A Prayer Before Dawn
Audiences love stories of triumph, of personal development and of justice served. Naturally, we root for the underdog, the demeaned and oppressed. A Prayer Before Dawn offers all of the above in a high-octane jab of thrilling action. Think Rocky meets Midnight Express, with all of the personal appeal of the former and the terror and alienation of the latter. You will blink twice every time you remember that it’s a true story.
Opioid-addled boxer Billy Moore (Joe Cole) finds himself in a Thai jail – a stranger in a strange land. Between prison politics and struggles with addiction, he finds solace in the punchbag and an outlet in the ring. The physical punishment that he endures is rendered with a visceral commitment, as he churns out every form of effluence imaginable in his internal fight against body and mind alike.
There are moments when this becomes challenging to watch, coming across at times as excessive. Still, there is a tremendous craft in the production of the entire feature. Director Jean-Stephane Sauvaire has set a lot of store by the detailed soundscapes he builds in the movie, bringing you closer to the actors’ bodies than most films. This physicality is key in the damp, oily, bloody world of Thai boxing and dank prisons, and the picture studies it with a keen eye.
Some choices should be questioned, though. Midnight Express received a great deal of criticism in its time for its depiction of Turkish guards in the prison where the story was set, and we might ask whether a similar exoticisation is at play here. Thai dialogue isn’t translated at all, and while this helps disorientate the viewer in the somewhat chaotic environment, many of the Thai characters are somewhat flattened by it.
A Prayer Before Dawn revives Billy Moore’s tale graphically, almost too faithfully. It is an extraordinary story, yes, but its finesse lies in its sensory world. It is highly worth watching, even if you do find yourself having to look away when Billy’s on the ropes.
A Prayer Before Dawn is released nationwide on 20th July 2018.
Watch the trailer for A Prayer Before Dawn here: