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The Independent Critic

Antony Knight, Joseph Adelakun, Holly McLachlan
Adam Nelson
Chris Watt
95 Mins.

 Movie Review: The Mire 
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Adam Nelson's The Mire is the kind of film you don't much see often here in the U.S., a heady psychological thriller devoid of unnecessary distractions in favor of intense characterization and dialogue that means far more than any action sequences possibly could. Fresh off its U.K. premiere, The Mire centers around Joseph Layton (Antony Knight), a charismatic cult leader on the eve of leading his flock toward a mass suicide. However, amidst his own plans for escape he gets caught in the path of two of his most loyal followers, Marshall (Joseph Adelakun) and Hannah (Holly McLachlan) who trap him in his church and doubt his commitment to his followers. The thriller that follows find all three parties attempting to manipulate, reform, and out plot the others. 

The veteran director Nelson has already given us the award-winning Little Pieces along with Emotional Motor Unit, reviewed by The Independent Critic, and Toilet Humor. With The Mire, Nelson tackles a bold, thought-provoking, and engaging psychological thriller with confidence and tremendous discipline. Working from a script by Chris Watt, Nelson plays all the right dramatic notes and brings out tremendous performances by his ensemble. 

Antony Knight, a latecomer to acting, quietly mesmerizes as Layton and nicely avoids hitting of the usual caricaturish tones we often recognize from cinematic cult leaders. Masterfully in control, Knight's a joy to watch as his character's multiple layers are revealed over the course of the film. 

Both Joseph Adelakun and Holly McLachlan are also quite strong here as they travel the ebb-and-flow of belief and disbelief over the course of the film's 95-minute running time. There's no quick reveal to be found here and both performers keep us engaged even as we wonder how all of this is going to unfold. 

Lensing by Jordan Wicks amplifies the film's austere yet eerie environment and Imraan Husain's original score immerses us in each character along with the strengths and weaknesses they bring into this ever-changing conflict. Jake Earwaker edits the film with a disciplined patience that allows us to linger within the jarring silences that should feel solemn yet more often than not palpably build the tension. Kudos as well to Maeve Lou-Keene for a sparse yet enveloping production design. 

It's well known that I tend to have a preference for British cinema. The Mire is a tremendous example of why. This low-budget indie trusts the intelligence of its characters and moviegoers to succumb to Watt's remarkable dialogue and to submit to this dialogue heavy yet fiercely engaging story. Indeed, I most certainly did from beginning to end and for those lucky enough to see the film during its festival journey I'd expect the same to be true. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic