Manchester lad Ian Curtis (Sam Riley) drags himself up from his desk as a young employment agency officer to become the enigmatic lead singer of newly formed Joy Division in the 70s music scene. In the last few years of his short life, he marries his girlfriend Debbie (Samantha Morton), rises to fame and acclaim as writer and dynamic punk rock singer, fathers a baby girl, falls in love with a Belgian part-time journalist Annik (Alexandra Maria Lara) and struggles with epilepsy - until his tragic suicide in 1980 at age 23.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Although vastly different in cinematic style, Control intersects with 24 Hour Party People (2002), which is also set in the 1970s Manchester music scene, when Factory Records burst onto the scene, signing up promising new bands with a purist charter - sometimes signed in Tony Wilson's own blood Wilson being the character common to both films, here played by Craig Parkinson (and by Steve Coogan in the earlier film). Both films are dramatisations, and both are fascinating as records of rock music triumphs and disasters of the era. Control, however, is a much more personal film, directed by famed photographer Anton Corbjin, who had specialised in rock bands and had in fact moved from his native Holland to England to be closer to where the music came from. He had photographed Joy Division among many others, including U2, Bryan Ferry, The Rolling Stones, Depeche Mode, Metallica and Bruce Springsteen.
In his debut feature, Corbjin makes good use of black and white, eschewing colour in a creative decision which helps deepen the film's sombre tone. The screenplay is based on Debbie Curtis' book, Touching from a Distance, which tells the story of her late husband and which we have to accept as pretty accurate. But fans of Joy Division (whose remaining members formed New Order) will bring their own sensibilities and ideas to the film, which explores the sad, tragic yet valuable life of Ian Curtis.
The most striking aspect of the film is how the screenplay puts a distance between Curtis the lost young man and Curtis the creative fountain of music that reached so many fans. Living in ordinary, even drab, circumstances in a small cottage in a Manchester suburb with his young wife and new baby, Curtis seems oddly out of synch with his public performance character.
Superbly cast, Control is a film that details its subject and his inability to control his life in ironic shades of grey. As if fate wanted to batter home its point, he was even epileptic, a condition that takes control of the body (albeit for short periods). The film is hardly an uplifting experience, but it is a sincere and well crafted portrait of one of England's tragic young musicians from a turbulent and fascinating era.
DVD special features include an audio commentary with director Anton Corbijn, interviews with director and cast, extended scenes, B-roll footage and trailer.
Published March 13, 2008
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CONTROL: DVD (MA15+)
CAST: Sam Riley, Samantha Morton, Craig Parkinson, Alexandra Maria Lara, Joe Anderson, James Anthony Pearson, Toby Kebbell, Harry Treadway, Andrew Sheridan, Robert Shelly
PRODUCER: Anton Corbijn, Todd Eckert, Orian Williams
DIRECTOR: Anton Corbijn
SCRIPT: Matt Greenhalgh (book by Deborah Curtis)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Martin Ruhe
EDITOR: Andrew Hulme
MUSIC: Ian Neil (Music Supervisor)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Chris Roope
RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 25, 2007
SPECIAL FEATURES: - Commentary with director Anton Corbijn[BREAK]- Interviews with director Anton Corbijn, Sam Riley, James Pearson, Harry Treadaway, Joe Anderson[BREAK]- Extended Scenes[BREAK]- Atmosphere film clip[BREAK]- Behind the Scenes/B-Roll Footage[BREAK]- Band track: "Digital"[BREAK]- Original Theatrical Trailer[BREAK]- Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
DVD RELEASE: March 12, 2008