I’ve seen my fair share of head-scratching cinema over the years, but nothing quite like director Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England. Anything written by Charlie Kauffman, to Christopher Nolan’s Memento, or better yet, his own Slamdance debut, Following, for example. Even mainstream film has its way with us too: The Usual Suspects, Fight Club, and back to Nolan again with Inception. A good director can have his cake and eat it too so long as the end result was worth the trip. All Wheatley’s latest does is offer a trip of the psychedelic kind, but leaves you pondering what the hell you just watched — and not in a good way.
The plot revolves around a literal Field in England during a battle of the English Civil War. Whitehead (Reece Shearsmith) is fleeing the battle field and comes across two army deserters, Jacob (Peter Ferdinando) and Friend (Richard Glover). Off they go in search of an ale house when they come across an Irishman, O’Neill (Michael Smiley), whom Whitehead has been sent to arrest for theft. O’Neill alerts the group that there is buried treasure in a nearby field and while they set off to find the loot, all hell breaks loose amongst them.
Considering I had to rely so much on Wikipedia for a synopsis should tell you how confusing the scant 91-minute runtime is. I will give Wheatley kudos for coming up with some pretty cool visuals, none of which necessarily serve the story. Laurie Roses’ black-and-white cinematography offers a striking look, and considering the miniscule budget, Wheatley manages to come up with some cool shots while not relying on CGI. A scene where the group appears to move in slow motion shows just how great the actors really are. I’ve read the film described as thriller, horror, and comedy, but Amy Jump’s screenplay only has two laugh-out-loud moments and it’s the furthest thing from thrilling or scary.
I had high hopes for A Field in England, especially with Martin Scorsese being quoted so prominently in its marketing as: “Audacious and wildly brilliant – a stunning cinematic experience.” Unfortunately, A Field in England only results in blank-faced screen-watching, never living up to the hype.
Photo courtesy Drafthouse Films