(Michael Caine makes Harry Brown real)
Harry Brown reveals the darkness of the world we live in, so frighteningly it’s almost apocalyptic. Our neighbours are villainous, our youth are terrorizing and absolutely no one is safe.
The film follows ex-Marine Harry Brown (Michael Caine) as he witnesses the horrors of streets in London and becomes engorged by the lonely abyss. Unruly gangs is an understatement for the mobs that run rampant and commit random acts of violence. Brown soon realizes that watching from his apartment window isn’t enough.
While the trailers and promo photos cast Caine as a ruthless, gun-wielding murderer, his character is actually much deeper. He’s boiling with silent rage. He’s vengeful and fed up. But he’s also alone and heartbroken, strengthened by the pain he bears. In his expressions and voice, Caine creates a deep-running character, real to the pit of his soul. Through Caine, Brown’s feelings become true and affective.
What helps build Caine’s character so deeply is his hidden past. We know it’s dark and Brown refuses to speak about it. He’s been hardened by the violence of war and yet the violence on the streets is more than enough to rattle him.
The gloomy, deteriorating set of London also drives the hopelessly terrifying feeling. Crime continues to rise and next to nothing can be done about it. Teenagers murder in front of open eyes, under dark bridges, in shady alleyways. The streets are lined with shattered glass windows, beat up buildings and old, worn parks. There’s no one to clean up the debris and no one to clean up the crime.
It’s a world that’s turned its back on Brown and everyone else in the city. The police can’t help, loved ones perish and terror only grows. What happens when the innocent have become abandoned by mankind and threatened by evil? For Brown, it’s time to step up and change things for those like him. He becomes a speck of light in a forest of darkness.
But the hopeful glow isn’t enough. Harry Brown‘s darkness is so convincing that we realize that it actually inhabits our world (though possibly exaggerates it). Even if Brown could save the city, when we leave the theatre, we return to that world. The film instills us with a sadness and fear that we see reciprocated in Brown himself. It’s very disheartening.
Harry Brown leaves us feeling just like Brown: lonely, deserted and empty. The worst part of all is how real the film is. A
Starring Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Charlie Creed-Miles and David Bradley. Directed by Daniel Barber. 103 minutes. 18A