The Last Seven
It's a great concept and one that doesn't turn out quite the way you expect it to. Starring Tamar Hassan, Simon Phillips, Sebastian Street, Daisy Head, Ronan Vibert, Rita Ramnani, John Mawson and Danny Dyer, it has some interesting ideas from the first time writer John Stanley and some very strong direction and cinematography from first time director Imran Naqvi.
He goes wandering through the streets trying to find someone else, some explanation. Setting off a car alarm and waving and screaming at a police camera in the hope that someone will notice. No one does.
With the realisation that he is alone he climbs to the top of a nearby block of flats to contemplate ending it all and suddenly theres a voice, he's not the only one and he meets three other strangers. The group together searching through London and meet another three people, the last seven.
As time wears on they start to flashback, slowly rewinding through their memories, remembering small details about their previous lives, and about how they came to be the last seven.
From the opening of the film there are a number of things that are very clearly positives for the film. The first is that Danny Dyer is not the lead character of the film; actually he’s not in the film for most of it thankfully. Unfortunately though he does introduce the film and close it with a rather clunky voice over that deserved a better delivery.
There’s no score. In fact there’s not even any audio for a good while. This is coupled with the visuals of completely empty locations in London, spaces that don’t look quite right, and while there’s nothing obviously wrong you’re brain is telling you differently. They’re empty. No people, no background sounds, no movement.
These scenes are as clever as 28 Days Later and at a few points as cinematically impactful. In fact they do deserve a lot of comparisons to that film, although you should bear in mind that the commonality of the films ends with the deserted London.
The more cinematic feeling continues throughout the film, and it certainly does deliver above its weight. By that I mean that it’s a smaller independent film, a British independent film – which one could assume will have more of a struggle for cash than an American independent film which seems to describe higher and higher budget films these days – and yet it doesn’t look that way for almost all of the film.
Cinematic yes, but some of these scenes do go on a little too long I felt. The silence and emptiness of the landscape and wandering of the main character get the point through and put me in the right place well before it ends. After watching the film I did feel that more time could have been spent on the other characters, their relationships, and the slow reveals through the flashbacks.
The next thing that the opening of the film does right is put you in the position of the character, confused and lacking a memory of the events before we meet him, and the characters that he is soon to meet. We become focused on their interactions and the flashbacks that they begin to have, still lacking a true understanding of what happened but beginning to get little flashes.
Truly though it’s only at the end of the film that it suddenly all becomes clear. Sure you can perhaps make some guesses on the way, but the full explanation comes out then, and that makes sure that largely we’re going along with the characters.
That’s a great aspect of the story, that and the interesting idea which isn’t actually so original, but is handled differently enough to stand on its own.
However the journey there isn’t perfect. As I’ve already said the opening “setting the scene” sequences do go on a little too long and, as I hinted at, the relationships, and more importantly the flashbacks, don’t get the screen time or the fluidity that they deserve.
I felt these were key to bringing us through the story to the ending, but what actually happened were the flashbacks gave us back story for the characters until a certain point in the film when they reveal the main thread, they play around that area for a while then deliver the answer in a flurry of flashbacks, present day revels, and a terrible voice over from Dyer once again.
What I felt should have been the case and wanted the film so desperately to do, was slowly reveal these characters as they connected, their stories revealed together through their flashbacks, and the final reveal built to a lot better than it is.
As it was the flashbacks did reveal how the characters were involved with each other but it didn't slowly build up to them, rather just show them in a single flashback. In the case of the soldier’s story, the central thread, it was quite effective in that more and more of the story was revealed in each flashback, but there was a moment where you suddenly "got it" and there didn't seem to be a need to return to them again, but we did.
Other people's reveals didn't get the same attention and so were either left to the last big reveal or had their own single moment of here's the answer rather than building up to it. That really lessened the overall impact of the story which could have slowly revealed all the characters and their relationships and taken the audience on that journey of slow realisation.
At times the flashbacks also suffered from repetition, feeling as though each time they popped back up that they were going over similar ground a little too much and not giving us something new each time.
The script also let the characters down in some of the dialogue which felt rather clunky and often felt forced into the mouths of the characters.
It also seemed to leave a few layers of the story underdeveloped and unexplained, not just in the flashbacks themselves.
The film seems to leap into the visual reveal of Dyer’s character, and again the pacing for this seems a little too fast. I would have thought more teasing out of the character would have been better, not just for the visual impact but also for the character himself, who does seem to leap into his role a little too quickly. I’m really working hard not to give too much away here, but he does instigate one event then another in quick succession before he’s on the screen all the time and his reveal comes not too long after.
The ending of the film feels a little too Hollywood too as it over explains everything that happens and the final events, when in fact the visuals do perfectly well and we could have even just seen the reveal to understand it all. As it is we even get the verbal explanation of the Dyer character to overlay it all, and at that point I was feeling rather patronised.
However, I really did enjoy the story itself and in particular the ending, despite all these faults. I think it could really have done with a few more rewrites and some more consideration of the building of the reveals for all the characters.
Completing the story really brought the film up a gear for me, although I did see it coming in the closing moments. I did get a little confused though as I thought there should have been more than just the seven.
Dolby Digital 2.0, 5.1
The audio was set on 5.1 for my viewing but it did feel like stereo, although to be fair they were in an empty London and there wasn't much to hear, this was particularly obvious during the opening scenes where the silence, as is said, is deafening.
The picture was okay but at times it was a little grainy. Saying that, the film was surprisingly cinematic for such an independent film, there was some strong and at times clever framing and editing.
Making Of Featurette, Trailer
Making Of Featurette
The Making Of had the actors talking about each other and about the film, with the director, writer and producers talking about everything. There's some on set action, some of the actors firearm training, and quite a bit more in just fifteen minutes. So although it's short, it does deliver quite a bit.
There's a good and clever story in the film, and while it's not perfectly delivered through the script or the development of the characters and their back story, it is enjoyable and does demonstrate a strong talent from the director as well as something a little different in a rather well visited set-up.
The DVD offering could have a little bit more to it, and perhaps more on the audio track, but it's an enjoyable British film and despite the lacking points there's still quite a bit that the film has to offer.