Fuck it, I’ll finish my film amnesty first and then talk about the mystery second film I was going to review after The Spirit which definitely has nothing to do with people called Zack and Miri making a porno. Anyway- Control.
Control is the biopic of Joy Division’s frontman Ian Curtis (Sam Riley), following his rise to fame all the way until his tragic suicide at the age of 23. I’ll say this now, biopics are often the hardest things to do well. Why? Well, you usually have someone such as the surviving partner and/or relative funding the film and as such, the perspective is skewed somewhat and makes the portrayal of the subject of the biopic either a baby-eating Satanist or the embodiment of Christ. Most recently, the Biggie Smalls biopic Notorious suffered these problems as Biggie’s mum was heavily involved in the making of. This may seem off-topic, but shut up and be patient, I’m getting there. My point is, Control doesn’t succumb to that, even though Deborah- Curtis’ widow was involved. Although the portrayal of him is closer to Jesus H. Curtis than SatIan, I believe this is because Curtis was genuinely a nice guy rather than artistic license.
Sam Riley is perfect as Curtis. He’s got everything from the dance moves to the subtle Curtis nuances down. I’d like to congratulate the decision to get him to sing the songs, rather than to dub over the original recording in post-production. This means there is no barrier between the actor playing him and the stage persona and adds to the overall immersion. I couldn’t believe how short and tragic Curtis’ life was and how serious his epilepsy problem became. I was really drawn into the magical world of fantastic acting and slick black and white visuals. I liked Samatha Morton’s turn as Deborah too- she does brilliantly in a role which must have been difficult to do when you have the actual person breathing down your neck.
Curtis’ affair with journalist Annik Honoré (Alexandra Maria Lara) was very well handled. I believed that Curtis truly loved both women and struggled to give either one up. I found the scene where Deborah confronts him about Annik to be incredibly realistic and moving, especially when Curtis breaks down into tears after a prolonged bout of silence. It’s also very rare to see clinical depression presented so authentically.
Despite all the glowing, shiny words of praise written above, I did have one problem with Control– and that was the fact that I didn’t get a sense of how big Joy Division became. Nearly all the songs performed looked like they were sung in some pub on an open mic night. I would have liked to have seen a more accurate representation of the huge fame Joy Division achieved so the audience could better understand the pressures that Curtis was facing.
Still, Control is a brilliant film. It definitely educated me in all things Curtis and was unexpectedly moving to boot. See it.