Tiger Raid full movie review - Head spanglingly immersive, pitch black but beautiful, hauntingly profound
An extreme, immersive, breath holding, visceral, all-consuming viewing experience,Tiger Raid is a film that is so much greater than the description, or sum, of its phenomenal parts.
Damien Molony and Brian Gleeson star as Paddy and Joe, two mercenaries on a mission to carry out the kidnapping of a rich businessman's daughter, Shadha (Sofia Boutella). The pair play their part in the 'tiger raid' wearing painted on bandit-like black masks, working together for the first time and beginning the job with mutual distrust. Teasing and testing each other, they immediately engage in a dangerous, relentless, psychological dance.
Set in the war-torn Middle East, against a vast and empty backdrop, the film's opening has an almost apocalyptic feel, and as they begin to converse, the words of the two men could be as a result of some 'new world order'. But the action is not set in the future, this is now, and the context Paddy and Joe exist within, overseen by an invisible boss 'Dave', has its own rules. But they each have their own versions of reality within that world, and as they collide and constantly challenge each other, a sparking kinetic energy continuously grows between them.
An undeniably dark, and very disturbing, intense and suspenseful roller coaster, the layered plot unfolds with twists and turns. As the raid progresses, the already 'volatile situation' between the two men becomes increasingly chaotic and threatening, and after the kidnapping the dynamic shifts as external forces and revelations about Paddy and Joes' pasts uncover even darker truths.
Throughout the film the close-up intimacy of the drama between these dark souls takes place against an empty, unending background, giving the feel of them being on the edge of life (and on the edge of their lives) and heading towards their final judgement. There is also something overwhelmingly profound and beautiful, emotionally powerful and pure about the film from the outset. The hauntingly penetrating score and the photography, delivering sweeping panoramas, and close- ups, magnifying and contextualising the characters' inner and outer worlds, heighten the beauty that both transcends and permeates the whole journey. The soundtrack is potently sublime, other worldly, almost celestial in places. These are not religious themes, but they speak to the deeper, even poetic, soul of the film.
The performances are both vivid and subtle, all three actors embody their characters utterly and completely. Damien and Brian Gleeson imbue Paddy and Joe with vibrant and shifting shades, evoking emotion for these characters, in places where you shouldn't find yourself moved at all. But their journey, their revelations, their damaged, hidden hinterlands and histories, lay heavily, even painfully, in the heart.
Adapted from Mick Donnellan's play 'Radio Luxembourg', the tonal and tense, multi-layered, intelligently constructed story translates to the screen seamlessly, the largely two person plot ceaselessly compelling and absorbing. The story and character arcs are so richly textured, they are almost impossible to entirely compute in one viewing. The film's essence remains and its meaning continues to unfold long after it is over.
An up close uncategorisable character piece with strains of psychological thriller, this intimate yet immense film also oozes quality and creative integrity from edge to edge. It's incredibly performed, beautifully made by first time director Simon Dixon, stunningly shot by Si Bell, and Dean Valentine's deliciously permeating score is both impactfully pulsating and exquisitely sublime. Part of the film's power is down to this synergy and the care in every heartbeat of the film from performance to production.
Very much an Indie and with nothing manufactured, mainstream or mass produced about it, this is far from easy, end of the day, escapism. But it is an alive, artistic, affecting experience. And It deserves to be experienced. However tempting it might be to try to reference it to another film, there really is no film quite like it.
Head spanglingly immersive, pitch black but beautiful, hauntingly profound, moving, brave and indelible, Tiger Raid is more than worth the watch.