Sightseers is the third film from Ben Wheatley, one of the top British directors working today. It is a dark, twisted comedy about a couple on a caravan holiday who go on a killing spree. Think Badlands but in the Peak District and with far more laughs.
The film is a fantastic advert for Britain, in more ways than one. It shows how we still have the capacity to make great movies and it also shows just how stunning some areas of our country are. Alice Lowe and Steve Oram star as the murderous couple and are simply brilliant. They also wrote the script which, while being bleak, is stunningly funny. I have been a fan of Alice Lowe since seeing her in and I hope that the success of this film will lead to us seeing her more on the big screen and indeed television. Her performance here is quite remarkable as she treads the fine line of looking lost and innocent but being deadly and dangerous at the same time. Oram, as her boyfriend, plays confused and lost to perfection, but when he turns on the menace he is genuinely frightening. Both the leads remind us just how good British comic talent can be, and I do hope that they will continue to write and star in films.
The actors had at one point tried to make the story as a television show and looking at it you could see it working in that format, but with the masterful direction of Wheatley this feels truly cinematic. It’s simply gorgeous. There is almost a feeling of Sergio Leone, with intense close-ups mixed with huge landscape shots. As the couple descend more and more into violence and isolation, the locations become more breathtaking. Wheatley directs the comic moments in a wonderfully deadpan way, lingering on the characters and their sad lives; but he is equally adept at directing the violence. It is brutal and shocking but, cleverly, does not show too much.
The editing in Sightseers is very memorable and inventive. Wheatley’s use of cutting and his juxtaposing violence with the mundane or odd moments is incredibly successful. His style of editing reminded me of Nicolas Roeg’s work, and it is so nice to see someone trying to do something different and unusual and, more impressively, making it work.
Reluctantly, I have to say the film isn’t entirely successful, however. While the first two thirds are hilarious and constantly take new turns and developments, the last third is a little more predictable and not quite as funny. Its true though that the story gets darker, therefore the fall in laughs is understandable. It reminded me somewhat of God Bless America, a film about a man and a girl going on a killing rampage in the US. It was directed by Bobcat Goldthwait (in my mind one of the top comedic directors working today) and was quite similar in basic story and structure but while it takes Sightseers a good hour before becoming slightly obvious, God Bless America manages it after about ten minutes. There have been many films about couples going on murder sprees and so to keep us from guessing where it is going to go it really needs to do something remarkably different and in the case of Sightseers this is where it falters.
This is my only problem with the film. Everything else about it is a true delight and I thoroughly recommend seeing it, and on blu ray if possible. It looks great and it is fantastic to see a low budget British film putting its money in all the right places. The blu ray also contains an amusing and informative Making Of, a blooper reel and audio commentaries.
Sightseers is without a doubt one of my favourite films of 2012. Its funny, frightening, and very, very British.
Release Date: 25th March 2013 (UK)
Directed By:Ben Wheatley
Cast: Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Eileen Davies, Jonathan Aris
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