Jack O'Connell is hugely impressive as a troubled inmate in Ben MacKenzie's 'Starred Up'.
Jack O'Connell is continuing to prove he is not limited to teen dramas and 'Starred Up' - a gritty prison flick from David Mackenzie - is his best movie to date. He stars as Eric Love, a 19-year-old violent and troubled teenagers making the transition from young offenders' institute to an adult prison.
Jack O'Connell In The Critically Acclaimed 'Starred Up'
Eric appears destined for a life behind bars, though the prison's unconventional therapist is determined to help the youngster find a way through, assisted by one of the prison's longest serving inmates - who just happens to be Eric's father.
O'Connell is brilliant in the lead, though he is complimented perfectly by Ben Mendelsohn - an Australian actor of such talent that it is surely only a matter of time before he starts getting recognised with major awards.
"For all its shockingly graphic bloodshed and atmosphere of pervasive doom, the moments when Starred Up grabs the jugular most are the scenes in Oliver's anger-management classes, where Eric sits with people of similar age and vulnerability," said Michael Pattinson of Sight and Sound.
"For such a violent movie, it pulls its punches a little at the last. But not before it has given us a bleak picture of the defeated misery of a certain kind of violent man, locked in a prison of his own making," wrote The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw.
"A brutal, immersive prison survival story with a breakout performance by British actor Jack O'Connell," wrote Damon Wise of Empire magazine.
"It is an incendiary, visceral, riveting drama with a fascinating Oedipal twist; a brutal-realist depiction of male behaviour and prison culture, with the bitter tang of authenticity" said Laurence Phelan of the Independent.
O'Connell - who is about to star in Angelina Jolie's new movie Unbroken - was able to prepare for Starred Up by meeting ex-convicts, given screenwriter Jonathan Asser was a former prison therapist.
"One of them was actually dubbed Wandsworth's Most Violent Inmate 2005," O'Connell told the Telegraph, "And what was fascinating about this guy was that I didn't learn that from him. And to be honest, if he had had it his way, I probably wouldn't know that about him. he never imposes himself on you. Really gently shakes your hand - and the hardest people I know are like that. And that's what I wanted to introduce to Eric."
'Starred Up' is out in the UK now. It gets a U.S. premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on 20 April 2014.