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: Megan Thorp, Colin Farrell, Lara Belmont, Kate Ashfield, Aisling O'Sullivan, Tilda Swinton, Freddie Cunliffe, Ray Winstone
  • 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 The Sitter

    The Sitter

    Jonah Hill stars as a slacker who's forced to fill in as a babysitter for a night, but the kids he's looking after prove more than he can handle when he takes them on a crime-filled trip through NYC

  • Film4 Amy

    Amy

    Senna director Asif Kapadia tells the story of Amy Winehouse in her own words with the use of unseen archive footage and previously unheard tracks

  • Film4 Evil Dead

    Saturday Night Shocks on Film4

    Horror, mystery and suspense stake its claim on the weekend. A new season of Saturday Night Shocks comes to Film4.

  • Film4 Bridesmaids

    Comedy Season 2015 on Film4

    Eight nights of contemporary comedy hits, including first plays of Cuban Fury, American Reunion, The Sitter, and the network premiere of 21 & Over, on Film4

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Cannes 2015 Wrap Up

    I've just come out of the press screening of the festival's Closing Night film - the ecological documentary The Ice and the Sky - and, for me, Cannes is finished for another year. A few great films an

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Cannes 2015: Love at the movies

    Film4 Channel Editor David Cox reports on the closing days of Cannes 2015... We're down to the last few days of the festival now, with crowds thinning out and the amount of films still to premiere co

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

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

or Register

Share