Defense of the Realm | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Defense of the Realm

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A minor parliamentary scandal takes on ominous proportions when a reporter for a right-wing London tabloid (Gabriel Byrne) uncovers a pattern of deception that points to a high-level government cover-up. Credible politics is the last thing you'd expect from David Drury's pulpy, paranoid thriller, and, not surprisingly, it's the last thing you get: the film is less a realistic state-of-the-realm dissection than a, hallucinated vision of Orwell cum Kafka. Drury's arrhythmically choppy styling-alternating aggressively cropped close-ups a la Sam Fuller with cluttery images of London in perpetual, somber sulk (no environmental impact statement could ever save this grim, lowering beast)--creates a sense of dissociated menace: everything connects and nothing does, and entropic disintegration counterpoints the entangling logic of paranoia. It's a more nervously effective version of dystopia than Michael Radford's drearily dropsical Nineteen Eight-Four, partly because it's set in the kinetic present tense: those are everyday London streets that Drury's shooting on, and his nightmare of Thatcherism unleashed comes clambering in with an edge of gritty, verite conviction. With Denholm Elliott, Ian Bannen, Greta Scacchi, and Bill Paterson. (Biograph)

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