Writers: James Mark and Matthew Nayman
Director James Mark
With a very limited number of speaking actors and of locations Control gives the impression of a modest movie. Yet, like much else about the film, this is deceptive.
Eileen (Sara Mitich) wakes up alone in a futuristic prison cell. Her memory has been wiped leaving only faint recollections of a threatening militia and an idyllic beach holiday with her daughter, Eve (Evie Loiselle). The latter is significant as an administrator’s carefully neutral voice instructs Eileen to complete a series of tasks pointing out failure to comply or achieve the objective will result in Eve’s death. A series of obstacles limiting Eileen’s mobility gradually make clear she is expected to complete the tasks using telekinesis- moving objects by mental power- rather than physically. The sudden appearance of Roger (George Tchortov) puzzles Eileen; he claims to be her estranged husband but may be just another hostage or be working with those conducting the experiments.
The viewer is lulled into a smug sense of superiority in the early scenes of Control as it is dead easy to work out the tests are intended to identify some superhuman ability. Director James Mark (who co-wrote the film with Matthew Nayman) exploits this awareness to build towards a classic tragic sense of events leading to a conclusion which cannot be avoided. The use of clones does, however, create an irritating lapse in the plot as one wonders why one character can be cloned but not another.
Rather than create an atmosphere of suspense Mark opts for an uneasy mood in which events do not play out as expected. In the early scenes a pulsing electronic beat plays on the soundtrack to build tension but in the final showdown this is replaced by the eerily inappropriate childish song Row Row Row Your Boat playing over scenes of slaughter. At the conclusion, as Eileen’s powers manifest, there is no cathartic release or satisfaction but rather a grim feeling of fulfilling an unwanted destiny.
There is a suggestion of a strictly utilitarian society outside the cell in which Eileen is imprisoned. An extremely cruel visual gag demonstrates soldiers are literally regarded as replaceable spare parts.
A strong sense of ambiguity hangs over the film. It is unclear whether Eileen’s abilities are a natural mutation or a result of a surgical implant visible in her skull. Roger is an unsettling presence; George Tchortov is physically imposing and his occasional shifty glances towards the devices which monitor the cell are suspicious. Eileen’s behaviour may be influenced by past experience; her latent psychic abilities prompted into action by anger at Roger’s behaviour as much as an effort to save him from harm.
Sara Mitich gives a powerful performance. Rather than create a heroic character she moves Eileen from baffled incredulity through passive exhaustion into a hollow-eyed figure of vengeance like the mythical Furies.
Control surpasses its modest set-up and has a disconcerting impact upon the viewer; it is a film that punches well above its weight.
Signature Entertainment presentsControlon Digital Platforms 26th September.