Hard to Enjoy
With the war still raging on young Thomas (Tom Schilling) finds himself thrown in to the German army and whist unprepared survives unlike the rest of his family who died when his town was destroyed in the bombings. As still a teenager with no family when the war ends Thomas ends up in the Soviet Union where he is sent to a military school before becoming a KGB agent. Still struggling with the past Thomas (Ed Stoppard) finds himself working for the KGB in London, checking out agents but finds himself falling for his landlord's daughter the vibrant Yvonne (Michelle Gayle).
Director Reg Traviss certainly has a style and cinematographer Bryan Loftus certainly has an eye for a camera shot but it doesn't necessarily work when it comes to spy movie "Joy Division". Then maybe it is not the direction or the camera work but the material itself which is Traviss's as well as maybe the storyline is the thing which is wrong. Oh I didn't mention did I, there is something wrong with "Joy Division" which makes it as entertaining as watching paint dry.
For some the heavy use of narration to tell the story and the flashbacks which bounce the story back and fourth between 1944 and 1962 will work, for me it didn't. I can't stand movies which over rely on the spoken word to tell the story and this one certainly does especially early on. Now that maybe what spoils this movie as at times "Joy Division" is good, the scenes featuring the teenage romance of Thomas and Melanie before he is thrown in to the army have some tenderness but is ruined when suddenly we have the narration interjecting and destroying the atmosphere.
But it isn't just the voice over and there is that heavy use of flashbacks and flash forwards which makes "Joy Division" unsettled. It may start in 1962 but it spends as much time back in the 1940's and it makes it confused; is this movie about Thomas as a young man dealing with life in Germany during the war or is it about the grown up Thomas who is part of the KGB. Maybe it is in fact both and "Joy Division" is two movies in one, for whatever reason it doesn't work trying to flit between the two.
What is frustrating about "Joy Division" is that at times it is on the money, the scenes which Tom Schilling shares with Bernadette Heerwagen as Melanie are magnificent but then those scenes which feature Ed Stoppard are stiff and uninteresting. It doesn't matter that Stoppard shares the screen with the likes of Bernard Hill or Michelle Gayle as whilst they bring life to their characters Stoppard comes across as stiff as a plank of wood. It was probably intentional, it was probably done to highlight that the war and KGB training had sucked the life out of Thomas but it makes it hard work.
What this all boils down to is that "Joy Division" was not for me and found the switching back and fourth combined with an over reliance on a narration distracting with only the occasional scene really seeming to work.