The Prickle (@ThePrickle) April 02, 2017
Based on the novel, the film adaptation (both were written by Patrick Neate) starts out as a small scale, contemporary noir film, and ends up becoming a full blown counter-terrorist action thriller. It’s also a coming-of-age story told through flashbacks, and a romantic drama, as well as an East-meets-West tale about British Asian family life. This is simultaneously the film’s biggest strength and biggest weakness: some will find it epic in scope and rich in themes, others may find it overambitious and inconsistent.
Terence Akhtar (Riz Ahmed) is a successful but small-scale private investigator in Acton, West London. A sex worker employs him to track down her flatmate who has gone missing since meeting a client. As Akhtar investigates, he inadvertently becomes caught up in a terrifying web connecting the local Islamic youth group, international espionage, the drugs trade, the London property market, and Akhtar’s fraught past.
Riz Ahmed’s performance is riveting to watch, and holds the epic storyline together with much-needed emotional grounding and nuance. Billie Piper has very little screen time, although marketed as star casting and the central love interest. Far more impressive are the young actors in the flashback sequences, who believably capture the frustrations and ambitions of bored, working class youth.
The camerawork constantly draws attention to itself, with voyeuristic zooms and light flares. However, there is no denying that the overall visuals are extremely stylish, especially with the contemporary noir setting. An organic and elegiac soundtrack (Ruth Barrett) also lends beauty and emotional depth. A strange and genre-less film, but nonetheless a gripping and rewarding experience.