Freeze Frame

Rating 2½

Written and directed by John Simpson

Starring Lee Evans (Sean Veil), Rachael Stirling (Katie Carter), Ian McNeice (Paul Sager), Sean McGinley (Detective Louis Emeric), Colin Salmon (Detective Mountjoy), Rachel O’Riordan (Mary Shaw) and Andrew Wilson (covert cameraman)

Ten years after he was cleared of the brutal murder of a woman and her two young twin daughters, Sean Veil suffers from extreme paranoia and films every moment of his life to provide him with a constant alibi, maintaining a huge library of camcorder tapes in an secure underground location. Louis Emeric, the police detective who investigated the murders, remains convinced that Veil was guilty and, knowing that illness is going to foreshorten his own life, he is obsessed with bringing his suspect to justice before he dies. The forensic pathologist assigned to the case, Paul Sager, has since become a celebrity author of books on forensic profiling and continues to maintain that Veil was guilty, despite the verdict to the contrary. Investigative reporter Katie Carter, however, thinks he is innocent and attempts to gain his trust.

‘Freeze Frame’ is a 2004 psychological thriller, set in an unspecified location in England, but filmed in Belfast in Northern Ireland, primarily at the now derelict HMP Belfast, more commonly known as Crumlin Road Gaol. Writer and director John Simpson has subsequently directed one further film, the critically slated 2009 direct-to-DVD horror ‘Amusement’.

The popular British stand-up comedian Lee Evans stars in his first non-comic acting role as the paranoid and ambiguous Sean Veil. I don’t really like Evans as a stand-up comedian and rarely find his frenetic take on Norman Wisdom remotely funny, even though he is highly respected (Evans himself claims that Norman Wisdom is not an influence, although the comparison is frequently made). His film appearances have tended to be along these same lines, but not here, where he is surprisingly effective.

The film draws on modern day surveillance techniques, incorporating this into the general theme of paranoia and the suggestion that we live in a world in which “Big Brother” is always watching us, but we cannot be sure that we can trust what we see and how we interpret what we see. Veil claims his innocence, but his behaviour is peculiar and makes us suspicious of him. Emeric is obsessed with bringing Veil to justice, irrespective whether he is guilty or innocent, and his own behaviour is, if anything, even more bizarre than that of Veil. Sager is more concerned with his celebrity status and maintaining his success and wealth than anything else. Katie Carter’s true motivation is less than crystal clear. Everything becomes blurred and it is constantly uncertain where the truth ends and the lies begin. I was often put in mind of Franz Kafka’s novel ‘The Trial’, although the two stories are really not really similar.

A decent job, generally, is made on what is clearly a very small budget and a persuasive sense of claustrophobia is built up. Having said this, I wasn’t emotionally engaged in the story, finding it interesting, but at the same time sometimes bordering on tedious. I also felt that it degenerated into a rather histrionic climax.

Six reviews are collected at Rotten Tomatoes, where the film is given an 83% fresh rating.

Review posted 23 July 2007

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