By Anna Smith
Kill List star Neil Maskell makes his feature directorial debut with the dark comedy Klokkenluider, which had its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival. The title is Dutch for “whistleblower,” and Maskell’s script sees a couple hiding out in a remote Belgian cottage, nervously preparing to spill the beans to a newspaper journalist. When they’re joined by two bodyguards, tensions rise but relationships are formed. It’s an involving character-driven drama/thriller that recalls cult British fare such as Black Mirror, as well as the work of Maskell’s regular cohort Ben Wheatley.
After some slightly clunky establishing scenes between IT guy Ewan (Amit Shah) and his wife Silke (Sura Dohnke), the film settles into a more confident comedic tone upon the arrival of Chris (Tom Burke) and Glynn (Roger Evans). A mismatched pair of heavies for hire, they’re tasked with keeping the couple safe – and also, perhaps, preventing them from leaving. Ewan has stumbled upon something big in the government, and Silke has approached a paper to sell the story, accepting protection from the publishers while they await a big-name reporter.
Burke is very amusing as the bossy, casually cruel Chris, who is constantly chiding Glynn (who is initially introduced as “Ben,” but soon blows his own cover). Evans brings heart and humor as the boozy, inept security detail who can’t say no to a glass of wine or three and crumbles during a game of charades that gets darker by the minute. There are genuinely affecting moments between these four characters, as well as an underlying sense of threat and danger, which helps keep this low budget thriller intriguing.
When Jenna Coleman arrives as a no-nonsense, foul-mouthed journalist, she shatters the group’s makeshift bond with a single word, and proceeds to deliver a memorable speech to the anxious couple. Coleman is terrific, recalling the sharp-talking bravado of her Doctor Who character and adding an acerbic, brittle, tabloid edge.
As Klokkenluider moves towards its conclusion, it takes on more of a serious political tone, and the ending gives you plenty to chew on, inviting you to mentally revisit key scenes. It’s a small film with a big message, and humor as dark as you’d expect from the star of Utopia, Hyena and other bleak British fare.
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