Incendiary

"Weak"

Incendiary Review


To watch Incendiary is to be disappointed by the failure of its huge ambitions. Here is a well-made film featuring good actors and which tells an intimate story, but which tries to do too much and collapses under the weight of its own aspirations. I do not object to the story itself; the problem is that the filmmakers take the story down three different directions when it should have only gone down one.

The film tries to simultaneously be a quiet personal story of guilt and grief and a muted cautionary thriller of government selfishness and compromise. But the mystery and intrigue only serve to distract from the central story and blunt its emotional impact. There is a way to convincingly and engagingly tell both sides of this story: by putting them in different movies with different styles and objectives.

Michelle Williams stars, doing her best Gwyneth Paltrow impersonation (and I mean that in the best way possible), as "Young Mother" (the film provides no other name), a cynical, depressed British mom looking for any form of available excitement. She is madly in love with her young son, but thoroughly uninterested in her workaholic husband -- although as a bomb squad defuser, it's hard not to be consumed by one's job. One night, she sneaks out and goes to a bar, where she meets a suave reporter (Ewan McGregor) and eventually beds him, although the scene is so lazy and generic we don't actually find out about their tryst until days later, when she says, "I didn't intend to have sex with you." They proceed to have sex again, while the husband and son are at a soccer match. The plot catalyst: the stadium is blown up by terrorist bombers. In the middle of Williams' sexual indiscretion. While she and McGregor are climaxing. Talk about a way to ruin sex forever.

Incendiary's last two acts primarily consist of an unimaginably distraught Williams in various forms of bereavement, while she speaks in a poetic narration about the nature of life, death, and love, as well as clever bon mots about how warped terrorists' minds are. For her part, Williams is fabulous, completely selling first the push-and-pull of a woman on the brink, and then the devastation and instability of a tragic victim. The material does not live up to her performance, though; the solemn, introspective grieving scenes play more like pretentious blather than profound insight, for they are constantly juxtaposed with a limp, unconvincing side plot involving McGregor's investigative reporting. Is that the (conveniently Arab) suicide bomber he sees on surveillance videos? And could, perhaps, the bomb squad have known about the explosion before it happened? None of those distractions have anything to do with the central story of Williams' guilt, which might have been much more affecting without the level-one suspense subplots surrounding it.

Sharon Maguire, an immensely talented British filmmaker who previously directed the wonderful Bridget Jones's Diary, is the writer and director of Incendiary. Here she creates lofty material and films it well. As expected, she has a sharp eye for intriguing visuals and a keen ear for engaging and witty dialogue. Her problem is that she doesn't trust the heart of her material; in "Young Mother" she crafts an intriguing character with real flaws and virtues, but for some reason feels the need to juice it up with the McGregor detective subplot and even an awkward, inappropriate love triangle between Williams, McGregor, and Matthew MacFadyen as the dead husband's colleague, who has always secretly loved her. All the extra fat dilutes any power this film would hope to create. Incendiary should be a small, intimate character study that touches our hearts and minds; instead it is only part intimate, with the gaps filled in with standard manipulative suspense that isn't interesting, isn't entertaining, and isn't necessary.

She didn't star tthe fire.



Incendiary

Facts and Figures

Run time: 96 mins

In Theaters: Friday 24th October 2008

Budget: $10M

Distributed by: Capitol Films

Production compaines: Aramid Entertainment Fund, Archer Street Productions, Capitol Films, Film4, Sneak Preview Films, UK Film Council, Wild Bear Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 23%
Fresh: 5 Rotten: 17

IMDB: 5.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Adrienne Maguire, ,

Starring: as Jasper Black, as Young Mother, as Terrance, Nicholas Gleaves as Lenny, Sidney Johnston as The Boy, Usman Khokhar as The Bomber's Son, Sasha Behar as The Bomber's Wife, Ed Hughes as Danny Walsh, Alibe Parsons as Pearl, Stewart Wright as Charlie


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