Saturday, 21 May 2016

Dirty Pretty Things (2002)

Nigel Farage's favourite film!

I joke, of course.



Dirty Pretty Things is a 2002 thriller from Stephen Frears is set in the secret underbelly of London; a twilight nether-world inhabited by immigrants - both legal and illegal - in flight from their various homelands, for a variety of reasons, to lead invisible and unfulfilled lives in the UK. Bringing these anonymous characters together is The Baltic, a London hotel where they work in roles many British-born citizens believe to be beneath them; desk clerks, doormen, gophers and cleaners, all without union representation or the safety nets we take for granted.

The central figure is Chiwetel Ejiofor's Okwe, a man with two dead-end jobs. By night he is the desk clerk at The Baltic and by day he is a mini-cab driver. In the opening moments we see that he is expected to inspect his employer's genitalia at the cab office, and we soon learn that this onerous task is expected of him because, back home in Nigeria, he had another job - he was a doctor. Under the grey leaden skies of London however, he is an illegal immigrant having been forced to flee Lagos under an assumed name. Now he's trying to keep a hold of his moral compass, helping people where he can (like his clap-riddled boss) and in particular looking out for Senay (Audrey Tautou) whose couch he sleeps on. She's a naive asylum seeker from Turkey, working illegally as a cleaner at the hotel and gaining the attention of a pair of vindictive immigration officers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these are the only British people who actually seem to pay any kind of attention to our central refugee characters throughout the whole film. Says a lot doesn't it?


One evening at the hotel Okwe is called to unblock a toilet and makes a particularly gruesome discovery - no, not a floater of Presley proportions - a human heart. This sinister mystery leads him to the hotel's sleazy and menacing night manager, a Spaniard named 'Sneaky' played by Sergi López, who, it is revealed, exploits the predicaments of fellow refugees by working in the illegal trafficking of body parts - a spare kidney for those with serious conditions, serious money and a lack of scruples.



This is a really strong film from Frears who captures the same kind of social realism as his contemporaries like Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, but employs a far more successful thriller narrative than either director could manage. He's helped by a script from Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight which takes some rather stereotypical characters (Tatou's naive waif, Benedict Wong's amiable and wise Chinese, Zlatko Buric's garrulous Russian and Sophie Okonedo's tart with a heart) yet makes them believably three dimensional, a truly accomplished cast, and some great cinematography from Chris Menges which really captures those aforementioned leaden skies to depict a London that is both a very big place, but also a very cold one too. An unromantic London where it is all too be anonymous and ignored, as this excellent piece of dialogue towards the end of the film has it;

"How come I've never seen you people before?"

"Because we are the people you do not see. We are the ones who drive your cabs, and clean your rooms, and suck your cocks"



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