Set in Glasgow, Red Road is a slow moving yet tense psychological thriller that’s never in a hurry to give anything away.
Jackie works in security, constantly monitoring a score of CCTV screens for hours on end. In a wonderful extended opening we see her at work and experience her duties first hand. There’s an acute mixture of voyeuristic thrills mixed with the tedium of such an important yet presumably dull job. When Jackie sees someone on the screens from the past, it sets into motion a series of events that will see her compromise not just her duties but her mind and body.
This is definitely a slow burn thriller, but one that keeps us in perpetual suspense cos we’re always a few steps behind Jackie. The film has a gritty, downbeat feel and a very realistic, no-nonsense tone. The narrative holds onto its secrets for so long that at the journey’s end any revelations are a little disappointing, but the script cleverly encourages us to shift our alliances at various points.
Kate Dickie is superb as Jackie, and gives an intense and focussed performance. There are so many unspoken moments that tell us more about her than any dialogue could. This aspect of the film perhaps mirrors Jackie’s job, whereby she watches silent footage of people day after day, constantly trying to comprehend their thoughts and motives. Tony Curran plays Clyde, the man over which she begins to obsess, and he is deliciously terrifying when they finally meet. Martin Compston (from Loach’s Sweet Sixteen) is a violent and unpredictable mate of Clyde’s whilst Nathalie Press (My Summer of Love) gives a haunting performance as young April, who never seems to be in control.
Red Road is actually the first in a trilogy of films bound by the rules of the Advance Party. Produced by Glaswegian Sigma Films and Zentropa (surprise, surprise), the challenge has three different directors writing separate films drawing from a single pool of characters. Red Road stands on its own, but I will be interested to see how the others pan out.Rating: