Blood Review

There’s just something about Paul Bettany’s voice, isn’t there?

It’s just so comforting, like a hearty shepherd’s pie, warm mulled wine or downy baby hair.

Just me?

Blood sees Bettany adopt a more rough-and-ready accent than his usual gentleman’s dialect, but the timbre’s still there.

Here he plays the ambitious Joe Fairburn, a justice-seeking detective working alongside his younger brother Chrissie in a small, coastal town where the system is ardently more bureaucratic than it was back in the day of his ageing, Alzheimer’s-riddled father.

In the wake of a teenage-girl’s murder, Joe’s frustration at the seemingly flawed judicial system reaches breaking point, giving way to director Nick Murphy’s exploration into the complex nature of human morality, justice and guilt.

This inner conflict between following legal precedent and the instinctive desire for justice forms the basis of Bettany’s character, and is the catalyst that leads him to make certain catastrophic decisions.

Bettany excels as the bitter cop ravaged by the incompatibility between his emotions and his job, and the resulting feelings of impotence that drive him to lash out.

The audience becomes complicit in his grievances, sucked into the black hole of the case and equally zealous in our desires to see the victim avenged.

Call it a thriller if you must but Murphy’s tale is more than that, it’s a study of the human disposition.

The line between right and wrong is brutally crossed, and the ensuing blur asks whether doing an immoral thing for moral reasons is good enough.

The pace is ruthlessly measured, so don’t go expecting a white-knuckle ride, more an unsettling, voyeuristic drift.

Choosing to explore the intricacies of the human condition is a risk, since it means the usual chaser-vs-chased narrative that Blood feebly hints at makes the film, at times, feel like it’s lacking something.

Instead, Murphy explores the damage we can do to ourselves from the inside, and the friction caused by hiding reality behind a testing façade.

The end veers on the anticlimactic, single-handedly dispersing all the tension and questionable moral dilemmas that the film has spent its duration tugging, like feathers in front of a fan; all for a neat moral conclusion, both for the audience and Murphy’s protagonist.

All very well for exulting faith in the human spirit, but it creates a damp finale as the narrative is left somewhat deflated like wet air dribbling out of a balloon.

A shame, seeing as the rest of the film is enthralling in its piercing study of the family Fairburn.

Ending aside, Blood is a poignant piece of British vision, reflecting its cast of British heavy-weights and BAFTA award-winning director; leaving behind plenty of unanswered questions about what constitutes true ethics in the face of human instinct.

Seraphina Trent D’Arby

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Dates ‘n stuff

October 2012