Kill List and Utopia star Neil Maskell steps behind the camera in his directorial debut, Klokkenluider (the Dutch term for whistle-blower). A darkly comedic and claustrophobic thriller, the plot centres around the titular whistle-blower (Amit Shah) who, alongside his wife (Sura Dohnke), flees to a remote cabin in Belgium after accidentally stumbling upon a shocking government secret. Bickering bodyguards (Tom Burke and Roger Evans) are sent to protect them while they wait for a journalist to arrive. As boredom sets in, alcohol levels and mistrust begin to rise as the tension delicately builds to an unnerving and violent climax.
There’s a dash of Kill List’s DNA within Maskell’s debut, and not just from Burke and Evans’s comedic double act that’s reminiscent of Maskell and Michael Smiley’s eccentric hitmen. Like Ben Wheatley’s film, the pitch-perfect gallows humour is rooted in how mundane and ordinary this high-stakes situation is presented. Instead of concerning themselves with what these secrets could mean, trivial everyday problems like finding a phone charger or worrying about how tidy the cottage should be left are more urgent priorities for the party.
The couple are already terrified for their lives at the start of the film, with Shah and Dohnke giving outstanding performances as people pushed to the edge of their nerves. There’s already distrust between them and the bodyguards when they arrive, and the uncertainty only grows from herein. Nobody seems to fully understand what’s going on or what is and isn’t true. Even the secret findings are kept shrouded in mystery. This unknowing creates a sense of uneasiness that never leaves the frame.
It’s with a knock at the door during a game of charades where events take an incredibly dark turn and Maskell’s debut fully comes into its own. It’s here Jenna Coleman enters the fray and steals the show as the very sweary journalist that everyone’s been waiting on. But with her arrival only raising more questions, the final act is kicked into high gear. Unrelenting and nail-biting, the last 20 minutes refuse to loosen their grip until a moment of abrupt violence concludes things on a chilling and nihilistic note. While the final moments linger on a little longer than they should, this nitpick isn’t enough to dampen the impact of the ending.
Klokkenluider is released in UK cinemas on 1st September 2023.
Watch the trailer for Klokkenluider here: