Free Fire | Third Space

Free Fire

My words are my bullets
Wed 3 Jan 2018

3.5 out of 5 stars

Who is Ben Wheatley? It is always a fascinating marketing ploy to promote an acclaimed director that no one has ever heard of outside the cinephile community. Even if you have not heard of his recent films like High Rise, he has proven to have a knack for recruiting top shelf acting talent and appealing to high-profile producers to participate in his films. The question will be whether Free Fire can bring him out of art-house obscurity and propel him into the forefront of top new directing talents.

The challenge that Wheatley has with this action comedy is conveying the tension and momentum while filming all of the scenes in a warehouse on the waterfront of Boston in 1978. The story focusses on an illegal gun deal that has been brokered by Justine (Brie Larson) between the Irish revolutionary Chris (Cillian Murphy) and South African gun runner, Vernon (Sharlto Copley). As the deal commences and money is exchanged for the weapons, the chemistry in the room quickly turns from amicable to combustible. Between the incompetence of the two hooligan crews hired by the leaders and their history which escalates into a war of words and bullets. Both sides of the ensuing battle must determine if the deal is worth their lives or if they are willing to put it all on the line for personal pride and financial gain.

Due to the limitations of the contained set, the young director had to rely effective writing, the ability of the players to deliver the quick wit and unique camera angles to keep the audience engaged. Wheatley manages to reach for the heights of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs with the humour, writing and the level of violent content, but provides his own spin on this claustrophobic production. Beyond Tarantino, Wheatley's creation is even more reminiscent of Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Barrels, but he does manage to make this own mark within this genre. Like these two classics, he does incorporate key musical choices that add a whole different level of absurdity that makes it fun and allows for the release of pressure from the brutality. It can be said that audiences will never hear John Denver's Annie's Song the same way again. Free Fire is not groundbreaking, but does provide a fresh look on a method of filmmaking that is difficult to effectively replicate.

What drives this unique class of film is the ability of the cast to manage the timing of the humour while dodging bullets. Sharlto Copley (Hardcore Harry) and Armie Hammer (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) are perfectly cast in their roles as the gun runners and Cillian Murphy continues to personify cool under pressure as the Irish terrorist. Copley manages to portray the volatility of the unstable leader, while providing the humour to deliver the tragic and hilarity for the heart of the gun battles. Hammer provides the physical presence while delivering some of the most memorable, intelligent and perfectly timed lines in the film. Murphy provides the subtlety and coolness of character to deliver a measured performance that anchors the rest of the mayhem that is occurring around the gun deal that has gone horribly wrong. Brie Larson (Kong: Skull Island) does add the femininity that usually is missing within this cinematic style and does hold her own within the barrage of bullets and even faster moving verbal quips. Jack Reynor (Sing Street) and the rest of this superb cast add their needed support, but are relegated to quick dialogue and providing targets for the central characters.

Free Fire is not for the audience member who is violence-averse or those who recoil at the usage of foul language. Understanding that this film is heavy on both of these elements, because of the nature of of the criminal underworld. This is a film for the cinematic student who enjoys analysing the nuances utilised to make a film of this nature work, but may not be appreciated by all audiences. Tarantino and Ritchie fans will celebrate with every verbal jibe and bullet that accidentally hits its target, but should be missed by those who do not know these directorial references.

REEL DIALOGUE: The brokenness of the world

The world is broken. Watching Free Fire is like seeing an object lesson in the depravity of creation. The language, the violence and even what makes us laugh. A big question that has to be asked in light of this film is what is God doing about this mess and is there any hope for this broken world? It is a monumental question that can be answered in the person of Jesus. Not that it is a simple answer, but not until you look into his life and death will the answer be evident. Pick up one of the accounts of his life and see how God answers this multi-layered query with one man.

1. Can we find truth in this world? (John 14:6, 1 Corinthians 13:4-6)

2. Can we ever find justice? (Proverbs 21:15, Romans 12:19)

3. Is it possible to come out from under our circumstances?
(Psalm 40:17, Romans 8:38-39)

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