Two whistleblowers hide out from hitmen in Neil Maskell’s perfectly formed debut Klokkenluider
Klokkenluider is the debut feature from actor Neil Maskell, who both writes and directs. Maskell is a frequent collaborator of Ben Wheatley (most notably 2011’s hitman thriller Kill List) and Wheatley’s influence can definitely be felt in this dark comedy featuring bickering mercenaries.
Ewan (Amit Shah) is a government employee who has discovered some sort of huge dark secret that he claims will cast ripples around the whole world. After his wife Silke (Sura Dohnke) contacts a newspaper to share the story the pair become convinced that someone will be sent to kill them. Constantly looking over their shoulders for MI5, the CIA or a KGB hit squad the couple flee to a house in rural Belgium to hide out.
The newspaper is interested in reporting on the secret and send dysfunctional ‘guns for hire’ Steve (Tom Burke) and Glynn (Roger Evans) to protect Ewan and Silke, making sure nothing bad befalls them and that they don’t sell the story to anyone else whilst they wait for a journalist to arrive for an interview. Whilst Steve is a tightly wound hardcase who tries to be mysterious, Glynn likes a drink and to run his mouth and the two are immediately at odds, destroying any air of professionalism or calm. Klokkenluider is a black comedy that sees four people who are totally at odds having to get along during a stressful situation.
Maskell’s script is absolutely razor sharp, packed with dry jokes that’ll have you loudly exhaling air out of your nose. The comedy is only enhanced by the absurdity of the situation. Tension pouring off the two whistle-blowers absolutely palpable, it rolls off the screen in waves as they jump at their own shadows whilst looking out of every window for some imagined killer. Steve and Glynn are a classic comedy double act, the clown and the straight man, the way they constantly chide and pick at each other hilarious.
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It’s brilliant characterisation from the two ‘tough guys,’ the audience getting a good understanding of exactly who these people are and what their individual backstories are with just a few throwaway lines and a very short run time – Klokkenluider is a sub-90-minute film and not a minute of that time is wasted. Late in the film comes an absolutely scene stealing appearance from Jenna Coleman who plays Flo, the fast talking, super sweary journalist who has been sent to take the story. It’s a universally fantastic cast selling the hell out of a very funny script.
What sets Klokkenluider apart is that it doesn’t just pull off the comedy well, it’s also a very well executed thriller, feeling like a natural successor to In Bruges. Everyone is on edge, all the time. Where much of it is played for laughs, the fear that someone is after the couple becomes very real, building and building in paranoia as the film progresses. The mystery of the government secret is gripping throughout, as we get to see the diverse reactions of the people who have heard it without spoiling it for the audience, it fuels our curiosity for more.
It’s a beautifully constructed film, shot like an arthouse drama rather than a comedy featuring some beautiful overhead shots and lots of interesting angles. An impressive debut from Maskell who has clearly developed an auteurs eye for cinematography.
As silly as it sounds, I think the only thing that might hold Klokkenluider back from widespread success is the name! It’s Flemish & Dutch for whistle-blower, which you know, makes sense. But not a single person I encountered today could remember what the name of this film was, which isn’t really what you want when trying to spread publicity. I guess it’ll either make the film stand out from the crowd or get lost in it. Who can say. Maybe they should take the Disney idiot proof approach and print the phonetic name of the film on the poster like they did with Ratatouille!
A dark comedy with a brutal edge and an absolutely jaw dropping finale, Klokkenluider is a hugely fun movie and marks a very exciting debut for writer/director Neil Maskell. Here’s hoping audiences find it, as this film has all the makings of a massive hit.
Klokkenluider has been reviewed as part of the BFI London Film Festival and awaits a general release date