A shootout that lasts ninety minutes, just who the hell thinks that would work? Ben Wheatley is that person and he somehow manages to not just make it work, but create one of the most humorous and enjoyable films of the last few months and a benchmark for others to try and match up to this year. Let’s check out Free Fire – a film that tried just that.
Wheatley is a man with a reputation for making unconventional tales for audiences and while this may be his most mainstream and accessible, it by no means sells itself short and keeps its unique identity in the process with every character getting their moment to shine.
Free Fire‘s cast fills out with a cavalcade of great talent from both sides of the Atlantic with Cillian Murphy, Brie Larson, Arnie Hammer and Sharron Copley leading the charge. The film begins in what could be seen as standard fare, with a gun deal taking place in a disused warehouse but the film makes impactful little stamps right from the offset to showcase that this will certainly not be a paint-by-numbers experience. Events transpire in quick fashion and we whip ourselves into the thick of the action not very long into the run time with the aforementioned shoot-out kicking off and does not let up from there.
The action is hugely enjoyable with the gun fights feeling rough and not too polished, with everyone being just as good a shot as anyone else (let’s just mention they aren’t exactly all the best). Needless to say, the ratio of casings on the ground to the amount of shots hitting their target has quite a large berth but this plays into the film’s charm. You don’t just want to see who is going to be bumped off next and instead revel in how the characters react to their escalating and increasingly ludicrous escapade. Whilst this is not a picture to break the mould and pave new ground, it knows exactly what it is and does everything in its power to showcase itself as a brilliant example of its genre.
The performance most likely to steal the show for a number of people, myself included, is most certainly Sharto Copley, who revels in the ludicrous character Vern he plays but manages to deftly balance that fine line between serious and cartoonish, never veering too much off the road and getting in some cracking one liners in the process. Despite Copley pulling ahead of the rest, everyone here does a superb job of selling up the scenario and it is never really clear who is next for the chopping block. Annie Hammer effortlessly portrays the calm headed instigator of the deal and Brie Larson continues to demonstrate why audiences love her in her performance and clearly enjoys her experience here, adding an extra layer of energy and elegance to proceedings.
Free Fire breezes along at a brisk 90 minutes, never outstaying its welcome and keeping you invested throughout. The action is snappy and relentless but knows when to let the audience breathe and drink it all in. The writing and camera work have to be applauded here as well, with Wheatley and his team makes excellent use of the space they have and make the simple task of getting from one side of the room to the other, a Herculean effort in the heat of battle. We continually get unique angles helping us feel a part of what the character is experiencing as well as how they see what is happening. Dialogue is snappy and flows between characters with nary a hiccup and is the cornerstone of why this film works just so well.
It has to be said that Free Fire is an absolute blast (no pun intended) and stands as a great omen for how British cinema could and hopefully will turn out this year. Ben Wheatley’s brilliant track record carries on with not a bump in sight, continuing to be one of the most eclectic filmmakers out there. See this if you get the chance and please enjoy the ride.