You may not yet be familiar with director Jamie Childs or lead actor Oliver Jackson-Cohen, but their gritty new crime thriller Jackdaw makes a strong case that you soon will. Childs, best known for prestige TV like His Dark Materials, makes an assured jump to features. Meanwhile, Jackson-Cohen finally claims a compelling lead role after turns in The Haunting of Hill House and The Invisible Man.
In Jackdaw, Jackson-Cohen plays Jack, a former motocross champ now caring for his disabled brother. When a shady job goes wrong, Jack tears through the criminal underworld of Northern England to save his sibling. The movie thrums with tension as it explores family bonds and revenge.
Backed by a talented supporting cast, Childs’ debut feature brings an electric visual style. The lighting casts an eerie glow across both scenic vistas and grimy urban streets. It’s an atmospheric setting for Jackson-Cohen’s emotional performance. While the story may touch on familiar themes, the visceral filmmaking announces two rising talents making their mark. Genre fans should brace for a white-knuckle ride.
A Visual Feast of Gritty Action
From its ominous opening shots, Jackdaw grabs viewers with stellar visual flair. Cinematographer Will Baldy casts much of the film in icy blues and grays, perfectly capturing the cold brutality of the world. Yet he also finds warmth in quiet moments with Jack and his brother. Vivid lighting illuminates the shadowy criminal underbelly. Whether in a pissing rain or glowing neon, the movie brims with atmosphere.
The action sequences thrill with gritty intensity. The early North Sea smuggling job thrusts Jack into literal and figurative stormy seas. Each motorcycle chase also stands out for its visceral impact. When violence erupts, quick cuts and practical effects underscore its sudden ferocity. Yet editor David Fisher also knows when to let tense scenes breathe.
Throughout, the propulsive score from Deadly Avenger and Si Begg immerses the audience. The pounding synth beats feel straight out of a rave. It’s a dynamic, modern choice that amps up the genre thrills. The music energizes without overpowering emotional moments.
With confident direction and technical polish, Jackdaw delivers the rugged charge of a classic British crime story. The technical craftsmanship punches above its indie budget. From balletic violence to evocative landscapes, Childs and his crew announce their arrival with undeniable flair. Factor in a charismatic lead performance, and the film offers thrill-seekers a delicious feast for the senses.
A Cast That Commands the Screen
At the heart of Jackdaw lies a riveting lead performance from Oliver Jackson-Cohen. As the brooding Jack, he captivates in his first true starring role. Behind the biker helmet, Jackson-Cohen’s eyes convey equal parts tenderness and torment. We feel his anguish as the mistake that endangers his brother. When violence erupts, the viciousness carries emotional weight rather than mere brutality. He grounds the hard-boiled story with a wounded soul that draws empathy.
The supporting cast enriches the tapestry. As Jack’s ex-flame Bo, Jenna Coleman simmers with defiance and heartache of her own. She becomes an ally, emerging from the shadows with secrets still hidden. Thomas Turgoose brings affable humor as a hapless raver who attaches himself to Jack’s crusade. Together, they lighten the mood without sacrificing grit.
On the darker side, Joe Blakemore and Rory McCann make for formidable foes. Blakemore’s drug dealer Silas preens with unpredictable menace, while Game of Thrones alum McCann exudes quiet danger. Through them, Jackdaw explores how those with power exploit the vulnerable.
Childs crafts a character-driven thriller where losses cut deep and loyalty matters most. Outstanding performances help balance hard-hitting action with bruised souls who ring true. Jackson-Cohen stands out with a breakout turn that signals the arrival of a compelling leading man. Backed by a strong ensemble, he anchors a cast that commands the screen.
Hard-Hitting Tale of Family and Retribution
At its core, Jackdaw tells an intensely personal story of family bonds threatened by crime and retribution. When Jack’s attempt to provide for his disabled brother endangers the youth, he shreds the underworld to pieces to make things right. Their tender relationship gives the gritty thriller its bruised heart.
The film confronts disability and caregiver dynamics with compassion. Jack’s devotion to his brother Simon depicts realistic complexity. They bicker yet retain an unbreakable connection. When Simon goes missing, Jack springs into ferocious action. Their sibling love fuels the most affecting moments.
Through this lens, Jackdaw also examines issues of social class and criminality. Like many veterans, Jack struggled to find stability after serving his country. Out of options, he turns to smuggling for cash. The story highlights economic precarity without excuses. Desperate situations still demand moral choices.
While a classic brooding anti-hero, Jackson-Cohen reveals Jack’s empathy and principles. One feels his anguish and isolation. In a world where few understand him, his brother is a lifeline. When threatened, his rage unveils a protective guardian.
The propulsive storyline balances high stakes and emotional resonance. Narrative choices like friendship, police corruption, and past regrets enrich the tension. Brief moments of humor leaven the building chaos with Turgoose landing comedic beats.
Childs thus crafts an enthralling family drama within slick action packaging. The film distills its urban crime setting down to universal feelings. When a mistake places loved onesin jeopardy, how far would you go to keep them safe? With commanding performances and thoughtful themes, Jackdaw thrums with the heartbeat of a redemption story.
Timely Lens on Society’s Forgotten People
Beyond its adrenaline-charged thrills, Jackdaw tackles timely social issues affecting the disenfranchised. The film spotlights struggles around veterans’ welfare, disability care, and economic insecurity. Without excuses, it explores how systemic gaps may lead well-intentioned people toward crime out of desperation.
In the underfunded care for Jack’s brain-injured brother and the protagonist’s own PTSD, the movie highlights government failures regarding veterans. Jack’s motivations point to the inadequate support for returning soldiers. Yet the story prevents him from becoming one-dimensional. His loving relationship with his sibling and protective instincts toward others reveal his empathy and principles.
Jackdaw also assesses the interplay of social class and criminality with nuance. Its northern English setting shapes the lens, capturing communities damaged by industrial collapse. The smuggling operation offers commentary on the limited options facing the working poor without justifying immoral choices. The characters feel like fully realized people navigating exclusion and hardship rather than mere stereotypes.
While gritty and violent, moments of humanity punctuate the film. Brief vignettes exploring police prejudice, immigrant perspectives, and gender dynamics reveal a layered world behind the thriller façade. Flawed people struggle in an unfair system. By examining the context behind individual actions, Jackdaw promotes understanding over judgment.
Confident Genre Entry That Thrills
With Jackdaw, director Jamie Childs makes an assured feature debut that leaves an impact. He deftly handles both adrenaline-fueled action and poignant drama. Backed by Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s magnetic performance, the film delivers a propulsive crime saga fueled by family bonds.
While it evokes classic British thrillers, Jackdaw avoids overused clichés through nuanced characters and clever humor. The disability representation and commentary on veteran challenges also feel fresh. However, the story structure sticks closely to genre conventions. Fans might have hoped for more subversion from Childs’ creative vision.
Still, not every neo-noir needs to radically innovate. What Jackdaw does, it does with style and depth. As an emotional rollercoaster driven by a fierce anti-hero, it harkens to early Guy Ritchie while forging its own Northern England aesthetic. The striking visuals and score immerse viewers in an unforgiving yet beautiful landscape shaped by its weathered people.
Bolstered by a strong lead turn from Jackson-Cohen, the movie heralds an exciting new directing talent and a rising star. It may not redefine the British crime thriller, but delivers a thrilling ride perfect for the genre fan. With confident filmmaking and powerful performances, Jackdaw earns its gritty wings.
With propulsive style and affecting character drama, Jackdaw soars as a riveting British crime thriller. Backed by Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s breakout performance, Jamie Childs makes an assured feature directorial debut. The emotional story of family and retribution leaves a mark thanks to confident filmmaking and magnetic acting. Fans of the genre will find much to admire in this grim yet moving redemption tale.
- Charismatic and emotionally resonant lead performance by Oliver Jackson-Cohen
- Gritty, atmospheric visuals and impressive cinematography
- Thumping, pulsing electronic score adds to the tension
- Director Jamie Childs sets up gripping action sequences
- Effective exploration of the themes of family, class, and retribution
- Strong supporting performances add depth to the cast
- The pacing lags in the middle section
- Some of the dialogue is hokey/unnatural
- The villains are thinly-written and come across as one-dimensional
- The story is formulaic and doesn't cover much new ground in the genre