In a time where the general public is very weary of the government’s motives, a movie about corruption, crime and murder should be very relevant. Unfortunately, Red Riding: 1974 does not completely achieve this atmosphere.
Red Riding: 1974 is the first film in the Red Riding trilogy that was made for television in the United Kingdom (However, they were released theatrically here in the United States). The first film in the series follows Eddie Dunford (Andrew Garfield showing why he won his roles in The Social Network and the Spider-Man Reboot), a newspaper reporter who tries to uncover the culprit of a string of murders (most involving young girls). Eventually, Dunford finds out that the local police and many others are involved in the cover up of the murders.
The film is directed by Julian Jarrold (probably most known for directing Becoming Jane). Unfortunately he brings nothing to the table as he is unable to obtain the claustrophobic or disturbingly poignant atmosphere that a movie of this genre should have. Writer Tony Grisoni also fails to spice up the film to anything above average. His script, unfortunately, has all of the clichés of any crime drama. The ending of the film really brings the failure of these two into context as a choice in the final seconds is made (involving something supernatural) that makes no sense within the context of the film and the genre it pertains to.
The acting, on the other hand, is commendable with the exception of Sean Bean (who is completely wasted as the film’s villain). Andrew Garfield is great and it is easy to see why he was chosen to star in The Social Network and the Spider-Man reboot. Garfield brings a lot of gravitas and the “rooting for” factor that are necessary in his upcoming roles. Rebecca Hall is very good as well in a supporting role as a grieving mother and love interest for Garfield. I also found it very fortunate for the movie that all of the actors (except Bean once again) were able to pull off the Leeds accent that was required for all of the characters.
Behind the camera, a lot is handled well. The only exception is the editing which did not work in creating any suspense. The cinematography starts of bland but quickly becomes increasingly interesting. For example, there is a fascinating angle in the film of Garfield’s character looking through a distorted doorway into Rebecca Hall’s face. However, as twists in the film reveal themselves, the angle turns out not just to be done for the sake of being fascinating. The costume design is also well done for the small budget the film had.
Red Riding: 1974 is definitely a film, with a little more creativity involved, that could have achieved greatness. Instead it settles with being an unmemorable stepping stone on Andrew Garfield’s path to superstardom.