Writer James Walker and director Edward Boase (interviewed here) team up once again, this time for their first feature-length film, a fake documentary type of thing about the extreme tactics of an animal welfare group.
The movie begins with a few pertinent pieces of information. In the Summer of 2004, parliament debates law to outlaw fox hunting. Pro-hunting marches turn violent. Fox hunting is banned but enforcing that ban is difficult and, police admit, a low priority.
Lucas Bell is the youngest hunt master in the UK and also the most vocal advocate of fox hunting, he’s the man to go to for a soundbite. Which is why, in October 2005 an animal welfare group targets Lucas Bell, taking direct action against illegal hunts and posting the video on the internet four months later. This is the story behind that film. Told by those who lived through it.
The main people involved in this drama are Lucas Bell, of course, his brother Charlie, Liv Scott (an ex-girlfriend of Lucas), Ben Fitzpatrick (friend) and Eve Jourdan (Charlie’s American girlfriend). These folks are played on film by two actors, one who takes part in the talking head section (and any “real” footage included within the movie) and one who plays the character in a reconstruction of events. It’s one of the first major plus points for the movie that these characters are introduced, both in the talking head form and in the reconstruction, clearly and smoothly.
Everyone is very good onscreen, with the best performances coming from Oliver Boot, Joseph Kloska and Adam Best (who both play Ben) and the lovely Isabella Calthorpe, an actress I last saw gracing the mediocre 13 Hrs with her presence. The actress playing Eve Jourdan doesn’t come across so well but I’d say that was due to her character being very much the outsider looking in as opposed to any specific failings in her acting. Nobody is a weak link.
I don’t think I’ll separate any praise for Walker and Boase because I think the things that DO work well in the movie work well because of a real team effort, from the camera operators to the freezing actors to the scriptwriter to the sound engineers to the director himself. Blooded has a real polish to it, it feels far from a feature debut and has a sense of authenticity to it that is retained from beginning to end.
Ironically, it’s this sense of authenticity that also proves to be one of the movie’s main failings. Despite some beautiful landscape shots and the occasional piece of aerial photography, there is very little here that feels suitably cinematic, nothing that makes it feel like you’re enjoying a film. “But it’s pretending to be a documentary,” you may say. Fair point. On the other hand, it’s NOT actually a documentary and that makes the choice of style slightly puzzling. If it was all hand-held stuff then perhaps it would have been more powerful (although, admittedly, people are becoming tired of the “shaky-cam” being overused), if it was all simply a movie it may have allowed for more creative licence.
The other big problem the film has is that it doesn’t end well. At all. That’s a shame because it undoes a lot of the good work that has gone beforehand. If viewers invest their time and patience in something that asks them to be drawn into the lives of some fictional creations then they should be rewarded with something a bit more satisfying than this movie provides. Once again, I suspect authenticity contributes to this aspect of the movie but that doesn’t help when watching a film that simply seems to wind down rather than satisfactorily end.
Blooded is professional, it’s intelligent and it has at least one moment that is surprisingly moving. It’s determined to provoke thought and discussion. Despite the title and the controversial subject at its heart, Blooded is not about hunting. What Blooded is all about is summed up in the first words spoken in the film:
“Extremism, anywhere in the world, it’s all about shouting louder than everyone else until you get to the point where everyone’s shouting so loudly on all sides of the debate that the issue, what they’re shouting about, is no longer as important as the fact that they’re shouting and that’s when the focus is lost and that’s where people get hurt”
It’s certainly something worth looking at and it’s given due treatment in a movie that’s very good. It’s not great though. Let’s hope for something just a bit better next time from Mr. Boase and/or Mr. Walker.
The DVD is a real treat, especially for aspiring film-makers. The main draw is a commentary track featuring the director, writer, actor Nick Ashdon and the director of photography, Kate Reid. The commentary track is a perfect example of what to put over your movie: practical talk and advice, numerous anecdotes and some specific equipment mentioned by Reid for anyone camera shopping. Superb stuff.
There’s also a “making of…” piece that runs at just under 15 minutes. There is a little bit of crossover here but it’s decent enough for a supplementary piece.
Unseen Interviews brings us some more of the talking head moments, some of it’s just unnecessary filling in of one or two chronological gaps but there’s also reaction to the viral video and a little chat about the after-effects of everything.
Last, but not least, there’s a decent short film written, directed and editied by Boase. Called “Home Video”, and starring Jane Levy”, it’s economical, unnerving and impressive. Within the space of 3 minutes.
Blooded is released in cinemas today, 1st April 2011, and hits DVD this coming Monday 4th April 2011. It is also available via download & on demand April 1st, further details available from the official site at the following:
STARS: NICK ASHDON, OLIVER BOOT, JOSEPH KLOSKA, TRACY IFEACHOR, ISABELLA CALTHORPE
RUNTIME: 76 MINS APPROX