I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead
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