Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review: "Dirty Pretty Things" is a Pretty Movie Thing (Happy B'day, Chiwetel Ejiofor)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 140 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Dirty Pretty Things (2002)
- U.S. release in 2003
Running time: 97 minutes (1 hour, 37 minutes)
MPAA – R for sexual content, disturbing images and language
DIRECTOR: Stephen Frears
WRITER: Steven Knight
PRODUCERS: Robert Jones and Tracey Seaward
EDITOR: Mick Audsley
COMPOSER: Nathan Larson
Academy Award nominee

DRAMA/MYSTERY/THRILLER with elements of romance

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Audrey Tautou, Sergo López, Sophie Okonedo, Benedict Wong, and Zlatko Buric

The subject of this movie review is Dirty Pretty Things, a 2002 British thriller from director Stephen Frears. This drama about two illegal immigrants in London was released in the United States in 2003 and went on to earn an Oscar nomination.

In Stephen Frears’ wonderful Dirty Pretty Things, Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor), an illegal Nigerian immigrant, discovers the unsavory side of London life. He works at a posh London hotel that is especially popular with men who frequent prostitutes. Okwe stumbles across evidence of a bizarre murder committed in one of the hotel rooms – a human heart clogging up the commode. Okwe is also involved in an awkward relationship with his roommate, Senay (Audrey Tautou), a Turkish chambermaid who is also on shaky footing with immigration. Okwe’s discovery in the hotel room and his connection with Senay eventually collide, and the manner in which he resolves both problems is this film’s centerpiece.

Stephen Frears’ filmography is a wonderful collection of eccentric and quirky films that are more than surface peculiarity. Most are very good films, and a few a truly great, including this one. Frears’ weaves a picture show of palatable drama that is also a convincing romance (although a sad one), a riveting, gritty, urban drama and a mesmerizing tale of mystery and intrigue. He is however blessed with Steven Knight’s Academy Award-nominated script (“Best Original Screenplay”). Knight gives the film a solid plot that, instead of overwhelming the film, allows the story to expand beyond genre intrigue. His writing also gives the characters (another element that is strong in his script) the chance to play at being more just chess pieces in a thriller.

The cast gives outstanding performances, especially Chiwetel Ejiofor. Although Miramax’s marketing for the film’s U.S. release emphasized the ethereal, haunting beauty of Audrey Tautou and her melancholy character, Senay, this is Okwe’s story. Chiwetel is the foundation of this movie’s success, guiding and holding the film with his hypnotic and penetrating gaze and steady strength. He strides this production like a cowboy in a western epic, holding the dark forces at bay and saving the damsel in distress. All in all, Ejiofor highlights a fine film presentation in which all hands did top notch work. I heartily recommend Dirty Pretty Things.

9 of 10

2004 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Writing, Original Screenplay” (Steven Knight)

2003 BAFTA Awards: 2 nominations: “Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film” (Tracey Seaward, Robert Jones, and Stephen Frears) and “Best Screenplay – Original” (Steven Knight)

2004 Black Reel Awards: 1 win: “Film: Best Actor” (Chiwetel Ejiofor)

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