Starring Aneurin Barnard, James Cosmo, Wunmi Mosaku, Jake Wilson and Amy Shiels
Written and Directed by Ciaran Foy
After receiving numerous awards at festivals around the world, including SXSW, Citadel finally makes its Toronto debut as part of this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival. The dark/grimy tale of a man that desperately wants to protect his family but has been so traumatized that he can’t, features a breakout performance from both its lead actor and director.
Tommy (Barnard) and his pregnant wife Joanne (Shiels) were set to finally make it out of Edentown, a crumbling Irish housing estate, when Joanne was attacked by a pack of strange hooded youngsters at their very doorstep. Left traumatized and with a crippling case of agoraphobia, Tommy is trying his best to raise his infant daughter, even though he is terrified to leave his home. Just as Tommy is set to leave again, and having attracted the affections of a caring nurse (Mosaku) who has reached out to help him, the hoodies return. And this time they seemed hell bent on taking his daughter with them. Almost at his wits end, Tommy must decide whether or not to trust and team up with an angry renegade priest (Cosmo) and his blind companion, a young boy named Danny (Wilson), who are convinced that these hooded figures are no longer human, and that their tower block citadel must be destroyed once and for all.
Citadel is easily one of the best films I have seen all year. With a stellar lead performance by Aneurin Barnard and supported by an amazing turn by James Cosmo as the Priest, the casting of the film is perfect. The crippling paranoia that infests Tommy is as palpable onscreen as it is in the theater. His performance never hits a wrong note and keeps you engaged throughout. The script is original and tense, the levels of tension piling up to match the growing level of paranoia coming from Barnard’s Tommy. The choice of director Foy to not fully reveal our adversary here except in fragments keeps the audience as much in the dark as Tommy is for most of the film. The setting of a UK tower block seems to be in vogue right now with films like last year’s Attack the Block using the same. That said the tower block in Citadel is a hollow, grimy, claustrophobic shell of a building that works immensely well. The forced evacuation that the condemned building sets up in the script adds to Tommy’s exasperation. The use of no vibrant color in the entire film, even Tommy’s baby daughter’s purple snow suit looks grey in most shots, lends credence to the tone presented here.
The real winning combination in Citadel is the tone and fantastic performances captured onscreen. Some may argue in the end that the film is a little style over substance, but this is far from the truth. Citadel is a must see.
Till Next Time,
Movie Junkie TO
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