Hugely accomplished

Film Review by Laura Smith | 08 Oct 2007
Film title: Control
Director: Anton Corbijn
Starring: Sam Riley, Samantha Morton, Craig Parkinson,
Release date: 5 Oct
Certificate: 15
The classic rock and roll story of escape, stripped of the sentimental gloss of Hollywood biopics like Ray or Walk the Line, and relocated to the kitchen-sink bleakness of working-class Macclesfield, Control follows the tormented life of Joy Division legend Ian Curtis: dead at twenty-three, torn apart by love. The buzziest film at Cannes and winner of the Michael Powell Award for Best New British Feature at Edinburgh, it's a hugely accomplished feature debut from Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn. Shot in a glittering spectrum of grainy monochrome tones, Corbijn finds a brutal beauty in all that gloom: each frame vividly composed and charged with a fierce, blistering intensity. Post-punk eighties Blighty never looked so good. Complete with melancholy hooded eyelids and frenetic stage presence, newcomer Sam Riley is uncannily authentic in the central role. Balancing Curtis' uncontrollable energy with an introspective vulnerability, it's a truly electrifying performance. The gig scenes are masterful – extras were hand-picked fans of the band, and the cast all learned their instruments from scratch, playing live on-set with unnervingly accurate results as Riley propels himself across the stage, elbows akimbo. Knife-sharp Mancunian humour alleviates the grimness – thanks largely to a terrific turn from Toby Kebbell as the deadpan manager – and there are enjoyable flashes of wry farce in the taut, polished screenplay; "Tell me about Macclesfield," Curtis' Belgian lover huskily intones at one point. It's not a perfect film: at times the pace flags and the female characters are frustratingly elusive, fluttering moth-like around Curtis' destructiveness in their assigned roles of domestic drudge and exotic mistress. But as a tribute to a young man who both longed for and dreaded a loss of control, Corbijn's film is a stunning achievement: anguished, compelling, with an atmosphere that lingers long after the final bass note fades. [Laura Smith]