Tuesday, 24 August 2010


London Population: 7 Million. Until Today.

The Last Seven starts with this tag line as the aerial camera floats over a city, Norman Foster’s iconic Gherkin tower identifying it as London. The lens pans down and focuses onto the figure of a man lying down in the street, then onto his arm, on his watch, which stops at 7.36 precisely, to mimic the speaking clock (in fact, this film could well have been called 7.36, as this stopped watch is one of the key clues that finally unravels the whole of the story). It looks like to be early morning. He gets up, looks around, and starts walking. There is no one around, yet all the traffic lights seem to be working normally. The city is eerily silent. The man, in his mid thirties and well dressed, just walks and walks, looking for any sign of life. At one point, he jumps in front of a CCTV camera, and vandalizes a car to attract attention. Nothing happens. There is no one. Something is not as it should be. Is he the last man on earth? The city, usually so familiar and reassuring, has become a dangerous and unknown place. A figure, no more than a shadow, runs past the top of the elevators as the man goes down into a tube station.

The hand held camera adds to this atmosphere of uncertainty, interrupted by short flashes of a newspaper cut out pinned onto a wall, depicting the smiling face of a young girl, a kidnap case, blood spills over it, then religious (Christian) symbols, and what seems to be bomb making equipment. However, the flashes are too fast for us to really know what is happening.

The man hears a voice in the distance, singing. He runs towards it, climbing the stairs until he gets onto the terrace of a building. He is not alone, he meets Henry, an older man in a pin stripped suit, drinking cognac. Then, other people comes up there, a teenager, Chloe. Then we realize that they have all lost their memories, no one is sure of who they are, or were. One of them is in army fatigues, who seems to have the rank of sergeant. He has an army issue gun in his hands. Flashes of lost memories are constantly thrown onto the screen. Something has happened that led to the current situation, as we catch glimpses of one of the survivors, who seemed to be a government minister – played superbly by John Mawson (why most government ministers are portrayed in British cinema as if they were Tories? Haven’t filmmakers heard of a home secretary called Alan Johnson?), discussing a crisis when riding in his ministerial car. We also learn that the young girl, in her late teens, only wanted her daddy to be with her for her birthday, but that was not to be, as their family was not a normal family, the country always comes first – is she the daughter of the minister?

The cleverness of this film resides in the fact that at not any moment we have a clear picture of what is actually happening. The ordinary has become extraordinary, the dramatic tension just keeps building up. Has the entire population of London been wiped out? Has the military cordoned off the city, and set up a no fly zone above it? What was it? A bio attack, or a dirty bomb?The hand held camera adds to this sense of uncertainty, this sense of the familiar having been utterly transformed into a strange and dangerous place in its ordinariness, as the group dynamic flickers between complete distrust –is the guy in the army fatigues with the gun really a soldier? – and the need to stick together as a group to face any possible threat. The bloodied image of a girl, the same girl we saw at the beginning in that newspaper cut out, flickers on and off the screen, her hand dripping blood, a sad smile on her face. Add to this mixture a deeply religious man, praying in a church, who joined this small band, and the shadow lurking in the background taking them slowly but surely one by one, the Angel of Death.

The film unravels suddenly, all the clues constantly been thrown to us fall then into their places, in an end which is completely unexpected.

The filmmakers have succeeded in creating with The Last Seven a well crafted and tense thriller which feels that every penny invested in it has been squeezed dry, touching on issues of guilt, redemption, and religious extremism, attention to detail being prevalent, the acting being particularly strong. I would have not believed that it was shot with a low budget. Not a single frame was wasted, the tension is kept throughout and beyond its duration, behind every familiar corner lurks an unfamiliar world. I find it difficult now to face the city, as I do not know what I am going to encounter around that corner.

Finally, it is good to see in a film that religious extremism is not only confined to Islamic fundamentalism. The Last Seven attempts to redress this particular issue.

Director: Imran Naqvi
Writer: John Stanley
Cast: Tamer Hassan, Simon Phillips, Danny Dyer, Sebastian Street, Daisy Head, Ronan Vibert, Rita Ramnani, John Mawson
DVD Release date: 30th August 2010
Running time: 84 minutes
Cert: 18

Stills and trailer © Metrodome Distribution.

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