Directed by: Jennifer Lynch
Written by: Jennifer Lynch, Kent Harper
Starring: Bill Pullman, Julia Ormond, Kent Harper, Michael Ironside, Pell James, French Stewart
Released: 2009 / Genre: Suspense/Thriller / Country: USA / IMDB
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It must have been difficult to grow up in the David Lynch household. He appeared to make it his personal vendetta to infuriate audiences with some of the most obscure and maddeningly unconventional films of the last few decades. If the man led as offbeat a life away from the cinema screen then you can only expect the formative years of his kids to gain the attention of child protection service’s eager attention. As daughter Jennifer returns to writing-directing her own work with Surveillance – a macabre, violent film that threatens to overload the senses and quicken heartbeats past acceptable working levels – it becomes evident that her father’s penchant for the dark side of the human condition hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond are two FBI agents on the hunt for a pair of violent killers who are being tracked in connection with several deaths. When three witnesses surface after a brush with the wanted pair, Pullman and Ormond head for the local Sheriff’s base to interview them. There they find the station’s staff chaperoning a little girl, a cocaine addict, and a cop. As they begin to piece together what happened it becomes obvious that not everyone is telling the truth.
You could criticise Lynch’s film for not managing to hide its twist. I knew what was going on within fifteen minutes and thought that might hamper the proceeding hour but, happily, it doesn’t. What Lynch does so well is crank the tension up to breaking point. The twist isn’t the defining factor; because the audience has figured it out it becomes exciting to see when or if the characters will discover what’s going on.
Interestingly, Lynch uses flashback to great effect, highlighting how the witnesses distort the facts to protect themselves but showing to the audience what really occurred. Pullman and Ormond are there to collect statements on the event concerning the wanted killers but Lynch keeps the audience teetering on the edge of well-worn seats by holding back the information until the hour mark. Admittedly, some of the build-up feels extraneous and could become infuriating on repeat viewings but with every character proving to be an enigma, the unseen and unknown event they all survived proves to be an attractive hook.
Pullman and Ormond are great as Good Fed, Weird Fed, and are ably supported by co-writer Kent Harper who gives himself the role of a bent patrolman who abuses his own power. The film, although featuring a small cast, is filled with interesting characterisations, especially Harper and his partner Jim Conrad (played by Third Rock From The Sun star French Stewart) who together make one of the nastiest examples of the police since Ray Liotta terrorised Kurt Russell and Madeliene Stowe in Unlawful Entry. An on-form Michael Ironside also shows up as the aging Captain Billings.
Jennifer Lynch’s film as writer-director is a taut, macabre, edge-of-the-sofa thriller. She’s definitely a filmmaker to keep an eye on.
Review by Daniel Stephens – See all reviews