The pre main-credit sequence, shot to resemble mobile-phone footage, had the desired effect: the sense of shock from the capacity audience was palpable. The film then slows down to show the reality of Harry Brown's life as a pensioner on a South London high-rise estate . Showing his routine of walking to the hospital to visit his very ill wife, having to walk a long way round to avoid confrontation with an unseen group of youths who use an underpass as their base and his meetings with his old friend and chess partner Lenny in the estate pub. There aren't many other people walking about the estate, even in daylight, out of fear of the gun-carrying teenage gangs.
Michael Caine's performance as Harry Brown is wonderful. His timing is spot-on. Credit to director Daniel Barber for allowing him space to breathe and not be hurried. In fact the overall pacing is excellent. There is good use of the soundtrack with the lack of intrusive music adding to the reality feel of the film. The night scenes are beautifully lit as well with a good balance between just enough to see what's going on and making the lighting realistic: the night scene in the pub with the lights out, for instance.
This film has been compared to 'Death Wish' and 'Gran Torino', but those films haven't got this film's bleak, realistic look at how life is in these areas. There always remains a sense of watching a film, of entertainment, of it being 'Hollywood'. This is a lot more down to earth. This film has more in common with Mike Leigh's TV drama 'Meantime' and with 'Gomorra'.
This isn't an easy 'first-date' film but it is a superior Brit film, one of the best for many years. I'm glad to see that it has got some marketing push behind it and has generated column inches talking about the subject of these 'no-go' areas and society in general.
Shocking and brilliant.