Director: Babak Anvari
Writer: Babak Anvari and Namsi Khan
Starring: George Mackay, Percelle Ascott, Kelly Macdonald, and Hugh Bonneville
I Came By is a thriller from Babak Anvari, the director of the fantastic Under the Shadow. His new film has been released on Netflix, and ruthless story about an untouchable serial killer played by a surprisingly sinister Hugh Bonneville, better known for more charming roles in Downton Abbey and Paddington.
Graffiti artist Toby (George Mackay) breaks into Sir Hector Blake’s (Hugh Bonneville) home to paint the phrase ‘I Came By’ over the wall of the living room and while he’s in the house discovers that the so called ‘St Blake’ has a secret in his basement. Not knowing who to turn too, after the police and his best friend don’t help, Toby takes it upon himself to expose Blake’s secret and save the person he’s got hidden in his basement.
Anavari has created another film that’ll have you holding your breath and sitting on the edge of your seat. Moments like when Toby is breaking into Hector’s house to uncover his secrets are incredibly tense, which is heightened by how mercilessly Blake kills his victims. The growing suspense as nothing seems to be able to expose Blake’s actions builds really well throughout the film. Blake is a dark character, with no redeeming qualities. His justification for what he does is absurd, but Bonneville makes it work. George Mackay is decent as Toby, making him a very likable character, despite being a too old for the part and some of his performance being a little awkward. The characters are all well-written and realistically flawed, making it easy to be absorbed into the film. Toby’s mother is played by Kelly Macdonald, who is absolutely brilliant and brings the emotional weight to the story.
The strongest thing about the film is just how ruthless Babak Anvari is with the characters. Absolutely no one is safe, and it’s absolutely refreshing and shocking to see. Without giving too much away, it really makes Blake a sinister character that there’s next to no chance that someone will be saved and the whole thing feels quite bleak. How he treats his victims is also kept a mystery. You don’t know how long he keeps people alive in the basement, or what exactly he does to them, but you get enough of an idea to know it’s horrific.
While it does have a lot of strengths, there is very much a made for TV feel about this film, and it would fit right in as an ITV drama (not that it’s a bad thing). It’s still very engrossing, like the best TV dramas, and is a step above most of the thrillers that Netflix releases on an almost weekly basis, but a lot of the acting, besides the main cast, is weak, there’s almost no violence, despite the subject matter, and it does feel a little stagey in places. Time also skips forward points which, while nicely revealed through dialogue and character’s actions, it does at the same time make the story feel a little episodic. That feeling is added to by the shifting lead character throughout, separating each act of the film. In all honesty it probably would have worked better as a mini series, as some of the story, especially the ending, does feel a little rushed.
Overall, this film is really good. It is dark, refreshingly brutal, and completely engrossing. The cast is excellent, and it’ll have you hooked right up to the final scene.
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