Having never been a music fan - I didn't own a CD until I entered college - I had never heard of Ian Curtis, the lead singer of the 1970's band Joy Division. I watched Control, a movie about Curtis' rise and fall, on recommendation from a friend, even though it looked like yet another fame-and-death tale about a musician.
Control is, indeed, a fame-and-death tale about a musician, but director Anton Corbijn covers up things nicely with a gritty black-and-white overlay. It also helps that Curtis, who died at age 23, never really achieved notorious fame like many of the big names did; Control is a more intimate story that looks at the trials and tribulations of the young man. Curtis barely seems to notice his rise in popularity, at least according to the film, and is more concerned about the mess he makes when he cheats on his wife. Regardless, Control feels less standard and more interesting, even if, ultimately, it is just more of the same.
Though ultimately forgettable, Corbijn has created a pretty good independent film. The success of the film lies primarily in the intense focus of the screenplay; it never tries to be too big or too epic, nor overly powerful or saddening. Sam Riley stars as Curtis, and provides the proper acting talent for a film such as this. I wouldn't say he's astounding, but he takes on the character with extreme diligence. Riley fits perfectly into the look and feel of Corbijn's film, and I expect his career to only go up from here. The supporting cast, including Samantha Morton, also does a good job.
Control has all the ingredients, but once the ending credits began to roll, I felt like I wasn't any closer to Curtis than at the beginning of the movie. There's no real hook to the story, nothing that sinks its teeth into you and leaves a lasting impression. I'm happy I saw the film, but now that it's over I doubt I'll remember it in a month's time.
Nevertheless, Control does have the merits of a good film. The direction is superb, the acting very good and the story refreshing. Recommended to music fans.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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