Corridors. Echoing footsteps. Eyes. Violence. Silence.
The five things that struck me most about Refn’s follow up to Drive (2011). Once again there is plenty of Gosling staring, but this time the amount of time without a word being uttered is significantly ramped up. Fortunately the cast are up to the job and able to convey more than enough through their faces and body language to make up for it.
Gosling is a walking powder keg, always appearing on the edge of explosion. Pansringarm, as the ‘God’ of the film, carries a foreboding calmness which leaves you constantly on edge.
Don’t expect to relate to anyone in this film, as they are a thoroughly reprehensible bunch, with only fleeting glances of goodness. When the violence does occur, it is gruesome, yet at the same time doesn’t feel unwarranted. Set in Bangkok, the martial art of Muay Thai is represented at several points. Having spent a year attempting it, I can vouch for its effectiveness, which comes across vividly.
When there is so much silence, you need the images to be strong as well as the performances, and Refn doesn’t disappoint. Full of moody lightning, and highlighting of faces, this is a stunning neo-noir film that grabs your attention. It must be one of the best shot and framed films I’ve seen.
Plenty of people will struggle to understand the story and the point of it all. Many will also think of it as highly indulgent and will struggle to connect with it. But I found it brave and intriguing. Refn isn’t afraid to linger on a shot, and I’d take something like this over plenty of other films I’ve seen this year.
It’s not an easy watch, and it’s not something I’m sure I’d go back to. But Only God Forgives is a daring, cool, and no doubt divisive film which deserves your time.