Jailbreak – BFI London Film Festival Review

Never underestimate the appreciation for martial arts films; foreign cinema in general has plenty to offer, but a good martial arts film offers everything from a thrilling story to explosive action, and fantastic characters. They’re a lot of fun, and Jimmy Henderson’s Jailbreak is no exception.

What started as a simple escort mission will soon turn to chaos as the prisoners of Koh Kla take over the prison grounds. A special task force that gets trapped in the prison will have to fight their way out for survival, to protect a key witness.

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Jailbreak is one of the most fun films showing at LFF this year; It’s got all the makings of a great martial arts film and doesn’t disappoint on any level. The action is enticing, with stunning choreography and is shot in a way that makes it feel visceral. Admittedly, the film is quite cheesy, but this does nothing but enhance what you’re seeing on screen. The film never lets up or slows down, it’s paced extremely well and it makes for a thrilling experience. But it’s not just action on offer; in my experience, I’ve found a lot of martial arts films have amazing action and then suffer with a boring story – Controversially, this is the issue I have with The Raid 2 – but Jailbreak does an excellent of maintaining both, with a story that’s interesting from the description alone and very well executed in the screenplay and performances.

I have a feeling that this film will get compared to The Raid; I can understand why, as it most definitely has a similar plot line, but the films are more different than I think Jailbreak will get credit for. Jimmy Henderson has done some fantastic work with this film, and he’s clear he has a keen eye for action. This isn’t his first action film; Hanuman was released in 2015 to positive reviews, and he’s even tried his hand at horror with 2016’s Forest Whispers. He’s a terrific talent that we need to keep an eye on and hope he has some great opportunities coming his way.

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As far as flaws are concerned, the film definitely feels too short. 92 minutes is a perfectly reasonable length of time for this film, but it feels like it ends as soon as it starts. Maybe that’s just a byproduct of the film’s excellent pacing, but I’m sure many viewers will be left wanting more. In all honesty, Jailbreak isn’t anything special, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be treated as something great; it may not be something you’ve never seen before, however it’s an exciting and enticing thrill ride that takes all the genre’s tropes and uses them to their absolute best, with a great story behind it as well. If you’re looking for a good martial arts film to kick back with, this is definitely the film for you.

Jailbreak plays as part of BFI London Film Festival 

Family Happiness (Short) – BFI London Film Festival Review

Stories of family dynamics and relationships will always feature heavily in narratives. Characters haunted by their pasts are also a familiar plot and both are features in short Family Happiness.

Romily (Whishaw), leads an innocent yet isolated existence. He calls his sister Fiona (Englert), who arrives, despite protest from her unseen partner. Whereas Romily lives alone, Fiona is married to an older, possessive partner, who soon calls her wanting to know her whereabouts. The siblings talk over their past and current lives, while an awkwardness lingers between the sensitive brother and complicated sister.

Alice Englert, who  is more known for her on screen roles in films such as Ginger and Rosa and Beautiful Creatures, writes and directs here. Her short does not have the strongest of narratives arcs but this is much more a simple observation piece. We see the two siblings relive their past, while trying to connect their present. While Romily tries to connect with those around him, Fiona is purposely cruel to others. Seen in her unprovoked treatment of a Jehovah Witness and her recounts of shopping in high end shops.

In terms of the dialogue, despite a good screenplay, what is not said is more powerful than what is with its leads. The edging around questions, the false answers to questions and the awkward silences. This is due to its to performers and their joint chemistry. They each offer multiple sides to their characters, despite a fifteen-minute running time: Englert makes her cold character feel vulnerable and Whishaw gives more depth to his straight forward older brother.

Despite the absence of a full arc, the film is a simple interaction of a complicated relationship. The actors lift this above its story with their intensity and make for intriguing viewing.

Family Happiness is out BFI London Film Festival!