Eric Love, cialis a rough young criminal, online is escorted off a van and into the prison that is to be his home for a very long time. The real world is left at the door. The next time he sees outside it will be a privilege. Eric Love is a thug, and he belongs in that prison. Easy to say for somebody on the outside, isn’t it? On the inside, there’s a whole other story that takes place after they close the bars.
Freshly transferred from a criminal youth facility to an adult prison, Eric (Jack O’Connell) wastes no time in causing havoc for the guards and other inmates alike. Before even unpacking his few belongings, he makes himself a weapon and soon after renders an inmate unconscious. He is crude, violent, and unbelievably aggressive. Anything can set him off. But he soon becomes wise to the fact that he is living amongst many other ticking time bombs, and his real problems start when he crosses paths with another inmate, a familiar face; his father, Neville (Ben Mendelsohn). Neville is torn between wanting the best for Eric and leading him down the same bad paths that he has ventured. But when Eric starts attending a therapy session, referred to simply as ‘group’, Neville shows himself to be the hostile, violent brute that Eric runs the risk of turning into. Eric must choose between seeking help and bettering himself, or giving in to his animalistic aggression, which is sure to add more years to his already long sentence.
A painfully gritty portrayal of prison politics, Starred Up unashamedly questions Britain’s prison system. Teaming with corruption, the prison sees Eric as just another thug for them to lock in a cell and take matters into their own hands if he steps too far out of line. Hope manifests in the form of social worker Oliver (Rupert Friend), who thinks not enough is being done to guide the inmates on the right path and believes he can reach Eric as long as they allow him to attend ‘group’. But everyone on the inside knows that there is no easy way out, and with a new enemy around every corner, it is every man for himself.
Director David Mackenzie is consistent in cornering in on his audience and including them in the action, with carefully placed moments of tension and violence confined in small, restrictive spaces. Adding to an increasing sense of claustrophobia, Jack O’Connell’s performance certainly ensures that being in such close quarters with a convict as abrasive as Eric Love is not an easy experience. This film is an intensive and brutally realistic look at extreme cases of prison life, and the sense of dedication radiates from O’Connell’s intense onscreen presence. Admittedly not an original role choice for the Harry Brown actor, the role of Eric Love has revealed O’Connell’s talent for taking on difficult characters and smothering them with an inexplicable grit and authenticity. With palpable tension in O’Connell’s performances with Mendelsohn, who is terrifyingly convincing and with unavoidable presence, the end result is nothing short of excellent.
Supported by a fantastic and almost unrecognizable Rupert Friend, who takes the opportunity to show his range in a genre far from his period-drama roots, the cast inject the gritty and simplistic story, narrative and style with the hard-hitting energy that makes this film such an intense but brilliant experience, and in my opinion O’Connell is making himself a promising and well-deserved future in film. Although it is thought-provoking and intelligent, Starred Up is by no means an easy watch, nor is it for every taste. But it is British grit at its best. And if ‘starred up’ means you’re a leader, then this film may hold a title in British drama for quite a while.