Writer: Barnaby Boulton, James Cummings
Director: Philip Barantini
Accused, Philip Barantini’s new film for Netflix, not to be confused with the 2023 American crime drama series of the same name, is billed as an intense psychological thriller. It follows what happens to Harri, a young Muslim, mistakenly identified as the perpetrator of a fictional London bombing. Setting off to dog-sit for his parents at their vast, isolated country house, Harri promises girlfriend Chloe he’ll introduce her to them soon. We observe a series of micro-aggressions towards him on his journey. But it’s only when he’s on a suburban train out of the capital that news breaks of a terrorist attack on the station he has just passed through.
Barantini, who wrote and directed Boiling Point, is good at orchestrating the wildfire speed with which news and speculation spreads on social media. A photograph is released of a hooded man believed to be the terrorist. No one can see his face clearly, but a series of believable public responses lead to someone tweeting that he looks like someone she went to school with. Suddenly Harri’s media accounts are raided and his pictures are everywhere.
Harri, now alone at his parents’ vast, isolated house, finds his life turned into a nightmare. The internet boils over with vicious, racist hatred and in no time at all a vigilante group is formed. Harri, almost incoherent with distress, tries to explain to the police over the phone, but they reassure him nothing will happen to him.
From this point on, the film becomes pure horror, as attackers appear in the dark outside the house and Harri creeps from room to room, desperately locking doors and windows. Barantini certainly knows how to ratchet up the tension, but the truth is, there is very little real plot development from this stage on. You begin to realise that the artistic decision for Harri’s parents to own a vast, isolated house is so that there are endless floors, corridors and uncurtained windows in which the action can be filmed. In a suburban semi this chase would be over in seconds.
Chaneil Kular is masterful at portraying the increasingly overwrought Harri, his breathing becoming ever more ragged. But the script by Barnaby Bolton and James Cummings is meagre. It’s all about creating atmosphere and pays little attention to the characters’ backgrounds. Lauren Ajuyo plays Harri’s feisty girlfriend, but is given little to work with. Her rejection of him following the false accusations seems oddly callous. But then all of Harri’s friends simultaneously (and conveniently) ghost him too. Nor do his parents seem to have any relations to whom he might turn. Frances Tomelty does a nice turn as reclusive neighbour, Mrs Daly, who at one point offers Harri tea, but catching the latest news report on the radio, turns on him with a knife. The two vigilantes are played by Robbie O’Neill and Jay Johnson, both of whom appeared in Boiling Point. They don’t have to do much, other than to portray aggressive bigoted young whites.
The ending, not to give too much away, is oddly bland.
Your enjoyment of Accuseddepends on your capacity for enduring long periods of unbroken tension.
Accusedis available on Netflix from 22 September.