Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: None stated, as yet.
THE issue of asylum seekers remains one of the most emotive topics
facing Britons today, with many considering them to be a blight
on the governments resources and a nuisance in general.
Thus, the idea of sitting through a film which actually takes
time to delve into their plight, showing how they are often exploited
because of their vulnerability, might not seem like the inspiration
for one of the better thrillers of the year.
Yet Stephen Frears Dirty Pretty Things makes for compelling
viewing; one that is not only socially aware, but which grips
the viewer throughout, with its dark mix of gothic horror, unspoken
feelings and decency against the odds.
Theatre favourite, Chiwetel Ejiofor, stars as Okwe, a young Nigerian
exile living in London, who drives a cab by day and works in a
hotel by night.
Forced to lead an invisible existence, but driven by an overwhelming
sense of right and wrong, Okwe is suddenly thrown into a moral
conundrum when he makes a grim discovery in one of the hotels
bedrooms but is powerless to act because of his status.
Frears film works on many levels, managing to create a
side of London that is seldom seen. The director maintains that
he wanted to delve into the underside of the capital
to peek into the grubby side of life and has succeeded
in creating a dark and sinister underworld, where everything is
for sale and human rights are frequently violated.
Thrown into this melting pot are the likes of Audrey Tautous
Turkish refugee, Senay, who is secretly in love with Okwe, and
Sergi Lopezs sleazy hotel boss, Sneaky, who frequently uses
the plight of his staff to gain a personal (usually financial)
The brainchild of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? creator,
Steven Knight, Dirty Pretty Things is both a taut social thriller
and a genuinely affecting love story, made all the more believable
because of its grounding in reality. And while the issues it raises
might not make for easy viewing, the film should be applauded
for attempting to shed some light on a contentious subject, serving
to show the hopelessness of one of the worlds mounting problems.
Of course, not everything works (certain characters are far too
one-dimensional, such as the laughably aggressive immigration
officers), but there is plenty to savour and Frears has certainly
created one of the best British films of the year.
He also draws some fine performances from his multi-cultural
cast, with Amelies
Tautou genuinely affecting as the proud but vulnerable Senay,
and Benedict Wong providing some much-needed light relief as one
of Okwes friends.
But it is the rapidly-emerging Ejiofor who shines brightest,
as the charismatic Okwe, a character whose over-riding sense of
decency provides a sense of hope in a situation which, for the
most part, offers very little. He, more than anyone, helps to
ensure that the film carries such a strong emotional punch.