Following the Twitter feed of Noel Clarke, the writer and co-director of 126.96.36.199, we were surprised to see him express his displeasure regarding a Q&A he did at the BFI a few weeks back. Our surprise wasn’t aimed at him, though, rather the audience that turned up to question him, whom he described as 99% uninterested in what he had to say.
That’s odd. Because, and 188.8.131.52 offers ample of proof of this, if you’re a young filmmaker looking to make movies in the UK, Noel Clarke is absolutely one of the people you should be hunting down to talk to.
His new movie is precisely the kind of film that you wouldn’t expect the British film industry to churn out. It’s got more of the soul and beats of an American independent film, warts and all, and it’s simply bursting with an energy, passion and desire to entertain that you’d be daft to turn your nose up at.
The film itself is based around four women, their individual stories, and how they tie into a great whole. There’s Ophelia Lovibond as Shannon, Tamsin Egerton’s Cassandra, Emma Roberts as Jo and Shanika Warren-Markland as Kerrys. They’re young, occasionally resistant to wearing clothes, and all tied up unwittingly in a jewel heist that, thanks to a well-known brand of crisps, has put the sparklers in their hands.
Yet, that’s the narrative that proves the backdrop of the film rather than the thrust of it. Instead, Clarke’s script tells the story of how each of the women got to the same point, with the help of some quick rewinding (that we got a bit of a Run Lola Run vibe from) and interweaving of narrative moments that are handled extremely well.
Of the four stories, the film starts with the darkest, allowing Lovibond to put in a terrific turn as Shannon. It’s perhaps not the strongest of the four arcs here (although it was my favourite), kicking a lively film off in a deceptively downbeat way. But 184.108.40.206 uses it as a springboard for tales that meld together some fast-paced action, cracking comedy lines and a collection of side characters (the finest of which, Larry, brings in a terrifically funny cameo from Kevin Smith, and an ironic one in relation to recent events).
Clarke’s four leads serve him well for the duration of the film, and behind the camera, in conjunction with co-director Mark Davis, he delivers some fine work himself. It’s a film directed with a real verve and energy, bristling with confidence and some terrific tempo shifts in the middle of scenes.
And it’s a film too that has an awful lot of pace to it. Perhaps 220.127.116.11’s biggest problem, though, is that it needs it. It calls for that momentum and urgency, because the factor that hampers Clarke’s script is that he has four stories to tell in the same running time that most attempt one or two.
His ambition can’t be faulted – there are echoes of both Amores Perros and Go here – but even though he gets through a lot of business, the film does feel a little over-stretched at times. He doesn’t allow himself much time to relax either, with most of the film’s narrative arcs delivered with the foot firmly pressed on the accelerator.
It’s hard to knock 18.104.22.168 for that, but it does make a two hour film feel just a little bit longer than that. However, there’s no doubt at all that you get your money’s worth.
The end product is a little rough around the edges at times, and when it focuses on the heist and diamonds themselves, it’s at its weakest. But it never loses that feeling of being just that little bit off the usual track, and being the kind of film that US independent cinema tends to have a stranglehold on.
Not any more: 22.214.171.124 is funny, fast, interesting and entertaining. And while it’s far from a perfect beast, it’s one very worth watching.