out of Five
Running time: 97
Gritty and effective, this is an impressively directed British thriller that cleverly mixes several different elements and ultimately succeeds thanks to a mesmerising central performance from rising star Toby Kebbell.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Matthew Hope, The Veteran stars Toby Kebbell as Bobby, a soldier who returns to his run-down London estate after a final tour of duty in Afghanistan. Rejecting the offer of joining a local gang of gun-toting drug dealers (lead by Ashley Bashy Thomas as Tyrone), Bobby instead finds himself recruited into a secret government operation involving a rogue informant (Adi Bielski as Alyana), thanks to pressure from an old friend (Tom Brooke) whose brother (Tony Curran) works for a shady government agent (Brian Cox).
As Bobby gets closer to Alyana, he begins to suspect that there might be more to his mission than meets the eye. Meanwhile, tensions mount on Bobby's estate when his Muslim friend Fahad (Ivanno Jeremiah) asks him to help persuade his headstrong younger brother (Eboseta Ayemere) to leave Tyrone's gang.
Kebbell is terrific as Bobby, displaying a compelling, powerful intensity that's reminiscent of De Niro in Taxi Driver (the association is no accident, as the blood-soaked finale makes clear).
He also displays a wiry physicality and an affinity for fight scenes that suggests he could give Jason Statham a run for his money; the script doesn't allow him much in the way of one-liners, but he does have a winning delivery when it comes to telling somebody to “Fuck off.”
The film is impressively shot throughout, courtesy of Philipp Blaubach's striking cinematography, which makes strong use of the condemned Elephant & Castle estate location. Hope's direction is equally good, particularly during a thrillingly staged extended final
The script is excellent, cleverly combining elements of the detective thriller (the scenes of Bobby driving around town and following Alyana are reminiscent of Vertigo), British urban gang dramas and political thrillers. That said, it's on less firm ground when it comes to the actual nuts and bolts of the plot, though Cox does get in a nicely topical speech about fear-mongering.
The film's only other problem is that it's slightly over-reliant on scenes involving Bobby being bundled into the back of a van (to the point where it's almost comical), though the pay-off almost makes up for it.
The Veteran is a well made and superbly acted British thriller that confirms Kebbell as one of Britain's most exciting rising stars and marks writer-director Hope out as a talent to watch.