Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Sam Miller
Stars: Pete Postlethwaite, Rachel Griffiths, James Thornton, Lennie James, Andy Serkis, Rob Jarvis, Alan Williams, Sharon Bower, Steve Huison.
Simon Beaufoy, writer of The Full Monty, knows the depressing working class areas of northern England quite well, and he returns to this familiar background for the setting of his latest film. However, Among Giants is a decidedly inferior film, lacking the charm, warmth, gritty honesty, and winning humour that made that modest film a crowd pleaser.
Actually written before The Full Monty, Among Giants deals with a team of unemployed painters who land a covert contract to paint a series of electricity pylons spanning the Yorkshire hills during the summer. It’s a job of high risks, uncertain payments and plenty of challenges. The foreman of this motley group is the hard-as-nails Ray (Pete Postlethwaite, from The Usual Suspects, etc). Ray is divorced and shares a house with his younger work mate Steven (James Thornton). Their friendship is shaken up by the arrival of Gerry (Rachel Griffiths), a nomadic Australian who has spent most of her adult life backpacking around the world. On a whim, Ray hires the feisty Australian to work as part of the crew.
Romance slowly develops between Ray and Gerry, much to the consternation of Steve. This odd couple romance is the least credible part of the film, and, despite the solid performances of the two leads, it never really works or sets the screen on fire. This mismatched pair also engage in a bit of gratuitous full frontal nudity for a scene set in an abandoned water tower that is far from erotic. Gerry’s sudden and uncharacteristic decision to settle down and establish roots with Ray is also unconvincing, and never totally works.
Among Giants is a fairly conventional and shallow film that is at its best when exploring the camaraderie between the work crew as they undertake the challenge of painting 150 steel towers in a couple of months. Beaufoy’s script is also at its best as it explores the humour, mateship and sense of identity that unites the working class in this bleak post-Thatcher Britain.
Among Giants is not a film for those who suffer from vertigo as there are many scenes set high above the ground. At times Witold Stok’s camera whirls with dizzying speed through the countryside. Director Sam Miller hails from a television background, and he handles his first feature film in a fairly straight forward and uninspired fashion.
The solid cast try hard, and bring a bristling energy to the material. Postlethwaite in particular seems uncomfortable in the role of a romantic lead. Newcomer Thornton delivers a sympathetic performance as Steven and establishes himself as an actor to watch in the future.
But, otherwise, this unspectacular and often pedestrian romantic drama seems little more than a high class, big budget television movie.