Starring: Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer
Director: Ben Wheatley
Running Time: 90 mins
Free Fire is a British film about an underground firearms deal in a run-down warehouse in Boston that takes an unexpected turn for the worse, putting everyone involved in a brutal shootout to the death.
I had huge fun with this film. Funny, original, clever, well-acted and very well-directed from start to finish, Free Fire is so much more than just 90 minutes of shooting. Its single-location setting works far more in its favour than you’d expect, lending an impressive intensity to the shootout, all the while setting the scene for a seriously gritty and violent battle.
That’s what impressed me most about this film, the fact that it unfolds effectively entirely within the confines of this dark and dilapidated warehouse. You’d think that that would make it difficult for the story to really move along over the entire duration, but it works wonders for the story at hand.
From the moment that the arms deal goes wrong, this film basically turns into an all-out shootout. However, it’s not just watching guns blazing and blood pouring, because Ben Wheatley directs the film’s action in such a way that you’re always on your toes.
While I won’t say that this is a particularly fast-paced film, and very occasionally languishes about, it’s a hugely unpredictable watch simply because of how it is shot. Rather than being a conventional shootout on two fronts between the two sides, the players here are spread out all over the warehouse, and keep moving around throughout the movie, making it impossible to create a map in your mind of how it’s all playing out.
What’s more is that a lot of the shots are taken at a very low level, watching the characters crawling and dragging themselves around and hiding behind bashed up concrete blocks, and given that there’s no clear scope of the warehouse as a whole, you can never predict where enemy might accidentally crawl into enemy, or how close someone is to making it out alive.
Add to that the fact that a couple of the characters keep changing sides throughout the movie, and you get a really unpredictable, intense and exciting set-up for 90 minutes of battling, something that I was hugely impressed by.
When it comes to Free Fire’s story, it’s very simple. Arms deal goes wrong, people start shooting, fight to the death. What makes it interesting, however, is the series of changing alliances and frictions going on on both sides.
In effect, there’s no real friendship between any of the characters, and they’re all going at each other’s throats even if they’re actually on the same side of the fight. However, that makes for some fantastic excitement and twists along the way, as well as paving the way for some brilliant comedy.
And I say that because this film is genuinely hilarious. Right from the opening sequence to the very last, the humour in Free Fire is consistently clever and risky. It has no qualms with laughing at some insane levels of violence, all the while bringing together a group of less-than-bright characters who make the situation even more dangerous given how trigger-happy they all are.
Finally, there’s the performances. It’s a big ensemble cast, and there’s no one character that stands out as the main focus of the movie, but that doesn’t matter given how strong each and every performance is. From Brie Larson’s hilarious and shrill turn to Sharlto Copley’s brilliantly arrogant performance, as well as more fantastic shows from the likes of Armie Hammer, Michael Smiley, Cillian Murphy, Sam Riley, Jack Reynor and Babou Ceesay, the cast here is so good at making the comedy here work just as well as the fantastically violent and gritty action.
Overall, I loved Free Fire. Save for a few moments where it slows down a little too much, it’s an intense, off-the-chain and hilarious action-comedy filled with fantastic performances, genius directing and a great script, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.7.