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

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

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.