Eliminate: Archie Cookson - Festival Review

'Johnny English may be the mastery of buffoonery but Cookson is the master of foppish, slightly naive, dandyism'

With an impressively cut trailer, British independent production Eliminate: Archie Cookson is currently doing the festival rounds, attempting to drum up interest on the basis that this isn't your average indie. Where most writer/directors might have started off with a social drama in an East End council house, Rob Holder has shot straight for the spies - guns, explosions and damsels-in-distress in tow.

Phillip Manikum and Nicholas Day play the two beleaguered spymasters who have ordered the titular purge of Paul Rhys' Cookson and with these three characters, Holder finds his strongest players. Manikum and Day come across similar to The Muppets Statler and Waldorf, rattling their chains as they impart sage predictions of death and doom across the land, cackling whilst they do it. Rhys, meanwhile, could have played this like Jonny English but finds a much more human note within Cookson instead. English may be the mastery of buffoonery but Cookson is the master of foppish, slightly naive, dandyism and he's more believable as an alcoholic, washed up spy as a result.

Technically, as an audition for greater things with bigger budgets, Holder's film is very impressive, save for a few continuity errors (watch out for Sergei's disappearing glasses in the caravan). This is the type of thing that the kid from Super 8 would continuously yell 'production values' at. The lighting is noticeably well set up, the staging even more so, whilst the few action pieces are well conceived with the budget in mind.

Where Archie Cookson does fall down is the script, which could have used more polish and possibly one more draft. Plot holes abound (what exactly happens to the bomb under the car?) and when they're not present simplistic generalisations are used to motivate the characters. Lucy (the promising Georgia King), for example, flirts deliciously with being a well-managed femme fatale - her introduction in a broom cupboard is fantastic - but where Archie gets to make decisions based on honour and trust, her final plot wrinkle boils down to the fact that she likes shiny things made out of diamonds and pearls. The inclusion of Cookson's mega-posh son (Freddy Downham) also feels like an under-developed mistake, who never gets the laughs he seems designed to bring.

Look further...

The film's official website has details of where you can catch up with the film on the festival circuit.

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