Tyrannosaur (2011)

Director:  Paddy Considine
Cast:  Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, Archie LalJag Sanghera
Plot:  Joseph, a man plagued by violence and a rage that is driving him to self-destruction, earns a chance of redemption that appears in the form of Hannah, a Christian charity shop worker.

Genre:  Drama
Awards:  Won 1 BAFTA - Outstanding Debut.  Won Special Jury Prize and Best Director (Sundance).
Runtime:  92min
Rating:  M18 for violence, coarse language and a rape scene.

Nobody's safe with me.”

This is not a spin-off from the Jurassic Park movies, but the debut feature from actor-turned-director Paddy Considine.  It is a strong debut with positive reviews from critics and is easily one of the best British independent films to emerge in 2011. 

Considine, who had a cameo role as a paranoid journalist tracked by a sniper in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), shows that he is a filmmaker of considerable promise, most notably in his directing of his actors, all of whom give exacting performances that are a joy to watch.

Tyrannosaur centers on Joseph, played by Peter Mullan (War Horse, 2011), who is an alcoholic with a terrible rage.  He is a violent man with seemingly no redeeming qualities.  In the opening scene, he stumbles out of a bar and fatally kicks his dog.  He continues his destructive streak until he stumbles into a Christian clothes and utility store, where he meets its married owner Hannah (Olivia Colman). 

The screenplay moves on to focus on the unlikely relationship blossoming between the two leads, but without the generic treatment where one character seeks love and solace in another with redemption as an end point.

Redemption is still an end point, but Considine manages to convince with a character-centered process that slowly takes the viewer to a level of empathy where the two leads outgrow their character stereotypes and veer into a symbiotic relationship characterized by the need to change the status quo - Joseph and his violent self, and Hannah and her abusive husband. 

However in Tyrannosaur, the desire for action is only effected when the characters have been driven to the depths of their despair. And this is what Considine does quite well, allowing for nuance despite the violent and dark themes associated with the film's plot.

Winning Best Director and the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, Tyrannosaur is a well-crafted directorial debut with exceptional performances from a relatively unknown cast outside of the UK.  Although it is not quite the best of its kind, this intimate study on human behaviour, emotions and circumstance is worth a consideration to watch.

Verdict:  A quite powerful and affecting tale of violence, rage and redemption with characters driven to the depths of their despair. 

GRADE: B+ (8/10 or 3.5 stars)

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