Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • Production
  • 18
  • Drama
  • 1999
  • 98 mins

The War Zone

Film4 The War Zone

Synopsis

Tim Roth directs this look at a dark household, with Ray Winstone giving an impressive, chilling performance

About

The War Zone is an almost unbearably visceral film. With pitch-perfect performances, surpassing I Spit On Your Grave in its shuddering, sickly impact. Of course, that's an unfair comparison, as I Spit On Your Grave is a horror film with exploitation at its forefront. Yet The War Zone is just as direct in its squeamishness.

Tim Roth handles the material well, and Ray Winstone's performance as the deceptively kindly, seemingly befuddled father is particularly intense. But it is difficult to avoid asking why this film was made, and why you are still watching it.

It was JG Ballard who argued most effectively that sexual perversion is the result of boredom. The family of The War Zone is both bored and boring. They move from London to the remote country, a place washed with grey. The father is constantly on the phone asking after building work. They apparently own no television or radio, and the bookshelf is sparsely populated. The house is cold, grimy and full of dark corners. Father, mother (Swinton), brother Tom (Cunliffe) and sister Jessie (Belmont) drift between cups of tea.

In these doldrums an affair of sexual trysts and pornography hatches between the father and his 18-year-old daughter Jessie . Their performances are achievements of denial and density, the characters' unknowable motivations buried so deep that the actors resonate darkness.

Their secret is discovered early on by the 15-year-old Tom. He struggles with the bottomless horror of this knowledge, as simultaneously he struggles with his pubescent eruptions. Played by Freddie Cunliffe as a young man descended into oblivion just as he should be gaining ground, Tom's struggle becomes the viewer's.

In the son's journey also becomes apparent the dire reason for the film's existence. We live in times of such sexual freedom that to see the very limit is sobering. This sight of the grotesque causes reconsideration of our present loose limitations. Extreme perversion as it is, it certainly casts in a dim light any grim pursuit of sexual satisfaction.

The War Zone provides a healthy dose of depression with a lasting effect. The impact draws the viewer to conservatism, and casts society's obsession with sex and the sexualisation of all, as deeply distasteful.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Freddie Cunliffe, Aisling O'Sullivan, Kate Ashfield, Megan Thorp, Ray Winstone, Lara Belmont, Tilda Swinton, Colin Farrell
  • Director: Tim Roth
  • Screen Writer: Alexander Stuart
  • Writer: Alexander Stuart
  • Producer: Dixie Linder, Sarah Radclyffe
  • Photographer: Seamus McGarvey
  • Composer: Simon Boswell

In a nutshell

The War Zone is a difficult and bitter pill to swallow.

Clips

Film4 The War Zone

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    Serena

    Romantic drama set in Depression-era North Carolina starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.

  • Film4

    Destry

    Audie Murphy stars in this remake of 1939's Destry Rides Again, which is directed by the man who made that previous version, George Marshall.

    On Film4: 28 Sep 4:25PM

  • Film4

    Weird & Wonderful Season on Film4

    Wild fantasy, dark fairytales and spectacular creations to tie-in with the release of Tim Burtons Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children.

  • Film4

    R.I.P.D. on Film4

    Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds star in Film4's first play of R.I.P.D., part of our Weird & Wonderful season.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF 2016: Top Ten

    Film4.com Editor Michael Leader runs through ten standouts from the Toronto International Film Festival...   The Oath I'd already seen three of the four Film4-backed films screening in Toronto (inc

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Baltasar Kormakur on The Oath

    As his Film4-backed Icelandic thriller The Oath premieres in Toronto, director/writer/actor Baltasar Kormakur speaks with Film4.com editor Michael Leader about making films in Hollywood, returning to

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share