Pierrepoint

"Good"

Pierrepoint Review


Also known as The Last Hangman, director Adrian Shergold's film about the most famous executioner in England during the World War II war crimes trials and hangings follows the long lineage of English droll drama. Though performed behind closed doors these days, Albert Pierrepoint was the man who killed off key members of the Nazi party and therefore was seen as some sort of macabre hero to the masses of England. As a celebrity, however, he was an uncomfortable fit.

Pierrepoint, here played by the great Timothy Spall, was an unlikely public figure. In reality, Pierrepoint looked much older, skinnier and fatigued than Spall does but Spall gets the other part down: efficiency. Following in his father's and uncle's footsteps, Albert took up the job of a hangman to help supplement the wages he got for doing deliveries for the local supermarket. The grocery was also where he met his wife Anne Fletcher (a dazzling Juliet Stevenson) who would be his main supporter in his work. Albert would go on to perform hundreds of hangings, including a major batch of German World War II criminals, until he quit due to the backlash over capital punishment and his arguable celebrity status.

Shergold builds narrative byways throughout Pierrepoint's life, helping to better construct a heavy climax. The mood, not to mention the casting of Spall, is straight out of the book of Mike Leigh, though the craftsmanship here isn't nearly as fluid. Shergold fits the hangings with a sense of business-as-usual, '40s dance music accompanying at times. For such stark subject matter, these moments cause caterwaul between the theme (death) and the rather inconsistent mood.

One of these byways that are used is the relationship between Pierrepoint and his friend Tish (the versatile Eddie Marsan). Marsan's ability to shift gently from giddy nervosa to consuming dread fits perfectly with Spall's jolliness and stern professionalism. So, when the (obvious) climax occurs, the scene plays out with dutiful concentration, even if it arrives at the climax by many arguable methods. Eventually, however, the dramatic intensity built by the actors overshadows the dents and clinks in the script by Jeff Pope and Bob Mills.

Pierrepoint ultimately finds its battle between the public visage and the private man. Spall's performance quietly boils under the pressures of a maddening public, a gently manipulative wife and an eroding sense of soul. Once he's a celebrity, Pierrepoint is no longer just the man doing his job but a star doing what he was born to do. Thusly, he can't keep the calm that his father and uncle exuded. The drab production design meets the dread of the emotional decorum, but the swiftness of the camera and the story doesn't do the acting or the mis-en-scene justice. English drama of this caliber, synonymous with acting rather than filmmaking, doesn't cause massive eye rolls or even cynicism. What it does do is stick to patented techniques, and the end result feels like business as usual done by-the-book.



Pierrepoint

Facts and Figures

Run time: 95 mins

In Theaters: Friday 7th April 2006

Distributed by: IFC First Take

Production compaines: Granada, UK Film Council, National Lottery through UK Film Council

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Fresh: 40 Rotten: 13

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Albert Pierrepoint, as Annie Pierrepoint, as James 'Tish' Corbitt, Simon Armstrong as Minister, Ann Bell as Violet Van Der Elst

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The kill-or-die scenario that this movie hinges on isn't something new; it's been used in...

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

With the more dumbed-down title Fast & Furious 8 outside of North America, this overcrowded...

Advertisement
A Quiet Passion Movie Review

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

British writer-director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) is an expert at digging beneath the...

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

Julian Barnes' Booker Prize-winning novel is adapted into a remarkably intelligent, gently involving film anchored...

The Boss Baby Movie Review

The Boss Baby Movie Review

There isn't a lot of subtlety in this madcap animated comedy, which is more aimed...

City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

After the latest incarnation of Dredd, director Pete Travis shifts gears drastically for this complex...

Going in Style Movie Review

Going in Style Movie Review

This is only technically a remake of the iconic 1979 film starring movie icons George...

Graduation Movie Review

Graduation Movie Review

Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) recounts another staggeringly detailed...

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

This sci-fi thriller is so visually stunning that it deserves to be mentioned in the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.