Owing to his bad behaviour at his previous young offender’s institute, Eric is moved to an adult prison in David McKenzie’s excellent prison
drama, Starred Up.
It doesn’t take long for Eric to realise the harsh realities of life in prison but things take a turn for the more personal when Eric’s father, played outstandingly by Ben Mendhelsohn, is also incarcerated on the same wing.
The film was scripted by David Asser, a former prison psychiatrist, and it is clear Asser fills the script with a sense of realism. Asser’s biggest contribution to the film is in the form of Rupert Friend’s volunteer psychiatrist, Oliver, who slowly becomes the other male figure in Eric’s life.
Jack O’Connell’s performance can only be described as awe inspiring.
Eric spends his time making shanks from innocent looking household items and getting his teeth around a screw’s penis in a violent display of power.
O’Connell rarely spends anytime standing still with the adrenaline pumping forming a character that is violently sympathetic.
The film’s pace is central to O’Connell and while everyone else is fantastic, especially Mendhelsohn and Friend, the film belongs to O’Connell who does not let up for a single second.
It will be difficult to find a film released this year that is as brutally beautiful as McKenzie’s prison film and that surpasses the expectations of most of the stale contributions to the prison genre.