Video game adaptations are not only uninteresting, but they can’t possibly be anything close to their source material given that the mechanics and visceral nature of video games aren’t easily recreated on film.
I don’t think we can ever win with Homeland, and we need to accept that. There will always be a frustrating polarity present, because it has always been there and it seems content to stay there. The series gives in to its best and worst tendencies on a weekly basis, thrilling in one scene with refreshing ease and then backpedalling in the next. It is a careful mediation on modern war, but it is also the 24-esque twisty action show. Sometimes, that binary opposition is entertaining and even beneficial, but other times—like this episode—it just feels disappointing.
“I’m a spy. I know shit.”
That line, spoken by John Redmond, is funny in the moment, but begins to feel ironic by the end of the episode. Practically everyone is off their game this week, with an abundance of questionable decisions leading to Saul getting kidnapped. By this point, we’ve spent plenty of time with Carrie, Saul, Quinn, even Fara. We know what they can do, we know how good they are at their jobs…except when the writers need them to be stupid. It all feels overly telegraphed, to the point where these uncharacteristic decisions not only frustrate on a plot level, but a character one too. It’s reminiscent of how a show like Family Guy treats its characters and its continuity, which is an unfortunate comparison to make with a high profile prestige drama.
There’s a scene in the first act of the film where the young protagonist Eric, in an effort to gain control of a situation to proclaim his innocence, bites down on a prison guard’s genitals and holds on like a dog with a chew toy. That moment alone does a lot to encapsulate the do-or-die realities of the film’s prison environment, but more importantly showcases the immediate talent of its star Jack O’Connell: Like it or not, he demands your attention and he’s not letting go anytime soon.
Director David MacKenzie (Young Adam, Mister Foe) brings us a bloodily fresh film about a young upstart condemned to a lengthy prison sentence who thinks that he can’t be contained by the system or gangs. Upon arriving he encounters his long lost father who is also incarcerated. They are both unable to express their extreme emotions without it coming to violence.