Byzantium is a film which has been given a limited release with next to know fanfare. This is a crying shame and a spectacular waste.
PLOT: Vampires Clara (Gemma Arterton) and Ella (Saoirse Ronan) have been on the run from the mysterious Brotherhood for several hundred years. After almost getting caught they hide out Byzantium, a rundown coastal hotel. Clara turns the hotel into a brothel to make money and Ella joins a local school and befriends Frank (Caleb Landry Jones). As Clara and Ella's' web of lies begins to unravel the Brotherhood finally catches up with them. END PLOT.
Byzantium is a slow burner but not for one second was I ever bored or able to take my eyes off the screen. The film suited the slow pace but the steady build up meant that the final ten minutes was brilliantly stressful and tense.
The plot deals with family relationships and vampire mythology but manages to make familiar themes feel fresh. The relationship between Ella and Frank shows that when it is in the right hands forbidden teen romance works; as does the fractured relationship between Clara and Ella.
I have always been a fan of Saoirse Ronan and although she did have a few accent problems at the beginning of the film but they settled down very quickly. Ronan’s performance was as strong as expected but it was Gemma Arterton who stole the show. Arterton is always fun to watch but in Byzantium she proved that she is also a very good actress.
Jonny Lee Millar (The Captain) and Sam Riley (Darvell) were lumbered with limited roles and unfortunately Caleb Landry Jones strayed into overacting but it doesn’t really matter as they were very much supporting players.
There is very little action until the very end of the film but Byzantium is not stingy on the gore with the film containing one of the best “deaths by razor-wire” scenes since… erm…. Ghostship.
A film with vampires requires blood and the differing attitudes of Clara and Ella in respect of how they feed and who they choose to feed upon added another layer to the characters.
One thing a vampire film should never scrimp on is the blood and Byzantium does not disappoint. There is plenty of blood however the blood spurts from an accidental cut were a bit over the top – on the other hand the blood waterfall looked absolutely stunning.
Neil Jordan is no stranger to vampire films and it is hard to fault anything about this one. Byzantium deserves to be a sleeper hit and it is one of the best films I have viewed in a long time. This film will appear in my top ten films for 2013. Byzantium gets 9.5/10.