Starring: Jack O’Connell, Ben Mendelsohn, Rupert Friend
Director: David Mackenzie
Running Time: 106 mins
Starred Up is a British film about a dangerously violent and aggressive teenager who is transferred to adult prison where he meets his birth father, a man who proves more than a match for him.
Ok, while this does have a distinctly brutal and gritty atmosphere to it, it definitely isn’t as hard-hitting or turbulent to watch as you would expect. Despite strong performances, it’s got a bit of a weak screenplay that doesn’t really allow its themes to come across as clearly as needed.
However, the thing that this film does do really well is have such a strongly brutal sense of gritty realism. It’s an accurate and convincing representation of the prison lifestyle, and is hugely tough to watch due to the graphic showing of the violence and psychological trauma that prisoners suffer in this situation.
Also, the violence that is so prevalent in this film is interesting and exciting to watch. It may be deeply unpleasant, but it’s realistic and effective for the development of the characters and the story and the creation of that immensely brutal atmosphere.
Meanwhile, I was hugely impressed by the central performances here. Jack O’Connell was fantastic as a brutal and violent teenage offender, however he and his character managed to win me over as if he has a greater sense of humanity than pure anger. Ben Mendelsohn did almost the same thing, however he was at times a little irritating, even though that was the intention, while the rest of the supporting cast was pretty good too.
Despite all that, one of the main themes of this film is showing the humanity of the prisoners beneath the façade of the anger and the violence, and away from the main character, it just didn’t feel so clear, which meant that a great deal of the emotion was lost for me, and without that, the more emotive stages were definitely a lot less effective.
Overall, this gets a 7.2, because despite its strong performances and fantastic atmosphere, there was just too much of a lack of emotion for it to be truly impacting.