Incendiary (2008) Poster


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Self-destructs (spoilers throughout)
Ricky Roma19 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
From the director of Bridget Jones' Diary comes a film about terrorism. If you think that sounds like a recipe for cinematic gold then you must be demented.

As you'd expect from someone who made such a wretched piece of fluff, the emotions here are laid on rather thick. This isn't a film that knows a whole lot about subtlety. They might as well have just issued a box of hankies at the door.

The film begins with an exceedingly cute child having fun with his mummy. He's so damn cute and so damn lovable that you know he's not going to make it through the film alive. And then when you realise that the film is called Incendiary, you know he's going to get blown into a million little pieces.

Now having your son die in a terrorist attack is bad enough, but the film decides to make it several degrees worse. First of all, the mother in this film is no longer that enamoured with her husband. Therefore their relationship is rather loveless. However, not to fear, a sleazy journalist played by Ewan McGregor pops up. And no sooner have they exchanged a few words than they're exchanging bodily fluids on the young mother's sofa. Crikey. And as they're humping and pumping, they have a football game on the television. And at this game are the woman's husband and young son. And would you believe it, as they're doing the dirty, the stadium goes ka-boom and it's goodbye husband and son.

After this you'd kind of think that the woman would suffer some pretty serious psychosexual problems. But this doesn't stop the woman from having sex with the head of the anti-terrorist unit (the woman's husband was in bomb disposal, so this guy was a work colleague). And this guy seems really nice. He just wants to look after her. Nevermind that he's dull as ditchwater and that he loves caravans. He's just a good, honest guy. Well, or so you'd think. I guess the woman should have noted the fact that the man has a beard, and as we all know, men with beards always have something to hide. Why else would they cover themselves in facial shrubbery? You see, the man knew that the terrorist attack was going to happen and did nothing to stop it. Oh, that's pretty bad, isn't it? You were cheating on your husband as he went up in flames and now you've slept with the man who could have stopped it from happening. Maybe those psychosexual problems will finally kick in.

If this all sounds far-fetched, it's because it is. But the film isn't finished with the nonsense. The woman strikes up a friendship with the young son of one of the bombers. Okay, this has potential for bonding and mutual healing. But no, there's a sequence where the two of them are at Waterloo train station. The kid is still unaware that his daddy was one of the bombers – he thinks he's just gone away – and as he's waiting for the woman to buy tickets, he sees newspapers with his dad's face plastered all over them. Needless to say he's a bit upset and begins behaving a little erratically. He then runs away. The police see this and because he's Asian and has a backpack, they take chase. The woman chases as well, and they all end up on an empty train platform. Every party shouts a lot, and as the boy reaches into his jacket, the police prepare to shoot. But as a marksman pulls the trigger, the woman steps into his sights and gets shot in the head by mistake. Holy Jean Charles de Menezes, Batman, the police screwed up again!

But don't fear. The woman only gets grazed by a bullet so everything is hunky-dory.

Amongst all this ridiculous melodrama there are a few good scenes. The best one is when the mother seriously begins to lose the plot and thinks that her son has come back. She spends all her time in the flat playing with him. She then leaves to get some food and the spell is broken when she actually has some real human interaction. When she rushes back her son is no longer there and she's devastated.

However, this scene leads directly to another one of the film's maudlin flights of fancy. In response to the tragedy, a barrage balloon for every victim hangs in the sky with a picture of the victim on it. This to me sounds like an awful idea. Could you imagine that? You're just trying to get over the ordeal and you look out of the window and see your little Billy grinning from the sky. Yeah, nice one.

And so the woman realises that her son is really dead and decides to visit his barrage balloon. And to do so she has to stand on a tall roof and teeter on the edge. Will she kill herself or not? Now the barrage balloons I hated, but we now have another one of the film's few decent sequences. We see the boy and the father talking about the Great Fire of London. The boy asks what they did back then, and the father says that everyone had a cup of tea. We then have a voice-over where the woman says that many people have tried to destroy this city but no one has succeeded. Every time someone tries to knock it down, we rebuild. And that's what she's got to do with her life. She's got to rebuild it. The film didn't deserve to generate any emotion, but a love of my home city meant that for once I actually felt something in this preposterous movie.
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Beautifully shot but slow and unfocused
Gordon-1118 April 2009
This film is about a woman who lost her husband and son in a terror attack. Her life goes into a mess as she deals with her loss and hunts for the truth.

I have mixed feelings for "Incendiary". On one hand, it is beautifully shot. Every scene is nicely planned and constructed. Camera work is great too. On the other hand, the plot is confusing and strange. The pacing is excruciatingly slow, with a lot of repetitive scenes (such as London burning).

I also think "Incendiary" is not focused enough, as it tries to deal with too many topics including grief, guilt, quest for truth and the road to healing. If the filmmakers only focused on grief and guilt, without the subplots of the anti-terrorist guy or the suspect's family, I would have enjoyed the film more. Despite of Michelle Williams' superb acting, I find "Incendiary" disappointing and boring.
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andy d6 April 2009
i think the main problem with the movie isn't the movie, it's that people are going in expecting a thriller instead of a drama. yes the major plot points could be covered in 5 minutes.. but that's not the point of drama. your average thriller is about things that happen and happen to have people in them. this movie is about the people and how they feel and cope when something momentous happens. if you appreciate that you'll appreciate the movie better, or not watch it cos it's not something that appeals to you.. and that's fair enough.

As far as the film goes, Michelle Williams carries it well. The accent's fine and the various states she goes through as she tries to deal with what has happened never feel you leaving disconnected or not understanding how she got there.

McGregor is his usual charming self, tho his is not really a major part (likewise MacFadyen), this is a movie about the mother and so these two don't get an awful lot of screen time.

The one fault i'd say is that the passage of time is not particularly well expressed particularly right at the end of the film when what seems to be a present day Ewan is wearing the exact same outfit as in the next scene which must be set sometime after.

Regardless, it's a decent movie, but requiring empathy.. so if you prefer action flicks, watch something else.
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Everyone is a critic!
shultzl17 December 2008
I have seen a negative review on this movie and I have to say that I am very tired of people picking apart movies to show how smart they think they are! This was a tragic and beautifully filmed movie that reminded me so much of The Sweet Hereafter. I believe that some people have a hard time watching others go through tragedy and grief and are uncomfortable expressing themselves. This movie drew a lump to my throat the size of a golf ball and made me hug my son extra hard at bedtime. Michelle Williams gives another outstanding performance and Ewan MacGregor is, as always, a complete pleasure to watch on screen. This film will come out on DVD this year and I would urge anyone with a heart to embrace it.
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Terrorism in London
incitatus-org22 April 2009
A young beautiful woman (Michelle Williams) is trapped in an empty marriage tucked away in an ugly apartment block in London. Her pride and joy in her grey existence is her 4-year-old son. One day, as the two of them are at the football match, she seduces a slick journalist Jasper (Ewan McGregor) in the local pub. As fate would have it, they are locked in a lovers embrace, with the football match raging on behind them on TV, when the stadium going up in flames with a series of explosions. Her husband and son are both killed in the terrorist attack, leaving her broken and alone.

If you are now thinking that a film about the aftermath of a major terrorist attack from the director of Brigit Jones' Diary sounds like a recipe for disaster, then you are partly right. But it is not bad for the reason you might think. The film is, for the most part, an emotional roller- coaster - you could be crying your way through most of it. But not because of her grieving for her lost family. The bombs are just the beginning - she still has to endure a full load of unlikely events in the hour to come. She understandably loses it along the way as the story becomes so over-dramatised that it is just ridiculous (especially when you run the story back in your head afterwards).

Towards the end she enters a phase of grief hallucination and reconciliation with life. As the movie is neither funny nor exciting, this should have been the route to take all along. Concentrating on the mourning of the young mother, and perhaps even throwing in some guilt towards her semi-estranged husband. Her husband is just gone with his death. He is not missed nor is there any regret for his disappearance. Even for a semi-estranged husband this sounds a little harsh - she did worry about him, after all, so she must have felt something. It is also curious that they have no family, or friends who drop by to comfort her. A lonely marriage must have pushed them into some kind of a social circle, or a hobby, or at least the occasional phone call with their mothers. Was their life really that lonely.

The movie is clearly intended as a pamphlet against terrorism, by showing the human cost at the level of ordinary people. It also takes the time to "explain" the resilience of London in a voice-over. It is a little desperate to save a movie through nationalism, but can actually be fit in here, although it could have been better prepared, by, for instance, by making her a more integral part of London. This is no masterpiece, nor an entertainment jewel, and can easily be missed altogether. A pity, because it does have some potential.
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The Amazingly Brilliant Michelle Williams - How Does She Do It?
robert-temple-19 January 2010
Having knocked us all out in 2004 in LAND OF PLENTY by Wim Wenders, here Michelle Williams proves that she is truly supernatural. She gives one of the most gut-wrenching performances ever seen on the screen. And for a Montana gal who had to brush the sagebrush pollen out of her hair before joining polite company, stow her lasso, and pretend to be civilised, how did she manage to master the accent and rhythms and patterns of speech, dress, and mannerisms of those real savages, the gals in those short tart's skirts who live in tower blocks in East London and are married to men who support Arsenal Football Club? (Ugh! Football! Makes me sick! And singing about a football club, how oafish can you get?) It all goes to show that Williams, like good wine, travels well, even though in this case it was from planet to planet. This film is so brilliantly written and directed by Sharon Maguire (formerly a television documentary film maker) that the combination of Maguire and Williams sets the cinema on fire and thereby justifies the film's title admirably. Excellent support is had from Ewan McGregor and Matthew MacFadyen as the two male leads, but all eyes are on Williams. The production values of this film are very high, and it is easy to be convinced that the big terrorist attack on Wembley Stadium has really happened, as the attack and the aftermath are all so real. However, this is not a film about terrorism, which is merely the backdrop, in the sense that world wars and civil wars have been for so many films in the past, from GONE WITH THE WIND to FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS to MRS. MINIVER. This is a film about people, but especially about Michelle Williams. Only a woman could have directed this. In fact, one is tempted to say that all films with terrorism backgrounds should be directed by women, because they are not tempted as men are to dwell on all the violence for its own sake. With a woman at the helm, this film becomes a people film, but a man would have strayed, taken more interest in guns and corpses and explosions (little boys going bang bang sometimes never grow up, especially when they have a budget and a cameraman handed to them). As a study of searing grief and despair, Williams has our hearts in her mouth, but don't worry, it isn't really a downer, it is simply so spellbinding looking at her and seeing into another dimension. She seems to be a tiny little thing, and it is almost inconceivable that such a small package can carry such a huge explosive power. This film really is an instant contemporary classic.
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Sharon Maguire should stick to comedy and not sappy melodrama
DandyFopp21 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I was at the premiere of this film last night at the Sundance Film Festival. It was obvious that Sharon was very nervous, but she was gracious and funny and I could see how that transferred to her film Bridget Jones's Diary which I loved.

This, however, couldn't be further removed from that. To use one of Sharon's own terms, as a friend put it, the whole film was "eggy". Overdone, pleading with the audience to cry for sympathy for the main character. I don't really even know where to start. The little boy was adorable and precocious, almost to the point of being cartoon-like. Michelle Williams' hangdog "I'm sad and smoking a cigarette" schtick soon became old.

The film starts out alright enough, with the setup of the husband who's always working, the connection between mother and son, etc. Suddenly she is in bed with the very on-point Ewan McGregor, and a bomb explodes at the soccer stadium where her husband and son are. This moment is good - frightening, shocking. But the heavy overlays of jaunting piano music and slow motion running or crying or whatever are so saturated that it's impossible to really connect.

As most of us know, symbolism is best when subtle and stripped down. Well be prepared to have it wacked over your head in this film. Her son has a stuffed bunny animal that he always carries, and after he's dead of course this becomes the representation of her son. They reference the bunny so many times that it's no longer a special memento. Once she starts stalking the son of one of the suicide bombers, it just fails to make sense any longer. She predictably bonds with the son out of nowhere (I literally leaned over and said "She's going to buy him a cricket bat" to a friend after the boy mentioned his dad was supposed to buy him one for his birthday...and lo and behold, she did) and then suddenly there's a standoff at the train station where she gets apparently shot in the head and has not a scratch to show for it.

An additional thing that bothered me is her character apparently has all these amazing traits that men are dying for. Ewan seems suddenly "turned around" from a womanizing yuppie telling her that she's just so different from everyone he knows. Her husband's old boss tells her she's an amazing woman and spews ridiculous romantic crap about "laying in a caravan with the dust particles in the air" or "taking all the hundreds of pieces of your broken heart and putting it back together". What is so remarkable about this woman? She's just gone through a terrible loss, but that has nothing to do with her character or personality. Nothing shown tells me that she is deserving of this attention.

This combined with the in and out narration, apparently letters dedicated to Osama Bin Laden, the hot-air balloon with the picture of her son, the underuse of the engaging Ewan McGregor character, the random relationship with the bomber's son, and the obvious "Oscar nomination" scene of Michelle Williams screaming "My baby! My baby!" all comes together for one totally over the top melodrama that leaves the viewer with no real connection to anyone. If they had stripped it down by about 90% it would be watchable.

It does make me sad that I found this film so unenjoyable, because it was obvious that the director was very nervous and had put her soul and time into it's making. However, I don't see any way to fix the many glaring issues there are. Instead of seeing this, I would recommend popping in Bridget Jones's Diary and enjoying Sharon Maguire in her best medium.
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Cod Mockney Melodrama
Steve Carver21 August 2008
This cod mockney melodrama from the director of Bridget Jones Diary fails at every level. It's clearly a film involving working class characters made by middle class people with both characters and plot lacking any authenticity and credibility whatsoever. In fact, the basic premise of Bridget Jones is transposed to this disastrous attempt at making a serious drama. Instead of writing a diary she writes letters to Osama Bin Laden. Instead of getting caught in a love triangle between Colin Firth and Hugh Grant she gets caught in a love triangle with two equally wet englishmen, uncomfortably played by Ewan MacGregor and Matthew Macfadayen, and all this, after her poor husband and son have been blown to bits in an unconvincing attack on Arsenal football stadium whilst she was shagging the local taloid newspaper reporter! The mawkish sentimentality that ensues is unbearable. In a preposterous celebration of London's blitz spirit, the faces of the victims are printed on the side of WWII air balloons which float above the city in every shot. And Michelle Williams, who miraculously found her sons toy rabbit in the ruins of the football stadium, clutches it to her chest in almost every scene. I find it hard to believe that this ill conceived script ever made it past treatment stage, particularly when so many established UK film companies like CH4 were involved in its development and finance. I find it equally hard to believe that the film was selected to screen at prestigious festivals like Sundance.This film is a worrying indictment of the failings of a the British film industry.
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Incendiary AKA Blown Apart (2008)
Seth_Rogue_One6 April 2016
If you like me saw the poster (and the IMDb genre listing for that matter) and thought that this was a drama-thriller, let me tell you that it's not.

Although there are some slight moments of suspense this is solely a drama film about grief.

They do throw in some other elements to it as well, some that works better than others but the true essence of the story is a woman grief after a great tragedy in her life.

It tackles the subject-matter rather delicate for the most part and it does feel rather realistic for the more part.

It's rather depressing though, but I suppose that is the point.

Michelle Williams impresses by the sole fact she's able to sustain a British London accent throughout the movie and not once ever slip into a American one, which is extremely rare with American actors doing films in foreign English speaking countries but she had it down to perfection from beginning to end.

She also pulls a good performance over all as well.

So yeah not a feel-good movie that's for sure but it sustained my interested reasonably well, even though I don't know if I'd watch it again.
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Awful !
aroundM2115 January 2013
Incredibly slow. Long periods when they didn't find dialogue so filled it with repetitive monotonous piano music. A plot with a good centre but too many twists or 'devices' to be believable. Because of the tenuous plot, characters are more difficult to relate to or care about. Too many themes / subjects.

So I didn't like it much ! I thought the above was a succinct review but now IMDb is making me write 10 lines, which is ironically similar to how I feel about the film actually given all the long slow panoramic shots over music while the actors look sad or longingly or suchlike. So yes this paragraph is just for that end, sorry everyone, but this review is less time than the film, so it's of some value. Ha !
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