Ewan (Sean Bean) has returned to the UK after serving in the armed forces overseas and now works for British Intelligence. When a man in his care is gunned down and suicide bombings make their presence felt once again in London, he is tasked with a below the radar mission – to find and eradicate the terror cell behind the latest series of attacks.
Neither as authentic as it needs to be, nor as clumsy and hackneyed as it could have been, this low-budget British thriller instead calls forth indifference and apathy from the viewer, who struggles to connect with the regrettably thinly drawn characters. Sean Bean’s Ewan remains taciturn and solemn throughout, which given the little back story we are told is understandable, but his natural charisma winds up buried beneath all of the dourness and prevents us from being affected by his story.
As Ash, the terrorist Ewan is pursuing, Abhin Galeya has a back story too – a law student beset by anger who is seemingly very quickly and easily radicalised by an Islamic cleric – he demonstrates a welcome streak of unease and discomfort with some of what he becomes involved in and prolonged flashbacks give us a bit more to latch onto, but in the end the script resorts to the usual speechifying by Ash and his guiding cleric about the decadent West and the comeuppance it is due.
The action, when it comes, is brutal and well executed. It is clear who is doing what, to who and where and relatively untried writer/director Hadi Hajaig shows here that he can assemble a smooth running screenplay and execute a competent film, but unfortunately that is as far as it goes – competent and smooth-running. What this sort of film, any sort of film needs is to grab us and affect us. It is not enough for it to merely move through the gears and tell a story coherently, with story elements such as grief, religious zealotry, sacrifice, ideological conflict, revenge and city-wide death and destruction, Hajaig needs to bring something more compelling to the table.
We need to care, we need to be moved and provoked and in the end this film is too average to anything other than mildly divert the viewer for the 100-minute running time. A final denouement that tries to drag in further layers of political intrigue serves only to annoy, but with better material, Hajaig may yet do much better. You can buy Cleanskin now on DVD and Bluray and rent it from the end of August.
Extras: Trailer and two TV Spots. Poor.