Synopsis: Explosively violent teenager Eric (Jack O'Connell) is transferred to an adult prison (starred up) where he is caught between a well meaning therapist Oliver (Rupert Friend) and his father Neville (Ben Mendelsohn) who is high up in the prisoner hierarchy.
Stan's thoughts: Normally wouldn't touch a film like this - 18 certificate prison drama would just scream of cliche and violence but it had so many stars on the poster (ironic considering its title), and from some respected publications, so I was curious.
Yes there is the usual hierarchy of inmates, with threats and violence meted out to keep people in line but at its simplest level this is a father and son tale. Neville doesn't want Eric to end up in prison for life but his parenting skills while well meaning are tainted by his low intellect and own life as a criminal.
Eric is an intriguing character, more so than you'd expect from the genre. You never know what crime he's committed but he isn't green when it comes to prison life and he can certainly handle himself, in fact he seems fearless. You learn only a little of his childhood which was spent mainly in care. O'Connell's performance is such that despite the fact that his answer for most things is to lash out you do warm to him, there is something underneath the steel walls he's erected around himself.
This film is intriguing as much for what you don't know about the characters and their pasts as what you do know and its refreshing to watch a film where there are blanks left to audience to interpret. It is also a film alarming in the regime and corruption within the prison. There is an interesting tension between the traditional prison regime versus a more therapeutic approach for keeping control.
Starred Up is tense and intelligent. I was gripped and left wiping a tear from my eye which I certainly didn't expect going into the screen.
- Stan's: 85%
- IMDB: 78%
- Metascore: 74%
- Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
- RT audience rating: 84%