With its frequent references to Christianity, it's unsurprising to find a holy trinity of perfect performances at the heart of Trespass Against Us. A towering Brendan Gleeson plays domineering father to reluctant criminal Chad (Michael Fassbender), who is hoping for a better life for his own son Tyson (Georgie Smith). As three generations of the Cutler family, Gleeson, Fassbender and Smith are a force to be reckoned with in this exceptional crime drama.
The caravan-dwelling Cutlers commit robberies and clash with the police constantly, led by Rory Kinnear’s P.C. Lovage. Chad and his wife Kelly (Lyndsey Marshal, also excellent) want out of the criminal life, attempting to get a secure home and keep their two children in school. But Gleeson’s ‘Pa’ Cole has other ideas, pushing Chad into a heist that will bring down the full force of the law upon them all. Like the doomed kids of American ghetto movies, Chad finds himself torn between the life he has been born and raised into where criminality is an everyday occurrence, and another life where he may only find disappointment and prejudice.
But that's not to say that Chad doesn't enjoy aspects of his outlaw lifestyle. Both Chad and filmmaker Adam Smith revel in the thrill of the chase, whether it’s the opening scene that sees the Cutlers careering across a field in pursuit of a hare, or driving a painted yellow car through town with the police right on their tail or involved in a high speed cat and mouse chase in the middle of the night after a robbery. Chad and the rest of his brood live a wild lifestyle, brimming with immaturity, irresponsibility and ignorance, and yet they remain strangely endearing... for the most part.
Because while Trespass Against Us sucks you in with some visceral action, it sucker punches you with its wonderfully observed relationships. The family bonds in this tight-knit community are strong and the codes of loyalty and respect are clearly passed through the generations from father to son. To make things more complicated, even Gleeson’s Cole is a tough character to hate; a victim of his own lack of education who is desperate to keep his kin enslaved in the same lifestyle as he has led, shackled by the same ignorance.
Trespass Against Us isn't without its fair share of clichés. Though it may never be referred to as such, there is a clear sense of the ‘one last heist’ being played out, while the guy trying to go straight but facing prejudice and overcoming his circumstances has been done to death in other films. But this particular travelling community has remained largely unexplored on film and is unlikely to see such titans as Fassbender and Gleeson draw attention to it again in a hurry.
It might not do much for positive representations of travellers, but Trespass Against Us is a film full of heart and empathy. It all boils down to the complicated relationships of fathers and sons, but with some riveting action and heart-tugging drama, Trespass Against Us ends up as thrilling must-see.
TRESPASS AGAINST US / CERT: TBA / DIRECTOR:
ADAM SMITH / SCREENPLAY: ALASTAIR SIDDONS / STARRING: MICHAEL FASSBENDER,
BRENDAN GLEESON, LYNDSEY MARSHAL, GEORGIE SMITH, RORY KINNEAR / RELEASE DATE: TBA