[Movie Review] Byzantium

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Byzantium directed by Neil Jordan and staring Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton as two vampires surviving in present day Britain, running from town to town as the bodies stack up all the while two investigators played by Uri Gavriel and Sam Riley nip at their ever growing trail.

This movie does not try to be something it’s not. It doesn’t over extent itself, it doesn’t burden the plot with too many ideas. I would say it’s gender roles are switched from Interview with a Vampire which was also directed by Neil Jordan.

The movie follows Clara played by Gemma and her daughter, Eleanor played by Saoirse living out life, Clara as a stripper and Eleanor as the teenager that will never grow up and writes down her tale of woe that is revealed to the audience in dribs and drabs.

Clara has her way of getting blood and Eleanor has her way and both are fairly straight forward until a former beau tracks down Clara and ends up losing his head.

So, a tank of gasoline fueled fire later and the girls are off to another town.

Several truck rides later they end up in a seaside town that looks fun to Clara but Eleanor knows she’s been here before since it turns out to be the same town they were born in. Clara goes back to what she knows and finds a rube in the form of Noel played Daniel Mays and sets up a make shift brothel in an old hotel called Byzantium.

Eleanor and Clara’s actions/roles are reversed. Clara dresses like the free wheeling spirit that she is while Eleanor in her red hoody desperately wants a friend.

Both of their histories are played out through the use of flashbacks. The flashbacks don’t become a drinking game and are kept to a minimum and or in Eleanor’s case it simply happens in front of her. Their histories and the people they’ve touch over two hundred years will continue to haunt them until the end of the movie. From the Johnny Lee Miller’s bastard captain to Sam Riley’s calm Lieutenant to Eleanor’s new friend, a waiter named Frank played Caleb Landry Jones.

The empire building for the vampire society is not as structured as the one found in Blade. Vampires powers are fairly weak which allows for a great deal of walking around in daylight. No fangs. No bodies turning into ash. No super strength or suggestive powers. No type of sire hierarchy.

Just a cocaine nail to suck the blood out.

So with no way to make a Vampire how do they do it?

Each of the characters come across an island in their travels. The island has a stone cabin and inside that cabin is a duplicate of themselves.

Or at least we’re made to believe it’s them. Since most of the vampires are made some two hundred years ago this doppleganer-type of presence is creepy. Once they become a vampire the island which is gushing with waterfalls already flows with blood.

Yes, I know, Gemma’s heaving bosom covered in blood, right? Yep. And tastefully done no less. Sure the blood waterfalls were post-production but it looked creepy.

Unfortunately, this vampire society is not very forward thinking so it should come as no surprise when a woman (and a hooker no less) becomes a vampire the men aren’t too happy and banish Clara and her daughter until they catch up with them in the end.

I found the movie enjoyable because it focused on the characters and not their powers. This could have turned into a blood bath but the blood is kept to a minimum and the acting from all parties involved made the movie worth renting.

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