After seeing the atmospheric Kill List, I have been incredibly intrigued by writer/director Ben Wheatley's work. This British filmmaker impressed moviegoers around the world with his sophomore effort. Wheatley was successful with his horror/thriller, which could have easily resulted in him making similar flicks. Fortunately, this isn't the case. His third film Sightseers can be described as a dark comedy. This genre change is a bold decision, since it will likely attract a different target audience. It's always a nice surprise when a filmmaker can work within the confines of a variety of genres. This type of humor won't be a hit with all viewers, but it's worth watching in order to find out. While Sightseers didn't impress me as much as Ben Wheatley's previous feature did, I still enjoyed the moviegoing experience.
A young couple decides to go on a vacation to a variety of different places. Chris (Steve Oram) arrives to pick Tina (Alice Lowe) up, but is forced to encounter her mother before they leave. She isn't very supportive of Tina, as she expresses her negative feelings toward Chris. After a small amount of time, the couple leaves for their trip. They continue to travel from location to location, as they attempt to make new friends. Unfortunately, they fail to get along with others, which gives them an opportunity to become better acquainted with one another. Chris and Tina ultimately find themselves on a trip filled with passion and murder.
Screenwriters Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, and Amy Jump have developed a concept with a decent amount of potential. The road trip storyline isn't very original, but these writers manage to make it feel fresh. Instead of focusing on the road trip itself, this team of screenwriters use Chris and Tina as the picture's focal point. The narrative is told from Tina's perspective, as she continues to learn more about her semi-new boyfriend. Despite the fact that these characters are murderers, audiences will find themselves drawn to these leads. Even though there isn't a lot of disposition, Tina receives a lot more of it than Chris. A lot of her characteristics are conveyed through their dog. The couple continues to argue whether the dog's name is Banjo or Poppy, which proves to even confuse the small pup. Chris and Tina�represent the counterculture, as they are constantly challenging written and unwritten rules in society. This vacation is an escape from their reality, as well as their morals. Chris and Tina's road trip is an event full of twists and turns that will change their lives forever, while making us laugh along the way.
Nearly every joke in this film can be classified under dark humor, although a lot of it works due to its undeniable irony. This begins from the moment the first frame touches the screen, which ultimately extends through the rest of the picture's duration. The humor truly shows its teeth once Sightseers dives into the material about Chris and Tina's killings. Both of these individuals are murderers, but they have completely different reasons for such violent acts. Chris often justifies his actions, while Tina is impulsive and spontaneous with her killings. She doesn't necessarily feel the need to express her motives for each murder. Large portions of this material could have easily been translated into a horror vehicle, but it works rather well as a dark comedy. However, Ben Wheatley's most recent film isn't only about death and mayhem, but there's a romance story underneath it all. Chris and Tina's relationship feels quite convincing, even though they happen to bond over murder.
Sightseers is entertaining from start to finish. However, some of the quirkiness loses its steam throughout the running time. Some of the jokes are repeated multiple times, which might bother some audiences. The dog gags become slightly tiresome by the time the credits are rolling. Some of them are funny, but a lot of them become repetitive. While we get the chance to take a trip with Chris and Tina, there are moments when we feel undeniably distant from the leads, even despite the fact that we're traveling along with them. Sightseers primarily succeeds when it allows the audience to see the honesty within each character, as well as the relationships between them. These genuine moments allow for the humor to develop quite nicely
Not only did Steve Oram and Alice Lowe play Chris and Tina, but they also wrote the picture's screenplay. Oram and Lowe represent these characters extremely well. They have developed a believable connection between the two roles, which aid in keeping our eyes glued to the screen. They are rarely on screen without the other as we follow them on their road trip. Some of the humor simply works due to the fact that Oram and Lowe deliver these characters in ways that will make viewers laugh. The film is essentially built around these two actors as Chris and Tina, since the narrative never strays from them. There aren't any bad performances to be found under Wheatley's direction in this dark comedy.
Cinematographer Laurie Rose has created an incredibly fitting atmosphere for Sightseers. She also worked with Ben Wheatley on Kill List. Some of the stylistic choices are similar, although the atmosphere is very different. Rose makes the screen pop with a variety of bright and vibrant colors. As Chris and Tina move from place to place, she brings a different visual palette in order to distinguish each location from the last. Ben Wheatley brings all of the optical components together in order to create a visually appealing film. Every scene fits within the desired tone.
Countless road trip films have employed the same predictable plot developments. Ben Wheatley's Sightseers takes this tired concept and makes it fresh with its dark humor. While a few of the jokes are repetitive, I found the majority of them to work. This humor isn't for everybody, although it will surely be appreciated by those who have been searching for a quirky, yet dark comedy. Despite the picture's flaws, Ben Wheatley has directed a thoroughly entertaining film. Recommended. The film will be receiving a limited release on May 10th at Landmark's Sunshine Cinema in New York and at Landmark's Nuart Theatre in West Los Angeles.