An armour-plated chamber drama that creaks when it comes to character dynamics
Taking place just after the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi in 2013, Clash boils the chaos and complexities of post-coup Cairo down to its barest essentials. The timeline is condensed into the course of one long, hot day and all of the action is confined to the back of a police van. Our fellow passengers are a motley microcosm of the protests at large: Muslim Brotherhood members face off against pro-military supporters, while the unaffiliated cling onto the barred windows and beg to be released.
It’s a neat but not entirely novel premise that runs the risk of inviting some unflattering comparisons and requires a dash of unlikely plotting to shore things up. And, perhaps inevitably, something gets lost in Clash’s ruthless process of reduction. It handles the sound and fury of the riots ably, and ends on a particularly powerful crescendo – but when the scrum dissipates and silence falls on the ensemble, the film is left a little lost for words. Choosing to adopt a somewhat toothless neutrality towards its characters, Clash pulls back from the thornier interpersonal issues its narrative situation throws up, and lapses instead into the melodramatic and the mechanical.
Clash screened at Glasgow Film Festival