07th Dec2017

‘A Landscape of Lies’ Review

by Kevin Haldon

Stars: Andrea McLean, Danny Midwinter, Andre Nightingale, Philip Brodie,  Victoria Hopkins, Marc Bannerman, Anna Passey | Written and Directed by Paul Knight

landscape-lies-poster

Another grand addition to the traditional “Brit Flick” stable, featuring murder, intrigue, deception, drama and a twist-y turn-y plot that will leave you wondering “Who can you trust when the truth is buried in A Landscape of Lies” In a sea of gritty Brit flicks, half the battle can often be finding one that first of all grabs your attention but once they have it they can keep it? A Landscape of Lies, on paper, sounds right up my Sesame (Street, bit of rhyming for you there). It’s British, it’s fairly low budget and the cast is a veritable smorgasbord of “Hey, that’s him from that other movie I liked” or “Oh crap, its her… nice”. The performances are THE area where the indie movie can live or die because they can go one of two ways…

  • The actors in question can pull off some great performances… (Danny Midwinter I’m looking at you)
  • Or the they end up on the wrong side of believable (we never get to this level by the way, everyone is gold)

A Landscape of Lies is a 2011 movie that only ever played in about 3 festivals through 2012 and has waited till 2018 to release the never-before-seen Directors Cut in all its glory… Let me tell you good people director Paul Knight is not messing about. The movie centers around 4 main characters whose lives will all intersect in one way or another around the over arching story of the death of a Gulf War veteran and a dispute over a plot of land. We open the movie being introduced to Branningan Woods (Danny Midwinter) who we find to be a bit of a psycho from word one – word of advice people, laugh at this guys jokes even if they are pants! Cut to Jacob (Andre Nightingale) a Gulf War Vet struggling to cope with PTSD and Gulf War flashbacks. His only real grasp of control being his friendship with his Ex commanding officer Hilt McAvoy (Marc Bannerman), Hilt is looking for a little bit of help from his old pal in the form of an alibi to his missus. Marcus Clancy (Philip Brodie) is a property developer whose recent dealings with Branningan are causing a great deal of stress and strain on his marriage leading the couple to take up counseling, which brings us to Dr. Audrey Grey (Andrea Mclean) who is clearly having a time of it keeping herself together, relying on her ditzy receptionist Suzy to keep her in check.

So yeah that’s the characters and some of their motivations… But what about the story? Well, when the body of Hilt McAvoy turns up on an empty plot of land we are thrust into the movie proper. Jacob suspects after a little bit of snooping that Brannigan is somehow behind the act and feels he owes it to his friend to get to the bottom of it, ending up undercover in his employ. It turns out the plot of land is the same plot that Marcus and Brannigan are arguing over and the villain is going to use Marcus’s marital problems to put the screws on him by even using the counselor. Of course we have the well meaning police on the case aswell.

I really don’t want to go too far into the plot and feel like I may have given you more than enough to get you interested so I’ll move on to the performances because, oh my days, we have some belters here. Across the board just about everyone is great however Danny Midwinter is an absolute powerhouse, hitting that difficult sweet spot of being a believable psycho but also a broken soul… I loved this performance and was surprised to see he had to fight for the part. Considering this is Andrea Mclean’s first proper full feature she more than holds her own and puts in a great role, I’m personally used to seeing her host daytime TV talking about feelings and things so to see her portraying this type of strong, damaged and intriguing role was jarring at first but she sold it.

Special mention goes to Victoria Hopkins as Tess who for me (as good as everyone was) stole her scenes, an absolute dynamite performance. I get the feeling we should be looking out for Andre Nightingale because this was not the easiest role to pull off. Rounding out the cast of supporters we had people like Marc Bannerman, who is always good, and Anna Passey. Honestly though, A Landscape of Lies is filled with great performances all round.

As you can probably tell this is a solid recommend from me… My only real criticism if I had to nit pick is that there are places that the movie LOOKS like it was shot back in 2011 (which it was) but you cant let that sway anything because the performances are there, the story is intriguing and it moves at a fairly rapid pace giving you no chance to lose interest. Paul Knight has done a very good job here, making some interesting choices along the way with casting, editing and other aspects like the Gulf War scenes and to think he did it all on an 84k budget (16k under the original budget). They all pay off and make for a movie that I feel should have made its bones already, instead of 7 years later coming to market (there are reasons for this however – see below).

However I’m happy the film is seeing the light of day because for me this is a bit of a low budget gem. And you all know I love me a low budget gem.
_____

Editors Note: A Landscape of Lies was the subject of some HUGE controversy – as told in the documentary Chancers: The Great Gangster Film Fraud. For those unaware, Bashar Al Issa, a bankrupt Middle Eastern entrepreneur and Aoife Madden, an unemployed Irish actress join up to make feature films. Their first movie will have an almost unheard-of budget for a British film of £20m. But there’s a problem – the money never actually comes in. Undeterred, Bashar and Aoife submit £8m of production accounts to the British taxman and claim £2.5m in film tax breaks. The authorities investigated, arrested, and charged the producers. While out on bail, the producers decide to prove their innocence by actually making a film, A Landscape of Lies. They hired Paul Knight, a former nightclub bouncer, now a self-made film director, whose credits were some unreleased and unfinished films uploaded to Youtube, to make their movie for just a £100,000…

For more info check out our interview with Ben Lewis, director of Chancers: The Great Gangster Film Fraud and track down the documentary, which originally aired on BBC 4, online.

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