Wide-eyed and vulnerable, Toby Kebbell first came to our attention in 2004’s Dead Man’s Shoes. Having piqued Hollywood’s interest (Prince Of Persia, Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla, Steven Spielberg’s War Horse), he’s coming of age in another homegrown demob drama.
But instead of the brutal simplicity of Shane Meadows’ masterpiece, Matthew Hope attempts to cram three genres into one film.
As Miller – Kebbell’s Afghanistan hero – tries to acclimatise himself to life on a South London council estate, the plot spins through urban spy games, hoodie histrionics and shell-shocked psychological profiling.
Although Hope doesn’t really do any of them justice, keeping three plates spinning does ensure things are never dull.
Most intriguing is the examination of Miller’s battle-ravaged mind (à la Travis Bickle). Whether spitting at himself in the mirror, or springing into chilling, reallooking violence, Miller is a tragedy waiting to happen, albeit one in a thriller waiting to ignite. This internal battle is externalised as he rubs up against local dealers.
There’s a great moment framing him alone on an identikit council estate balcony, and several terrible ones, including an expositionbarking Brian Cox and his government goons, who hire Miller to uncover terrorists in the film’s most topical, clichéd section.
Though there will be no redemption, the film does have saving graces. Kebbell is one of our most talented young actors, and the camera loves his unstudied certainty.
The action sequences are also impressive – perhaps Hope should have concentrated on those. It wouldn’t be the first time a film about war only came to life in the battle scenes, despite the irony.
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A state-of-the-nation conspiracy thriller split three ways, The Veteran overstretches itself by fighting on too many fronts at once.