British made-for-TV movies are happily free of the negative
associations that (often all to justly) plague their U.S.
counterparts, and the 2003 film Alibi shows why: it's an
intelligently written, dramatic and often darkly funny mystery
thriller that's well worth the price of admission.
Michael Kitchen stars as the hapless Greg Brentwood, who has the
misfortune to (accidentally?) kill one of the guests at his wife's
surprise birthday party. When sharp-witted Marcie (Sophie Okonedo),
one of the caterers for the party, stumbles on his attempt to dispose
of the body, the two become unlikely allies in an attempt to keep
Greg out of trouble. The only problem is that the more they try to
straighten things out, the more threads start unraveling as Greg's
life starts to come to pieces.
Though it has a rather inauspicious opening scene – a crowded
party scene in which we're not sure which characters are important –
Alibi swiftly tightens up into a very well-crafted thriller.
It could be described as an anti-murder-mystery: instead of following
the detectives as they piece together what really happened, we follow
Greg and Marcie as they desperately try to anticipate what the police
will look into, and weave elaborate plans to allay suspicion.
Throughout the film, the story remains firmly grounded in the "real":
while there are some elements of the absurd leading to a certain
black comedy in some scenes, the characters always behave as they
would in real life. The result is a story that develops in an
interesting and all-too-believable way: as viewers, we can see that
the characters are doing everything "right," but that's not
enough to keep things from snowballing.
My opinion of Michael Kitchen, which was already positive from his
outstanding performance in Foyle's
War, gets another boost from his solid performance in Alibi.
Kitchen is completely believable as a man who sees his whole life
unraveling before his eyes, and isn't handling it very well at all...
in fact, he spends most of the film on the verge of a nervous
breakdown, helping bring out the film's low-key but effective touches
In the end, Alibi is a very good film, but not a great one,
mainly because it's missing that certain something that would bring
it up a notch. That's most noticeable in the ending: it ties things
up in a reasonably satisfying (and unpredictable) way, but I was
hoping for something a little more intriguing, maybe bringing another
plot twist out of the woodwork. In any case, though, it's an
entertaining film and well worth an evening's viewing time.
The image quality for Alibi is disappointing: it looks more
like a TV-movie from the 1980s, not 2003. While it remains watchable,
the image suffers from a lot of noise and grain, and colors are off
as well, looking muted and grayish. The film appears in its original
aspect ratio of 1.33:1.
The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is adequate, providing a flat and sometimes
slightly muffled audio presentation. At times, the dialogue is a
little hard to follow, due to the unfortunate coincidence of strong
British accents and a less than crisp soundtrack, but overall there
are few problems.
The only special feature on the DVD is a trailer.
about a mystery thriller in which you're rooting for the perpetrator
to get away with it? Alibi isn't your typical thriller, which
makes it all the more interesting. Michael Kitchen's solid
performance in the lead, combined with a cleverly plotted story,
makes Alibi well worth picking up for an evening's
entertainment. The transfer quality may be lackluster, but Alibi
still gets a "recommended."