With an oppressive dose of foreboding and twists that keep the viewer guessing until a climactic finale, Oliver Nias’ award-nominated The Return is a film noir thriller that acquaints itself well with bigger-budget contemporaries.
Set in urban London, and stylishly shot in black and white on 35mm film, The Return is Nias’ feature film debut. However, despite his lack of experience, the London-born director pulls no punches throughout the 90 minutes runtime. Eschewing a regular narrative, Nias opts to have the stoic protagonist, Jack (Sam Donnelly), recall a series of events that eventually land him in prison for a crime that seems almost pre-ordained in its execution.
The film opens in a bare room where a clinically dispassionate interviewer (David Sargent) draws out a twisting story of redemption, responsibility, blindsides and double-crosses from Jack following his return to London after a period of exile (for reasons that become clearer as the plot develops). Interspersed between well-composed shots and uncomfortably tense sequences, Nias uses this nonlinear storytelling method to introduce love interest and partner in crime Laura (Amie Burns Walker), who informs Jack of a job too lucrative to ignore. After this seemingly chance encounter, Jack calls on old friend Manny (David Elliot) to help him rob kingpin Duke (Robert Goodman). Following a slightly jumbled exposition, the rest of the film clips along and keeps audiences on the edge of their seats as Jack revisits old wounds and attempts to do right by his own flawed ideals.
The cast do a commendable job of maintaining tension throughout the film and adequately portray a darker side of London that the public often pass by unknowingly. There is clear chemistry between Donnelly and Walker, which helps smooth over small plot shortcomings that threaten to erode the story’s credibility. Another noteworthy performance comes from industry veteran Goodman, who portrays a career criminal at the top of the food chain and creates a believable mastermind for Jack to pit his wits against.
Inspired by genre classics like The Usual Suspects and Taxi Driver, The Return provides a strong narrative, evocative cinematography and a score reminiscent of works by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. As a debut foray into film, The Return is a solid, if sometimes unconvincing, effort by director Oliver Nias.
Bottom line: if you’re a film noir and indie cinema fan, you won’t regret spending an evening with The Return.
The Return is released nationwide on 27th September 2015.
Watch the trailer for The Return here: