‘I’m sick to fucking death…of poor people’, a statement said in a drunken stupor by Sam Claflin’s Alistair Ryle, the arrogant and most unlikable character – out of the films many – that controls ‘The Riot Clubs’ most shocking scene. Said in the company of his fellow compatriots, Ryle sums up the entire premise of the film in just one utterance. These individuals are unlikable, believing money – and lots of it – gives full rights to doing whatever they wish without fear nor consequence. Centring on an elite group of Oxford University students, who are apart of the fictional all-male dining group entitled ‘The Riot Club’, the film explores the harsh influence that money can invoke upon younger people.
Miles ‘Milo’ Richards (Max Irons) is a first year student starting at Oxford University. Invited into the universities most elite – and hidden – group, the ‘Riot Club’, after making an impression on an old school friends, who is already apart of the club. Politically left, the first year is troubled by the actions of the club, and constantly rivals the other new member, Ryle. Having begun a relationship with another first year, Lauren (Holliday Grainger), Milo is torn between the club that brings stature, and doing the right thing. Cumulating in a dinner party at a local pub, the group is stirred by the, in their mind, inferior lower class individuals that are present within the restaurant. Damaging the property, the group is confronted by the landlord, and disaster strikes – leading the group into facing jail time for battery and assault. With the fall out threatening their future, the riot club begin to turn upon each other.
Max Irons serves as the visual point of reference for audiences, with the narrative following his character throughout. His intense rivalry with Ryle is heightened by the fact that the young actors play the characters as opposites to one another. This allows the bouncing off, and uncomfortable style of story progression to be harnessed by the two actors in the scenes that they both appear.
As for the other members of the club, they are portrayed adequately but never really hit the same level of intensity as the two leads. This therefore means that throughout the film, they sometimes get lost in the composition of the context, never making a mark. Natalie Dormer, Harry Lloyd and Holliday Grainger are all underused in the portrayals of their characters. This is a shame as they all bring something slightly different to proceedings – and help change the focus of the film from the harsh nature that is brought about by its principle cast. If all the characters were more fleshed out, The film would have been enhanced, with the plot showcasing the characteristics of each member and how these alter and compete with those who feature around.
‘The Riot Club’ is tense throughout, and handles this tension very well. Allowing long cuts for the majority of the movies edit, they become quicker as the scenes play out – this emphasis’s the forward momentum of key sequences and really draws suspense from the audience. By controlling its pace, the filmmakers have managed to heighten every scene – bringing emphasis onto what the context plays out as – thus given every sequence a meaning. To heighten the gap between the characters and the audience, the costume design has been implemented in such a way that the separation is apparent throughout. These characters feel they are better than the average person, and the design on their part reflects this shocking level of arrogance. By utilising these two key elements, the filmmakers really manage to outline the characters as harsh examples of students – a factor that plays throughout the entire film. It is ultimately during the key sequence that this benefits the film most as the scene serves as the changing point in the plots progression.
Dark and disturbing throughout, ‘The Riot Club’ is a brilliantly scripted – and edited – piece of British cinema. Invested by many of the larger film companies based in England, the film showcases the immense talent – both professionally and commercially – that the country has to offer. Carried by three outstanding performances, and a plot-line that is tense throughout, the film really draws in its viewers attention. Resulting in a dark yet deeply rewarding film, that deserves acclaim for all that it achieves. ‘The Riot Club’ is a simple, yet highly interesting piece of suspense forming art. A must see film at the top end of its craft.
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