Courtesy of RLJ Entertainment

Blood (2013) Review

Blood offers a wonderfully told intimate story that touches on several broad themes, like justice, morality and family ties. Acted by a stellar cast that turns in natural and strong performances, this is a film that truly speaks to the human condition. It’s so engrossing and such a joy to watch that it’s a shame it doesn’t last longer than its hour and a half runtime; these are characters and relationships that warrant more screen time. For as long as it lasts, however, this is a film that deserves the attention of any discerning moviegoer.

Joe and Chrissie Fairburn (Paul Bettany and Stephen Graham) are two detectives who grew up with the police force, since their father, Lenny (Brian Cox), is the ex-police chief. Now, a shadow of his former self, Lenny has trouble remembering things, and the past that he does recall is usually stories about beating confessions out of suspects. That sense of “justice at any cost” shaped the Fairburn brothers as police officers. So when a local girl is found stabbed to death and a likely perpetrator slips through the Fairburn brothers’ hands due to a lack of evidence, they take it upon themselves to convince the suspect to confess, using brute force. But when evidence begins to point to other suspects, the Fairburn brothers try to cover up their tracks in a race against fellow detectives who investigate what happened to the original suspect that has now gone missing.

The most striking aspect of Blood is the writing. All of the characters feel fleshed out and their behavior seems perfectly tuned to their places in the world of the movie. The dialogue is rich and meaningful. Motivations are honest, and plot twists are surprising. The only real criticism is that the story feels cut from a much larger work – and it was – which is disappointing and pleasing at the same time. It’s disappointing because any of the characters could satisfyingly fill another twenty minutes just letting audiences know more about them. It’s also pleasing because audiences who do care to know more certainly can by finding the source material.

With such strong writing, the actors have plenty to work with, and it shows in their performances. There is no weak link in this cast. Brian Cox is ever reliable, lending his gravitas to elevate the film like he normally does in any production that involves him. Paul Bettany and Stephen Graham provide the humanity of the movie. They both offer strong portrayals of a men being crushed by two walls – one made of guilt and the other made of fear.  In the later parts of the film, their stress is palpable as they lose more and more control of their emotions and actions. And yet, even when they’re being monsters, they’re never monstrous. Rather, they’re the product of good intentions gone astray. As a foil to the brothers, Mark Strong’s Robert Seymour is aloof and dispassionate, and his subtleties add a needed calm to the movie.

Blood is also beautiful to watch. Shot in England, the film makes use of desolate landscapes and downtrodden estates to illustrate characters’ states of mind. One very nice touch is the continual appearance of a murder victim who seems to haunt Joe. It’s subtle at first, but as Joe’s stress ramps, so does his interaction with the deceased. Much of the camerawork is deliberate and patient, taking its time to offer multiple angles and points of view of the same scene. As a result, Blood feels like a much bigger film than it is.

Blood knows exactly the kind of story it’s trying to tell and only indulges in some extraneous details every once in a while. Otherwise it’s a tight film that is excellently paced and wonderfully presented. It’s also very accessible despite being about gruesome murders, since it’s less about the crimes and more about mistakes. And as with all mistakes, the most important part is what happens after – are the mistakes corrected or buried? Blood is all about reacting to mistakes and whether or not the characters will let them dominate their lives. And this is a story that audiences will want to see through to its satisfying conclusion.