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Brighton Rock

Another British 'classic'.

Brighton Rock

John Boulting, 1947

The film opens with onscreen text that gives us our setting for the film, the British seaside town of Brighton, and sets the tone of what to come, letting us know that it will be focusing on the dark side of the British criminal world that lies beneath the sunny little town. This is followed by a snippet from the newspaper; a local criminal boss has died.

This important piece of information sets in motion the events that change the film. The film takes place at a time of changing landscape of the criminal world, with a seventeen year old assuming leadership and finding him up against a much older, better organised ‘businessman’ operating from a luxury hotel. And whilst in a way it the events are very important the film is not purely focused on the change and the repercussions on the gang in the long run, instead looking at small snippet in time, on the character of Pinkie, the seventeen year old portrayed by Richard Attenborough. At a time when his mob is struggling to deal with the changing landscape, he finds himself having to clean up all sorts of mess.

The film is littered with all sorts of different sub plots; each character could have a story of their own. There is Fred, a newspaper reporter who is killed early on as part of the mob’s revenge for the death of their leader. There is Spicer, an old mob veteran who is struggling to keep up with the younger generation and is tossed aside despite his loyalty. There is Rose, a young naïve girl who believes she is truly in love with Pinkie and will do anything for him. And then there is Ida, a strong willed woman who is persistent in finding out the truth. All these pose different problems for Pinkie, who will stop at nothing to protect himself, he states he is religious yet uses underage marriage to protect himself, with a girl he does not truly love.

The direction and cinematography makes full use of the British town to make the more dramatic films effective. The peer scenes fantastically juxtapose the fun rides with the impending death of a character, thanks to some great editing, and then the chase scenes throughout the streets are truly filled with great suspense.

There is a feeling of impending doom for the main character throughout the whole film, who only seems to keep digging a bigger hole for himself. He can run, but he can’t hide. Many of the film’s scenes, including the finale evoke Orson Welles and in particular The Lady From Shanghai, with fantastic use of lighting and angles to heighten the tension.

The film is not perfect. Everything is centered around the menacing and amoral Pinkie, helped by a perfect performance from Richard Attenborough. Whilst there are other enjoyable elements, most of them mainly serve to help us study him as a character. Carol Marsh’s character is a great example of this, she does the job, and is vital in understanding Pinkie, but as a character herself she is a little rushed and underdeveloped. The last scene with her though is particularly brilliant, a great slice of dark comedy that leaves a strange smile on your face as the credits roll.