In its opening scene "The War Zone," a stormy, explosive drama of terrible family secrets, seems almost tranquil as a deeply sullen teenager named Tom (Freddie Cunliffe) rides his bicycle home through the green and gray, rain-swept and muddy Devonshire countryside.
This is intentional on the part of actor-turned-director Tim Roth, who invites his audience into Tom's modest, desolate home and introduces his outwardly ordinary -- if struggling and melancholy -- family. But the sense of pacific normality is tentative at best.
There is an underlying tension that rolls through this darkened house like a fog. Furtive glances are exchanged. Emotions are often swallowed, except by the father (Ray Winstone, "Nil By Mouth"), a quick-to-anger, quick-to-forgive, blue-collar bruiser. It feels unsettling to be in there. Not just for Tom, but for the audience.
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