DIR/WRI/PRO: Hadi Hajaig • DOP: Ian Howes • ED: Hadi Hajaig • DES: Humphrey Jaeger • Cast: Sean Bean, Abhin Galeya, Charlotte Rampling, Peter Polycarpou
Hadi Hajaig follows his low-budget, noir thriller Puritan with Cleanskin, a tense tale of terrorism set in London, which pits two individuals from either side of the terror war divide against each other.
Ewan (Sean Bean), a crack ex-SAS soldier, works undercover for the British Security Service and, after a particular mission ends in a bloodied hotel lobby and grandmothers cowering from gunshots, is sent on one of those top hush-hush missions to find the men behind the masks who stole the Semtex that was being carried in the bag by the man he was supposed to be protecting – please don’t read that back – basically he’s got the OK to go and kill himself some of them there no-good terrorists.
This leads him to Ash (Abhin Galeya), whose fledgling radical opinions we see expressed in a university lecture room. He soon falls under the wing of Nabil (Peter Polycarpou), an extreme Muslim preacher, who grooms Ash for undertaking a shortcut to Paradise – as a suicide bomber. Nabil quotes Clint Eastwood rabbiting on about killing all your family, and makes Ash shack up with a psychotic killing machine. Oh Ash, what would your mother say – you used to be such a lovely boy.
What follows is a gritty, often gratuitous, but always predictable, action drama of bloody violence, hunting and dodgy dialogue. The twists and turns of the plot never come as a surprise and the film’s conspiracy shenanigans are feebly handled.
Sean Bean’s brooding gruffalo is underdeveloped and his restrained, loner madman with a licence-to-kill mentality and dark past is glossed over with a simple throwaway line halfway through the film. The supporting players could have been used to more effect. Charlote Rampling’s divine sadness is always a thing of beauty but her character here is very suspect, although the scenes between herself and Bean do work well. Tom Burke is fine as Ewan’s partner, but you can’t shake the feeling that he is like a new character who suddenly appears in Star Trek. Enough said.
Abhin Galeya is in good form playing Ash and winning the audiences empathy despite his circumstances. His journey is really the underlying theme of the film: that there’s more complexity to people than being merely good or bad– blah, blah, blah. His journey involves leaving behind his relationship with girlfriend Kate (Tuppence Middleton), a storyline that falls flat and serves little more than its obvious nod to Ash’s struggle and pursuits in life.
The flashback structure of the film to tell Ash’s story is far too labored and clumsily belittles the tension the film attempts to set up. There’s enough set-up action scenes to keep things ticking over and there is a decent story here - unfortunately it’s not told well.
But hey – it’s got Sean Bean in it.
Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Cleanskin is released on 9th March 2012