish.

    Danny Huston strides through the film like some sort of Elysian emissary from Olympus. Never has human being looked more implacably hewn from the rocks of history. He has an aura of being some sort of indestructible human mountain. I’m not saying Huston’s a bad actor – far from it. But I guess that Huston is the nearest thing we have to an Old Testament Prophet (of Doom naturally), his every utterance being like God reading from his diary. And he’s like Gordon Brown on a particularly bad day. Whenever Huston is on screen you can be assured that good will prevail, but only after dreadful sacrifices have been made, and you know there will be little redemption and lots of remorse. Frankly Huston (and his character) shouldn’t be allowed into small confined spaces.

    Joe Cole impresses more here than in his other recent big screen outing (IN THE BLOOD – a film which Brit Pic Dick and I are going to have a row about). Here Cole plays the cocky rookie one who has to grow up fast. I like his fear and I like the fact that his character journey/arc/thing doesn’t result in a complete personality transplant. Matthew Goode is the god-fearing leader of the troupe. He’s probably the least interesting character on board, despite Goode’s performance. Alan McKenna plays the team drunk. He also co-wrote and co-produced, so it’s pretty much his film. He can be more than reasonably pleased with how it all turned out I think. (I haven’t encountered Mr McKenna before and am mildly curious how this British actor managed to get so much American interest in the project).

    The underwater sequences are eerily done, and there aren’t too many of them. Despite effectively being set in one tiny location for the duration the film never feels monotonous, the claustrophobic setting (for the most part) being a threat rather than a plot contrivance. And there’s an excellent score from Benjamin Wallfisch which is a cut above a lot of film music I’ve heard recently. Also, sharp-eared Whovians beware! A Doctor Who turns up as a very brief voice. Paul McGann’s either desperate for work or happened to be doing a day of voice-overs and this little assignment was on the roster.

    PRESSURE is worth staying with despite being at times dull and predictable; it nevertheless slowly exerts its grasp and the finale is very well staged. There’s nothing revelatory or life-changing but it’s hugely impressive how it manages to take some extremely mundane characters and a fairly hoary ‘we’re trapped!’ scenario and turns it all into a tight, intelligent, suspenseful story (eventually).

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