Famous for defying genre and narrative conventions, British director Ben Wheatley is quickly becoming a cinematic phenomenon exciting audiences with his gritty and highly realistic approach to filmmaking. Following from the success of last year’s dark rom/com ‘Sightseers’, Wheatley has taken on a far more ambitious project in ‘A field in England’, surrounding the story of a group of deserters in the civil war as they are captured by an estranged alchemist searching for treasure. Being released on multi-platforms on the same day (5th July), ‘a field in England’ is an extremely audacious project, supplying a narrative which is highly extravagant and certainly not for everyone.
Containing perhaps some of the lesser known thespians that the UK has to offer, they ultimately prove to be crucial giving believable, meaty performances to a narrative which is relatively bare. Following their capture, Whitehead(Reece Shearsmith) as well as his band of fellow deserters are forced to search for some buried treasure by alchemist O’Neil (Michael Smiley) all whilst under the influence of unwittingly consumed ‘magic mushrooms’, unsurprisingly madness then ensues. The film works on a basic level giving a plot which is undeniably thin, made interesting only through its fantastic cinematography and occasional moments of quotable dialogue. Shot in distinct black and white this choice of monochrome colours immediately transports you to the time of the English civil war and does an excellent job in encapsulating the setting and macabre themes. Breath-taking at times the cinematography is truly stunning, supplying frequent artistic stills as well as notable moments of mesmerising absurdity.
Whilst this style and cinematic grace coagulates perfectly with the terrific acting performances, the narrative ultimately proves to be too thin with the film filling it’s time with egotistical moments of nonsensical images and overlong scenes of a ‘bad trip’. The overall pretentious nature of this film frustratingly looms over its 90 minute running time allowing the film few moments to legitimately express some genuine scenes of character chemistry or simple normal occurrences.
To create such a film is no doubt congratulatory as certainly very few Directors could replicate the bizarre and highly psychedelic piece that Wheatley has created. ‘A field in England’ benefits greatly from its intelligent release schedule allowing great choice to audiences for a film which will no doubt be highly opinionated. With a tight script that morphs today’s dialect with the pasts seamlessly through fantastic acting performances across the board, it was a shame to see the plot enter into a nosedive being filmed terrifically yet showing scenes of no real value and very little payoff.
7/10- A highly psychological and convoluted ride with few twists and turns but plenty of mushrooms.