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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Drama > I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: D     Film: B



Quentin Tarantino recently said that he wanted to direct as much as he could before he got too old, as he was very unhappy to see such great directors he admired (but would not name) go on and be essentially on automatic pilot doing work below them.  However, a few directors are exceptions, like Martin Scorsese and Mike Hodges.  Unlike Scorsese, Hodges is not getting as much press, though Croupier (1999) did get its share of critical acclaim.  After watching I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead (2004), it is safe to say the previous film was no fluke.


Hodges reunites with Clive Owen (Mike Nichols’ Closer, Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur) in a story about ex-gangster/older brother Will Graham (Owen) coming back to town to visit after being estranged from everyone in his British town of origin, finding out that his younger brother (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is dead.  What seems like a suicide turns out to be much more and will not stop until he gets the answer he wants to hear about why: the truth.  The heavy in the film is played by Malcolm McDowell, the perpetrator and an old gangster, in one of his best performances in years.  The ever-great Charlotte Rampling is one of Will’s old lovers, with interesting echoes of Hodges’ original 1971 classic Get Carter.  Sylvia Syms (lately of the underrated British TV series At Home With The Braithwaites, reviewed elsewhere on this site) is also a welcome plus.


Trevor Preston delivers a hard-hitting screenplay that makes this one of the best Gangster genre films we have seen in a few years, probably since Fuqua’s Training Day two years before, but more sublime in what it does.  Tarantino’s Kill Bill would qualify, though it crosses many genres, so consider the analog on a purist genre scale.  After this film and Closer, two things are very obvious about Owen.  One, he is one of the best actors we have seen in years and is well on his way to becoming a big star.  Two, he is far and ahead of any other actor alive in being qualified to play James Bond.  Anyone else at this point would be a disappointment.  Working with the best older and newer directors in the business, plus some of the best actors alive, shows Owen has great taste as well.


Even the title of this film is great, reminding us of an era when great, edgy films were getting made al the time.  Hodges puts most new directors to shame and this is not just about plot, this is about people, their real feelings, old hatreds, and the finality of their mortality.  It is about regrets some have and how what they choose to do affects those around them, something many films try to do and fail miserably at.  I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead is one of the top British films of the year.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image was shot by Mike Garfath, B.S.C., and looks good, and in many scenes great.  There are some compositions in this film that are simply terrific and make the film more exciting by furthering the narrative and making the gangster underworld in Britain all the more palpable.  There is also a certain attention to color, particularly blue, black and gray.  This is not accidental.  It is nice to see British Cinema live.  The Dolby Digital is here in a 5.1 and 2.0 Pro Logic Stereo mix, but the 5.1 is better and made me wish this also offered DTS.  Besides being recorded well as another fine aspect of the production, the music score by Simon Fisher Turner is subtly effective and clicks with the rest of the film.  There are no extras, but a commentary and a few featurettes would have been nice.  The film certainly deserves it.  I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead is a must-see, especially if you liked Steven Soderbergh’s The Limey and that kind of storytelling.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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