GMFF - Collaborator - Cinema Review

'a fairly straight dramatisation of the battle between left and right wing US politics, with specific emphasis, especially towards the end of the film, on each side's relationship with foreign policy'

Greater Manchester Film Festival chose to end on Sunday with an event looking at the forthcoming Spike Island, a film with cast, crew and subject matter rooted in Mancunian culture. Before that though came the final feature, Collaborator, a US indie production from the mind of Martin Donovan, an actor with one of those, 'I've seen him in something before' faces.

Donovan takes on the lead role, as well as writing and directing credits, and is therefore the key creative talent behind this. It's a wise move though to add in some more talent of significant heft. Fellow familiar face David Morse is the other lead in what could have been a two-hander, whilst Olivia Williams gets a decent, unexpectedly substantial role and Melissa Auf der Maur crops up occasionally to add variety. As casts for Indies go it's a very good one, if perhaps lacking in the recognisable names to kick it on to the next level.

What plays out in Donovan's film, mainly between himself and Morse, is a fairly straight dramatisation of the battle between left and right wing US politics, with specific emphasis, especially towards the end of the film, on each side's relationship with foreign policy. Gus (Morse) is patriotic but violent, and blind to the wider concerns of the state. Robert (Donovan) is a liberal artist, shaped by a family tragedy and struggling to exist in his world which seems increasingly to be defined by conflict. The tagline, 'can't we all just get along?', hints that Donovan is not pointing fingers here, and indeed Collaborator's finale backs that up, the film suggesting that intelligent discourse and deconstruction might actually be, you know, a sensible option.

So, the subtext is very successful and very successfully written, but what of the drama itself? Here Collaborator is rather wanting. Ostensibly a one-act film, Donovan spends far too much time on a redundant first act, establishing character and generally meandering aimlessly about through scenes that don't spark and situations that don't matter. When we make it finally to the main point in proceedings (Gus holds childhood friend Robert hostage at gun point) Donovan is far too interested in the academic argument to manufacture any tension to sidetrack his audience. The stand off isn't tense at all and it proceeds, save for a telephone conversation with Williams, in about as mundane a way as it possibly could.

A clever film then, with a lot going for it, but more time on the core plot and some suspense in all the theorising would have paid dividends.




The inaugural Greater Manchester Film Festival (GMFF) runs from 5th to 7th October, with screenings at The Printworks Odeon and Media City.

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