The life of Ian Curtis as Joy Division frontman and indie icon has been well documented over the years, but never have we seen such a clear, accurate and compelling depiction of the man behind the myth until now.
Control is set in 70s Macclesfield and opens with a teenage, music-obsessed Curtis spending his spare time dabbling with prescription drugs and make-up, going out to gigs, singing along to records in his bedroom and shyly flirting with girls to a soundtrack of David Bowie, The Doors, Velvet Underground and Roxy Music.
But this carefree, charmingly cocky youth is soon replaced by a troubled and intense adult who after leaving school, struggles to cope with a full-time job, wife and baby, a traumatic diagnosis of epilepsy and the ups and downs that go hand in hand with forming one of the most influential acts in history.
However, where some standard rock biopics may have concentrated solely on the rise of Joy Division with the singers personal life as sideline, director and producer/renowned photographer and life-long fan of the band Anton Corbijn focuses less on performances and studio snapshots and instead on the more everyday aspects to Curtis life, with the crux of the story being very much young love, friendship and family life, making for a touchingly intimate and personal work.
Based on Deborah Curtis extraordinary Touching From A Distance, the film is faithful to every detail and aspect of Curtis life and interestingly where his wifes book understandably chooses not to document the singers relationship with young Belgian journalist Annik Honore, depicting her solely as the other woman, Control allows us an insight into their intense love affair for the first time. The guilt from this affair, combined with the strains of fatherhood, epilepsy and depression all combined with famously tragic consequences.
The standout performance comes from Leeds-based ex-10,000 things singer Sam Riley who, despite this being his first lead role in a feature film, captures the tortured Joy Division frontman perfectly, from his petulant manner and endearing vulnerability to his unique onstage movements and distinctive voice. Samantha Morton puts in another chameleonic turn as long-suffering wife Debbie and Toby Kebbell provides much-needed light entertainment as joke-loving, jack the lad manager Rob Gretton.
Yet its visually that Control really comes into its own – shot in beautiful black and white, its packed with an endless stream of striking images, the sum of their parts proving that although Corbijn has made an extremely impressive first stab at film-making, photography is clearly his first love.
Overall a stunning piece of work from start to finish, Control is a cinematic triumph that will affect and captivate both Joy Division devotees and newcomers alike. Simply unmissable.