There have been a recent spate of British horror/science-fiction films such as Dog Soldiers, My Little Eye and the excellent 28 Days Later which have successfully battled the tough task of demonstrating that Britain can make intriguing films that are just as exciting and intense as their Hollywood counterparts.
Also – and perhaps more importantly – they are vastly superior to the lame comedies and appalling low quality gangster films that this country seem to be obsessed with making. Although it contains some flaws to pick at, this interesting little Anglo/Irish film from first time feature film director John Simpson is an exhilarating and sometimes brutal visual trip into a dark world of crime and paranoia.
Sam Veil (Lee Evans) was committed of a family murder ten years ago but was acquitted due to a legal irregularity. The case quickly turned Veil into an obsessive-compulsive person and since his acquittal he has filmed every single moment of his life. He has amassed an archive of tapes in his gothic barricaded high-tech dungeon consisting of almost 100,000 cassettes, as tangible proof to support him in case he is questioned again by the police.
A tape goes missing at the time of a fresh murder, and as a result Veil’s alibi is destroyed. Hard-boiled Detective Emeric (Sean McGinley) – who was involved in Veil’s first murder case – is sure of his guilt. Forensic expert Saul Seger (Ian McNeice) was also involved in the first case and continues to stalk his mind, while TV journalist Kate Carter (Rachel Stirling) pursues him for an interview; Veil’s paranoid life is leading him to insanity.
Contending with a relatively famous job as a stand-up comedian while pursuing a serious and steady acting career is a difficult task, but Lee Evans has shaved his hair and eyebrows (to avoid DNA detection), dropped his fast-paced comedy routines and gives his best performance since Funny Bones and a recent stint in the theatre production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. Evans offers enough insight into the life of a paranoid murder suspect to illicit a strong degree of interest and mystery about whether Veil did or did not commit murder.
Unfortunately the same praise cannot be lavished on the supporting cast, McGinley is irritating as the clichd American-style detective with a nasty cough, while his partner Detective Mountjoy (Colin Salmon) simply lingers in the background and lacks bite. It’s Rachael Stirling (Diana Rigg’s daughter) who is the main letdown – the core of her problem is her underwritten character and lack of acting talent.
The film is about the Kafka-esque tale of false-accusation and civil rights as well as the Orwellian theme of state surveillance. At a time of high crime, international terrorists and an increasing lack of morals in society, Freeze Frame provokes some serious questions about the truth and guilt of suspects, and the people (police, politicians etc) we are supposed to place our belief in.
With the small camera strapped to Veil’s chest, the web cam on his desk and the camera’s at various parts of his house, Freeze Frame is a twisted big-brother operation full of David Fincher-style film techniques that help to generate an eerie and uncomfortable ambience.
However, the narrative does not have the films aesthetic ingenuity and visual punch; after the first hour it becomes desperate and rather silly. Credit due though to writer and director Simpson for having had the confidence to create such an unorthodox British film – he is certainly one to watch.