Control

Control

(2007)

Portrait of Ian Curtis (Sam Riley), the enigmatic singer of Joy Division whose personal, professional, and romantic troubles led to suicide at the age of 23. Story takes us from Curtis' schooldays in Macclesfield in 1973 where the shy Bowie fan daydreamed in class and married his best friend’s girl Deborah (Samantha Morton), up to his suicide on the eve of Joy Division's first American tour. Based on the memoirs of Deborah Curtis, the film focuses on Joy Division’s mounting success and the chaos of Curtis' personal life.

Flicks Review

Any music fan worth their salt will have a fleeting appreciation for Joy Division, a band so miserable that the premature deaths of many sad souls can surely be held responsible to it. Fronted by Ian Curtis, whose oppressive outlook on life was bleak to say the least, Joy Division performed a certain sort of music that was intense in its darkness; relishing an overwhelming sense of misery. The appeal lay in the sparse instrumentation, the punk attitude combined with an English ordinariness. Joy Division had a sharp, snappy way of saying “We’re all f*cked.”

Who better to make a biopic on than Ian Curtis - one of those figures who, to coin a clichéd phrase, lived fast and died young. Control follows Curtis’ (Sam Riley) life from his final year at school in the boring Northern town of Macclesfield, hooking up with his best friend’s girlfriend Deborah (Samantha Morton), getting married almost immediately and joining the band that would only become huge years after his death. As the band begins to consume him, he loses interest in his dull day job at the employment office and also in his wife. Plagued by an increasing amount of epileptic fits, Curtis tries to balance his love between two women, a baby, and his fans. He fails and takes his own life on the eve of his break-through American tour, at the age of 23.

Director Anton Corbijn, who knew the band as a photographer for NME magazine, recreates the imagery of the period through stunning black and white cinematography, feeling that this was the best way to portray a band that rarely, if ever, was photographed in colour. The result is one of the most beautiful films of the year. Every shot is perfectly framed and immaculately presented, capturing an overcast English gloom that was such an influence on the band.

The performances are excellent, particularly Sam Riley’s turn as Curtis. He performs the songs himself, capturing both Curtis’ monotonous drone and his unusual style of dancing – like a tortured spider, reminiscent of the epilepsy which haunted him. Samantha Morton is suitably dowdy next to Curtis’ foreign mistress Annik (Alexandra Maria Lara). The other usual suspects – Tony Wilson, Bernard Sumner, etc – are all brought to life accurately, and Toby Kebbell is hilarious as their manger Rob Gretton.

Unexpectedly, the screenplay is very funny (Well, practically everyone is a joker next to Ian Curtis). The black humour gives the film a much needed balance. Whether it be bassist Peter Hook mocking the name of fellow band The Buzzcocks, or Tony Wilson signing a contract with his own blood, there’s always a laff to be 'ad.

But it has always been Joy Division, not its frontman, that achieved cult status. Certainly, it might have been appropriate to see more of the music-making process. The band, in a way, represented Curtis’ legacy. That was where his talent and influence lay. As an individual, he was nothing. But this, of course, is entirely the point. Control merges the man’s story with his music to create an extraordinary cinematic rendering of despair.


The Peoples' Reviews

Average ratings from 3 ratings, 3 reviews
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One of those movies where you get 'lost' amongst the characters and forget you are watching actors!
Brilliant cast.


This is the best looking film I have seen this year. Told very well and very funny at parts. A must see


While I've heard people say the film was too obvious and that Corbijn draws too much on his inky photographic style. I say this is a great film. Awesome soundtrack (naturally) and a captivating watch dispite knowing the outcome. Very, very good.


The Press Reviews

87% of critics recommend.
Rotten Tomatoes Score. More reviews on Rotten Tomatoes

  • BBC

    It's rare that a biopic really gets into the head of its subject: real-life characters can be hard to penetrate, and many screenplays play it safe. Not Control. Curtis' wife co-produced the film - based on her own book - and helps provide a fascinating, intimate insight into the mind of her husband... Full Review

  • It's Corbijn, shooting with a poet's eye in a harshly stunning black-and-white, who cuts to the soul of Ian's life and music. You don't watch this movie, you live it... Full Review

  • The pin-sharp black and white photography, the stunning sound track – with Bowie's Aladdin Sane front and centre, the witty and down-beat script, even the funereal march through the last twenty minutes of this film: it all conspires to make Control a small but achingly well formed highlight of the year... Full Review

  • Somber, sad and compelling. Full Review

  • A film about creative and emotional burn-out that says more about the fragility of the soul than any montage of ticket sales and ‘sold out’ signs could ever muster... Full Review

  • It's also that he's really, honest-to-God, got one of those movie faces that doesn't even come along once every generation. It's astonishing... Full Review

  • The pin-sharp black and white photography, the stunning sound track – with Bowie's Aladdin Sane front and centre, the witty and down-beat script, even the funereal march through the last twenty minutes of this film: it all conspires to make Control a small but achingly well formed highlight of the year... Full Review

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