Movie Review: Citadel
Length: 84 minutes
Release Date: October 19, 2012
Directed By: Ciaran Foy
Genre: Drama, Horror
Stars: 3 out of 5
Nearly everyone understands the emotions associated with a traumatic event, and in his first full-length film, director Ciaran Foy hopes to channel the pain of the viewers into Hollywood gold. "Citadel" is a dark and gritty drama that mixes horror elements into a stunning story that will keep viewers entertained and caught in the story long after it ends.
The film opens with Tommy (Aneurin Barnard, "Ironclad"), a young man sitting and talking with his therapist. The doctor tells him that the longer he continues acting like a victim, the more others will view him as one. Through flashbacks, the viewer learns that Tommy saw his pregnant wife brutally attacked by a group of men wearing hooded jackets. Though he was close by, he could not help because he was inside an elevator. His wife lapsed into a coma after the attack, leaving him to raise his young daughter alone.
Tommy goes home, and the viewers discover that he lives in a rough neighborhood. A rash of kidnappings recently occurred, and he constantly fears the he or his daughter is next. Though he frequently tells himself that if he was a stronger man he could protect her, he finds himself too afraid to do anything about his situation.
The first half of "Citadel" is a taunt and tight thriller that has more jump scares that some recent horror films. Foy takes special pains to increase the creep factor, making Tommy's home feel more like a haunted house and less like a family home. The front door features a pane of frosted glass, which lets Tommy keep an eye on what happens outside, but the door also serves as a scare tactic. Viewers will jump every time the music builds and a shadow crosses in front of the door.
"Citadel" is a great film because some of the action occurs inside the main character's head. The lights flicker, his daughter seldom stops crying, and dark shadows frequently move through his neighborhood. When Tommy finds himself hunkered near the front door, holding his child and practically weeping, the viewers will wonder if the thing he fears is real or imaginary.
Foy does an excellent job of letting viewers decide how much of the film actually takes place and what scenes take place in his mind. While some of the action is clearly real, those scenes involve minor occurrences that many people live through. A dark shadow on the front door might be a low-hanging tree branch, while the man in a hooded sweatshirt might just be a normal teenage boy. Every time that Tommy sees one of those things though, he immediately thinks that it's something after his daughter.
The director inter-cuts the scenes of Tommy at home with scenes of him meeting with his doctor or a psychiatric nurse. Those characters serve as the driving force that pushes him to do something about his life. Unfortunately, it takes far too long for him to make that decision. Though Barnard is a strong actor, he plays Tommy as a little too fearful. By the time that he finally stands up for himself and actually begins taking care of his daughter, some viewers might find themselves frustrated.
Those who stick it out will find a strong film with an even stronger ending. Foy understands that relationships are complicated, and he plays on the emotions of the viewers. Even viewers who do not have children will understand why Tommy is so concerned about his daughter. He is willing to do anything that it takes to keep his child safe and protected, even if it means taking up arms to defend their home.
Foy also does a smart job of using traditional horror elements in a modern setting. When Tommy walks through his neighborhood and sees the crumbling walls of nearby homes, some viewers might think back to their favorite horror films.
Similar films sometimes overlook questions that viewers might have, but Foy answers all of those questions in small ways. Social service agents discover Tommy's problems and threaten to take his daughter away if he doesn't begin behaving like an adult, giving viewers a reason to root for the character.
"Citadel" is a strong film that relies on more than just jump scares. The horror elements are good enough to keep fans entertained, and the film has touching scenes that will tug at the heartstrings of anyone watching.