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The War Zone
1 review

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Tim Roth

Annabelle Apsion, Kate Ashfield, Colin Farrell, Lara Belmont, Freddie Cunliffe

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The War Zone (1999)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
September 16th, 2007

'The War Zone' is a film of heartbreaking intensity, disturbing and grim, devoid of happiness or optimism. It deals frankly and graphically with the subject of incest, and that alone makes it difficult to watch, but we must confront the ugliness of it along with the young protagonist, Tom (Freddie Cunliffe), who witnesses his father (Ray Winstone) having sex with his sister Jessie (Lara Belmont), but chooses to stay silent about it at first, until he brings it up with Jessie, who is hesitant to discuss it, and his father remains in denial, accusing Tom of being a pervert and spreading malicious lies. All of this happens while the mother (Tilda Swinton) is recovering from childbirth, and spending time at the hospital, and having her hands full with the new baby. Tom first spies a troubling encounter between his father and Jessie through the bathroom window, which we don't see, but it upsets him and occupies his thoughts for a while. Jessie has a boyfriend named Nick (played by Colin Farrell), and she slips off with him to fool around, and Jessie even takes Tom to one of her friends to have him lose his virginity, but this doesn't quite work out as planned.

The secret Tom carries weighs heavily on him, and he subtly tries to inform his mother, while the emotional burden of the whole experience takes its toll on Jessie, who wants to side with Tom and expose her father, but is afraid of him, as is Tom, who realizes that he must try to prove his damaging allegations. An abandoned old building by a seaside cliff is the setting for the movie's most upsetting and hurtful scene, what amounts to a rape, as Jessie is sodomized by her father. It is astonishingly cruel, and degrading, raw and painful, but also riveting and effective, and Tom is outside recording the whole thing, yet he mysteriously discards this evidence, rather than show it to anybody.

Tim Roth made his directorial debut with 'The War Zone', and it is hard to imagine it being done any better. The performances are flawless, effortlessly honest and convincing, amateur Cunliffe is particularly amazing, as are veterans Winstone and Swinton. It was Belmont, however, who mesmerized me. How she displays humiliation and torment is simply unforgettable, and few actresses have had roles of such quality. The mood and atmosphere are consistently dreary and ominous, with the rural countryside depicted as gray and rainy, with little sunshine, an appropriate metaphor for the souls and minds of these characters. A devastating film.

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