The Limehouse Golem15
It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes a national treasure, but being a 'luvvy' certainly helps. Bill Nighy has been around the acting block for what seems ages now, but it probably wasn't until 2003's Love Actually that was the first block in building to his national treasure status that he undoubtedly enjoys now.
His recent roles have seen him convey a charming, witty, older gentlemen usually with a gentle mischievous side. Here though, Nighy avoids that stereotype with a dramatic part, playing a detective in a London of olden days.
London, 1880, and murder is afoot. Not just the one mind, but a series of them in fact. So much so that the perpetrator has been given the name the Limehouse Golem for his serial killing antics.
When the detective in charge struggling with the case is removed to protect his promotion chances, the dubious honour of taking it on is given to Detective Kildare (Nighy) of Scotland Yard. He's not alone in being tasked with the investigation, as he has the help of Officer Flood (Daniel Mays) to ably assist him.
The case leads them into London's theatre world, where a number of the murders have occurred. One of the four key suspects is John Cree (Sam Cree); however, he has recently turned up dead, and his wife Lizzie (Olivia Cooke) has been accused of his murder.
Kildare doesn't believe she's done it, so wants to delve further in an attempt to save her. And if she did do it, is it so bad that she's possibly defeated the Limehouse Golem? One way or another, he wants to bring the Golem to justice -whomever they may be - and make the streets of Victorian London that little bit more safer once again.
This film is quite the oddity; with its concept of a unknown murderer on the loose, it feels like it should be a whodunit. And it is, but in the most unconventional sense. Writer Jane Goldman's script doesn't wholly focus on the dastardly murderer, instead choosing to introduce characters affected by the deaths they have caused.
This theatrical world is full of colourful characters, which are introduced by Lizzie's journey through it. From her bleak childhood, through to her rise to fame on the stage, hers is the rising sun to which all the other characters orbit. And then there's this murder stuff lurking in the not-so-distant background.
At the heart of this film isn't a sense of fear, but the repressed sexuality of a number of characters, bubbling to the surface. This is intensified by the period its set in, as it hardly celebrated or embraced same sex relationships.
As the film reaches its conclusion, Goldman neatly brings the murderer and their identity to the fore, making for a thrilling climax.
Director Juan Carlos Medina excels visually, presenting a murky Victorian world; it's all quite insular, with what exterior locales used, viewed through a darkened lens, which may have more to do with the tight budget more than anything else.
Based on Peter Ackroyd's 1994 novel Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem, Medina has produced a fascinating and well told yarn, with a cast - including the brilliant Eddie Marsen - hamming it up with aplomb.
Nighy in particular delivers a subtle performance that is also beautifully layered; even though Cooke does her best to steal the show, Nighy sleepwalks through this stylish thriller in style. Just what you would expect really from a national treasure.
With this being only Medina's second full feature, he shows a great deal of promise. Although the film doesn't quite deliver edge-of-the-seat content, it comes mighty close.