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Movie Review: Edinburgh International Film Festival 2008 – Red

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I love it when a film, deeply rooted in its location can resonate in places other than where it’s set. This is exactly what Red does.  An affecting and thoroughly satisfying film with a brilliant lead performance from the great Brian Cox.

One day while out fishing with his dog, a reclusive man is threatened by three boys, who end up killing his dog. After this the man seeks redemption and justice for this act, that was perpetrated for no reason.

I was a bit wary in the first 10 minutes of this film as it seemed to stutter its way along, like a car engine that’s having troubled starting up. However it soon finds its way and at a good pace, and from then on it stays on track until the very end. It’s a delicate film that deals with the long-lived idea that a dog is a man’s best friend. It’s an extremely personal film and it perfectly presents touching scenes, without letting it get overly sentimental.

Having said the word delicate it has also got this unnerving undertone of danger throughout. You never quite know what’s ahead of you. There were times when I thought I knew how things were going to end-up, but the film always went in a different direction. It’s brilliantly crafted in its scenes of tension, the scenes which allow you to label it a thriller. But it’s mostly a drama, a very human and touching drama that leaves its mark and stays in your head long after it’s finished.

There are a few moments here and there, particularly in it’s scenes of violence, that just don’t seem to fit in with the rest of the film. It’s true that these scenes accentuate the aforementioned undertone of danger but they none the less seemed out of place. However this idea of contrast doesn’t automatically go against the film; an example of this being in its moments of dark humour. Overall it isn’t a comedy, dark or otherwise, but for some reason the choice to include a few moments of it worked very much in the film’s favour.

Cox’s dog’s name in the film is Red, hence the title, and the shocking moment when it gets shot (this is at the beginning so this isn’t really a spoiler) lingers in the mind throughout the rest of the film. Not only because the act itself stays in your mind but because the rest of the film reminds you of it. Most of the scenes after the aforementioned act have the colour red in it somewhere; whether that be the lights in a bar, the colour of a pole outside of a house or even blood. Ensuring that you never forget what the catalyst for the rest of the movie was.

I have a feeling that this film won’t get much of a wide release, and it’s a shame as it definitely deserves to be seen. It’s much better than half of the garbage out there (in wide release) which passes for dramas or thrillers. It not only provides great drama and thrills but it also has heart and emotion to go along with it; a lot of which has to do with the brilliant performance by Brian Cox. In my book he really can do no wrong as an actor, even in bad movies he’s still good and in my book that is one of the marks of a true great. He just brings a certain wisdom and intelligence to his roles and, dare I say, he was made for roles like this.

The film starts off quite simple but soon unravels its layers of complexity. It’s not often you see a film with so many layers on top of each other and the film unravelled so well without seeming like there’s too much in it. By film’s end I felt I had spent my time on something worthwhile, and the bordering on perfect ending very much helped matters.

Red allows you to ask yourself, “What would I do in this situation? How would I react?” It’s touching, affecting and at times very powerful, and almost worth it for the performance of Brian Cox alone.

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About Ross Miller