Over the course of five years I think it's safe to say the reputation of vampires has been well and truly tarnished. Instead of being blood sucking beasts, audiences seem more interested in watching them make love and glisten in the sunlight, however that's were director Neil Jordan steps in. Admittedly Byzantium isn't the most traditional vampire movie, but that's not a problem, because the end result is a fresh, innovative take on the creatures that may have installed some credibility in the post Twilight era.
Essentially the main-plot of Byzantium follows the mother and daughter duo of Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan. The two continuously move from location to location due to them having to hide their secret that no-one is aware of, however upon seeking refuge at a rundown coastal area, their secret is uncovered, which results in their past calling for blood.
Now as I have said, in the last few years vampires have been getting a hard time. Whenever you see or hear of vampires these days, the first thing that usually comes to mind is that of Robert Pattison. Personally I am not a fan of the Twilight movies and I have to confess I was quite sceptical going into Byzantium, due to the supposed vampire themes. However, I am happy to report that Byzantium is an original, different and genuinely great movie that I would regard as one of my favourite films of the year so far.
The films concept is in my opinion superb. As soon as the film began I was invested. One thing that I liked in particular was that the film showcased rarely a dull moment. It is very well paced and the story is just great, with some rather intriguing flashback sequences being utilised brilliantly to connect all the dots.
Aside from being very well written, the films' setting is another factor as to what makes it so enjoyable. Personally I felt that the run-down coastal setting was just superb. Not only because it sets the tone and feel of the movie, but it just gave it that added creepiness that you would expect from a movie like this.
The cinematography is very good and in terms of visuals I think the film was one of the best looking that I have seen in a long time. Understandably the mood is very dark and occasionally quite Gothic, but again, not only is the seaside primitive in establishing that, some of the other locations really are just as good.
Aside from Jordan's fantastic direction, the thing I liked most about Byzantium was the acting from its two leading ladies. Beginning with Saoirse Ronan, as we all know she is a fantastic young actress who very rarely fails to come up with the goods. In this movie she is playing quite a reserved, intellectual who is quiet but intriguing nonetheless, whereas her on screen mother portrayed by Gemma Arterton is the exact opposite. Now I think it would be unfair to compare the two because although they are both playing vampires, they are very different characters to say the least. There's no two ways around it, Ronan is genuinely great in this movie, but I thought the real star of the show was Gemma Arterton, who I felt was absolutely fantastic. In my opinion Arterton showed a very different side to her normal self in this movie. Whilst I wouldn't go as far as saying the role was too demanding, I have never seen her play a part like this, and honestly I think she should do it more often, because it has shown a massive amount of versatility on her part.
In terms of chemistry Ronan and Arterton work wonders on screen and if it wasn't for their performances I honestly think that this movie would have panned out very differently. So in terms of casting I think it's a job well done.
This really isn't the type of film that you're going to forget in a hurry. Personally I could watch it again and that really is saying something, as I rarely watch something more than once, however with that being said one final thing that I would like to touch upon would be the musical score.
Again this was another key factor in establishing the look and feel of the film and it really worked. This is a rare movie where everything just blends simultaneously and for that reason alone I most certainly feel it's worth investing two hours in.
Byzantium is a great movie that really makes me feel passionate as a critic. In a year where films have been slightly hit and miss, this film is definitely a hit. It has a great vision and knows exactly what it wants to be. Supported by two stand out performances this is British-Irish film-making at its near best and as I stated it is one of my favourite films of the year so far.
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