Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Offence

A Serious Review from Alan Trehern

It's been a couple days since I watched this movie, and even though I remember everything that happened, scene for scene (I'm good at that), the effect it had on me has dwindled quite a bit. However, as a reviewer, I'm going to allow you the chance to decide whether you should see this or not, I'm not going to tell you one way or another.

The Offence (1972)
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Starring Sean Connery
This film was excruciatingly slow, despite my initial expectations. I thought that Detective Sergeant Connery as a cop in London (or wherever they were) chasing after child molesters would be pretty bad-ass. Well, as it turned out, Connery (with mustache in tow) delivered one of the best performances I have ever seen him in. However, the bad-ass cop-drama I was expecting went an entirely different route.
First, this movie is less "cop-drama" and more "psychological-noir", without the first-person narration usually associated with the noir genre [1]. Johnson (Connery) is one of the many cops working on cases of missing child, some found dead while others have been found violated but still alive. Connery is hell-bent on finding this man (or men), and he risks reputation and relationships to get to this sick psycho. The character of Johnson is extremely complex, and as an audience member, you don't fully know everything about him until the very end of the film, which may serve as a redeeming characteristic for The Offence, or an annoying flaw. The most reliable comparison I can come up with is John Wayne's character Ethan Edwards in The Searchers, with his crazy-eyed hatred for the Comanche Indians. Johnson was portrayed as tough, outspoken, verbally abusive and unloving toward his wife and was subject to bouts of violent rage. Johnson's insanity, while uncontrollable at times, humanizes the character, contradicting the audience's initial assessment of his invulnerability.

The most intriguing scene in the film was the final interrogation scene between Johnson and the alleged child molester. Here, we truly see the range of Connery's acting prowess, and the conversation between the two takes the audience on a roller coaster ride of realizations and unlocks every other mysterious facet of this movie. Overall, then, the movie may have you confused for the first 90 minutes, but it comes full-circle and answers all your questions and leaves you satisfied with the result.
To give this movie even more props, it used "non-linear storytelling", which has often been credited to Tarantino, but in reality, has been used since the silent film era. The Offence takes advantage of this technique by showing us parts of the movie out of order, and returning to them every so often and fill us in on what really happened. As someone who had no idea what this movie was about and what path it would take, it proved quite entertaining to finally realize that the events taking place were out of order, and that you were forced to recall when and where events happened.

While this "non-linear storytelling" labels the film as noteworthy, the film's lack of roadsigns somewhat negates its originality. If I don't know where this movie is going until the very end, what's to keep me from turning it off in disgust? The movie's lack of music, sparse dialogue and dramatically long scene transitions repels regular movie-goers who want to delve into the story right away. For those few who enjoy originally directed films, you'll most definitely enjoy The Offence. It offers an insight into the world of cops/villains, how they deal with the blood and horror of maleficent crimes and how seemingly regular people are turned into psychotic rapists.

Oh, by the way, if you think I gave away the ending just there, you're wrong. You will never guess what the inevitable conclusion to this film is...

[1] Voiceover narration, sometimes used as a structuring device, came to be seen as a noir hallmark; while classic noir is generally associated with first-person narration (i.e., by the protagonist), Stephen Neale notes that third-person narration is common among noirs of the semi-documentary style.[150]


Ben Pearson said...

Tarantino has never been "credited" with creating "non-linear storytelling" - he's just credited with popularizing the style that shows multiple storylines taking place over the same amount of time and occasionally intersecting (see: Pulp Fiction).

That is very different from "flashbacks," which - of course - have been around since the early days of cinema. Literally thousands of movies used flashbacks before "The Offence," so while giving it props is totally legit, I think you're making it seem like it was the first movie of its kind to employ that as a technique.

Even if it used "flashforwards" - showing us something on screen that hasn't yet happened in the movie, and then later returning to those events - Tarantino has rarely (if ever) used that as a filmmaking technique. As you said, that method has been around since the silent film era, so why is it noteworthy in "The Offence"?

Alan Trehern said...

It just interestingly utilized the non-linear technique . I don't think I went about saying this movie broke ground in using nonlinear-storytelling, just that it used it. While some movies get confusing and complex while using non-linear storytelling, this movie actually benefited from it.

As for my Tarantino comment, I guess I should have said "popularized" instead of nothing. It does sound like I'm giving him credit for inventing something.

I never used the word "flashback", because there weren't any. I just said scenes of the story were out of order or mere snippets. And my Tarantino comments ended in that one sentence; so my reference to the technique in the rest of the paragraph didn't concern him, since I don't watch his movies.