Directed by Anton Corbijn
Written by Matt Greenhalgh
Sam Riley as Ian Curtis
Samantha Morton as Deborah Curtis
Craig Parkinson as Tony Wilson
Alexandra Maria Lara as Annik Honoré
121 Minutes(Rated R for language and brief sexuality. )
I'll be honest from the start. I really know very little about the band Joy Division-the band whose singer Ian Curtis is depicted in this film. In fact, I know very little about the entire punk scene as it is-I prefer somewhat quieter music than this or "The Ramones." Nothing against them, it just isn't my thing. And not surprising, the life of Ian Curtis was not really any more interesting than the life of Ray Charles, the life of Johnny Cash, or the life of Hector Lavoe. At least, not on film. I'm sure those three people had quite amazing lives, and they could tell us stories up the wazoo if they were alive. But on film, those three people, and now Curtis' lives are depicted in the same way, and "Control' is nothing different. But I have always said, even in a story of formula if it is told right than it certainly has things that make it worthwhile, and their names are Sam Riley (unknown to me) and Samantha Morton (not so unknown to me.)
Sam Riley plays Ian Curtis, who skyrocketed to fame and ended up killing himself all before the age of 23. "Control" focuses on the last seven years in his life, the years that held any significance. Curtis was influenced by David Bowie, and early scenes show him laying on his bed, listening to Bowie, and smoking cigarettes. When he meets Deborah, he hastily marries her and wants to have a baby. (Oddly enough the real life Deborah Curtis, who wrote the book that this film was based on, actually produced the film as well.) He also begins to be a singer for a band that his friends are in, and they eventually become Joy Division. But life on the road has its normal effects on a rock star, especially when Curtis is diagnosed with epilepsy. "Be sure to stay away from alcohol. . " says his doctors. Yeah, right. Curtis becomes depressed about family, he meets and begins to fall in love with another woman-Annik Honoré-and he is constantly questioning how good a parent he could possibly be, all leading up to his eventual hanging at the age of 23.
Even though this movie follows the same trend of rock star biopics-the fame, the drugs, the fooling around, the death-there are two really terrific performance in the film-Riley and Morton. Morton, who in the script seems more like a cardboard cutout than a character, really manages to make someone extremely real out of the "true and faithful and suffering housewife of the rich and famous." She makes the last shot of this movie something memorable and even a bit haunting, and her earlier scenes are her at her finest. She is an oddly attractive young woman, and there is something mysterious about her that makes her special in everything she does-even her brief stint in "Elizabeth-The Golden Age" made me want more. I also liked the choice to shoot the whole movie in black and white, making Manchester seem like a dreary place at the time. We never get a glorifying view of the punk scene, and this film is clearly stating that Curtis made the wrong choices in his life. We never actually get a sense that he is happy with anything he does, and there are hardly any light scenes-except for at the start, where you actually do laugh a lot. The third act is quite tense, and not a pleasant experience, but it never drags to the point where we are waiting for Curtis to kill himself. "Control" is a well made film in a way that we've seen before, but it's a good prelude to what should be the most exciting biopic of the year, "I'm Not There."