O'Connell's Star Turn
At 19 Eric Love (Jack O'Connell) should be in a young offender's institution but having become too violent to be around after young offenders finds himself starred up and moved to an adult prison. But being with adults doesn't stop his behaviour as after knocking out one prisoner and attacking several guards he comes to the attention of Oliver Baumer (Rupert Friend), a civilian who is trying to help prisoners with group therapy sessions. It is something which Deputy Governor Hayes (Sam Spruell) has no time for and hopes that by giving Eric to him will put a nail in Baumer's coffin. But Eric just happens to be in the same prison as his father, Neville (Ben Mendelsohn), who he hasn't seen since he was 5 and as Neville works for prison top dog Dennis Spencer needs to control his son or else someone else will have to control him once and for all.
You will shocked, amazed, repulsed and sickened all within the first 20 minutes of "Starred Up" and then you still have a good 80 more minutes of this to go and trust me it doesn't get any easier. Yet at the same time this brutal prison drama is so captivating you won't want be able to take your eyes off of it for a second. You won't want to miss a single revelation from the initial look at how Eric not only creates a weapon from a toothbrush but also the way he conceals it and on the subject of which you will also get to see other ways that stuff is concealed including a mobile phone.
These almost tricks of surviving life are in many ways the entertainment part of "Starred Up" but alongside that you have the shocks from the prison regime to the brutal violence to the way some people can manipulate the system and so much on. You know in all those classic prison movies there is always the con who seems to have the ear of the Governor and that is no different here. Basically there are all these pieces going on, familiar things such as a devious Governor to groups and punishments handed out but it is put together in such a captivating manner that there is almost a jigsaw feel to this movie, that you get all these pieces and you are putting them together without knowing exactly how it is going to look at the end.
Now of course "Starred Up" has many familiar faces from Rupert Friend to Ben Mendelsohn but this movie is all Jack O'Connell and he commits to the role fully, not just bringing that cocky arrogance to the role but giving it physically to the role and leaving nothing back. It makes the character of Eric someone who is not only scary but you feel for because here is this kid giving it large because you can tell beneath the bravado he is scared, hiding behind the violence.
What this all boils down to is that "Starred Up" is up there with some of the best prison movies and that is because it manages to not only be entertaining but also shocking and violent yet captivating enough that you keep on watching not knowing where it is going to end up.