fri 28/01/2022

The Unforgivable review - Sandra Bullock gets stuck in a doom-struck rut | reviews, news & interviews

The Unforgivable review - Sandra Bullock gets stuck in a doom-struck rut

The Unforgivable review - Sandra Bullock gets stuck in a doom-struck rut

Movie version of Sally Wainwright TV thriller can't live up to its potential

Not happy: Sandra Bullock as Ruth Slater

Based fairly closely on Sally Wainwright’s 2009 ITV series Unforgiven, The Unforgivable replaces the former’s star Suranne Jones with Sandra Bullock and has airlifted the action from Yorkshire to Seattle.

A beefy supporting cast including Jon Bernthal, Vincent D’Onofrio and Viola Davis sprinkles on a modicum of box office glitter, while director Nora Fingscheidt has successfully evoked a menacing atmosphere of star-crossed characters battling a malignant fate.

Despite all this, it can’t quite live up to its potential. The problem is Bullock, stoically persevering with the character of Ruth Slater as she struggles to come to terms with life in a grim halfway house after serving 20 years for the murder of a police officer. Long gone, along with a decade or three, is the sparkly, feisty Bullock of Miss Congeniality or Speed. Her portrayal of Ruth, by contrast, is one long mask of pouty, close-to-tears misery as she goes on a long and woeful journey through the past to track down her long-lost sister, Katie (Aisling Franciosi), long since adopted by a new family.

Good for Bullock for having a go at an older role that skews distinctly bleak, but it doesn’t leave her with too many expressive options. A fixed doom-struck expression is her go-to mode, sometimes shading into angry desperation or fatalistic despair.

Still, some moody cinematography and shrewd choice of locations make Seattle look harsher and grittier than it usually gets credit for, while the plot contains enough twists to keep you at least mildly interested. There’s a dramatic late reveal that suddenly snaps everything that has gone before into a new perspective, though the alert viewer may possibly have seen it coming.

In between, the supporting players put some meat on the narrative bones, with D’Onofrio (pictured above) particularly persuasive as John Ingram, that rare thing, a lawyer with a soul. John and his wife Liz (Viola Davis) become mouthpieces for a debate about crime and punishment (John generously wants to help Ruth find her sister and considers that she’s served her time, while Liz’s exclamation that “she killed somebody!” suggests that no amount of time could ever be enough).

Elsewhere, the narrative struggles to drag itself across some implausible terrain. Bernthal’s character Blake, who finds himself working alongside Ruth at a fish-processing plant, is supposed to be simpatico but looks more like a stalker waiting to pounce. The revenge plot against Ruth by Steve and Keith Whelan (Will Pullen and Tom Guiry), the sons of the murdered cop, starts off weakly and then fizzles out altogether. The Unforgivable can be partially forgiven, but it could have been a whole lot more.

The narrative struggles to drag itself across some implausible terrain

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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