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The War Zone (1999)

R | | Drama | 11 June 1999 (Italy)
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An alienated teenager, saddened that he has moved away from London, must find a way to deal with a dark family secret.

Director:

Tim Roth

Writers:

Alexander Stuart (novel), Alexander Stuart (screenplay)
9 wins & 12 nominations. See more awards »

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Stars: Alan Rickman, Clive Owen, Saskia Reeves
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Annabelle Apsion ... Nurse
Kate Ashfield ... Lucy
Lara Belmont ... Jessie
Freddie Cunliffe Freddie Cunliffe ... Tom
Colin Farrell ... Nick (as Colin J Farrell)
Aisling O'Sullivan Aisling O'Sullivan ... Carol
Tilda Swinton ... Mum
Megan Thorp Megan Thorp ... Baby Alice
Kim Wall ... Barman
Ray Winstone ... Dad
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Storyline

Suddenly, the moody 15-year-old, Tom, and his 18-year-old sister, Jessie, find themselves relocated from the hustle and bustle of urban London to the sullen silence of wind-swept rural Devon, at a little but neat cottage in the middle of nowhere. Dad is caring and kind, and very much in love with mum who has just given birth; however, an accidental glimpse of a disturbing and well-hidden secret in the family will bring Tom face-to-face with shock, denial, and ultimately, rage. What mystery could be so appalling that threatens to bring everyone in the family to their knees? Written by Nick Riganas

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

When the worst of men hides in a family with no history.

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexual content, some involving molestation, and for nudity, language and a scene of violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Atlanta Films | Official site

Country:

Italy | UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

11 June 1999 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Tim Roth's The War Zone See more »

Filming Locations:

England, UK See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$18,335, 12 December 1999, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$254,441, 6 June 2013
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

At a public screening of this movie during the 1999 Toronto International Film Festival, one viewer was so upset and devastated that he rose to his feet and shouted that he couldn't take any more, then headed for the exit, intending to pull the fire alarm. Director Tim Roth, who was in attendance, intercepted him at the door, and it took 20 minutes of intense conversation to calm the man down. See more »

Quotes

Tom: I saw you.
Jessie: Saw me what?
Tom: In the bath...
Jessie: Yeah?
Tom: What were you doing?
Jessie: What do you think? I got in and he got out.
Tom: That's not what I saw.
Jessie: Well, that's all it was.
Tom: Where were you?
Jessie: It's a pretty weird thing you're suggesting if you're saying what I think you're saying. I haven't told you to f@ck off or anything, which I probably should've. Nothing happened, OK? I'd tell you.
[...]
See more »

Alternate Versions

The R-rated US version has four minutes of footage, mostly involving incestuous acts, removed. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Dinner for Five: Episode #2.1 (2003) See more »

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User Reviews

 
One of the best of the 90's
15 March 2005 | by cedric_owlSee all my reviews

Strange, opaque and deeply unsettling, the War Zone is the only way a film about a topic as horrifying as incest should be. Tim Roth, realizing that the family of the film is too far gone to elicit much empathy from the audience, simply tries to convey the story as truthfully as possible. With crushing results.

At the beginning of the film, we're introduced to a nameless clan: a genial father (Ray Winstone), a mother exhausted from recently giving birth (Tilda Swinton), a sullen teenage boy (Freddie Cunliffe), and his strikingly beautiful older sister (Lara Belmont). All four have recently moved from London to the remote, seaside village of Devon, leaving the two kids feeling isolated and adrift.

What follows for the next hour or so is a brilliantly confusing experience--Roth presents a series of odd quirks about the family that makes the audience question what is merely eccentricity and what hints at something darker. Why, for example, does the family walk around naked most of the time? Don't those siblings seem slightly too "affectionate" given that they're teenagers? What exactly does the boy see his father doing with his sister in the bathroom that bothers him so? All of this mystery leads up to an absolutely harrowing scene which leaves no mystery as to the dynamic between father and daughter. More emotionally explicit than physically so, the scene is rightfully regarded as one of cinema's more horrible acts of on-screen violence, yet doesn't feel gratuitous in the slightest.

This film is as sparse as possible, with almost no inflection or melodramatic effects. Scenes are generally shot in long takes with a static camera (gorgeously framed in widescreen). There is little excess dialogue, and almost no music. Often we are placed into the middle of confusing scenes that are open to numerous interpretations. We more or less have to come to our own conclusions about what is going on. The teenagers are as inexpressive and introspective as teenagers in real life, which makes there unexpected emotional outbursts all the more powerful.

Why Roth hasn't made any other films is beyond me. He has a lean, cinematic sensibility which is unmatched by any other actor-director. I hope he gets an opportunity to use it again soon.


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