Cast: Aneurin Barnard, James Cosmo, Wunmi Mosaku, and Jake Wilson and Amy Shiels.
Citadel was partially funded by the Irish Film Board. Also, this is director Ciaran Foy's first film and this is also a personal script developed by Foy. Foy was attacked at the age of eighteen by a group of teenagers with a hammer. This film is a type of catharsis as Foy relives that attack through his characters and story. Thus, Citadel is a psychological journey, with the protagonist facing some of his demonic and, likely, imaginary fears.
Tommy (Aneurin Barnard) is the one taking this journey, along with viewers. The action begins with Tommy witnessing an attack on his young wife, Joanne (Amy Shiels). He is helpless to intervene as the elevator in his rundown apartment building is broken. Joanne is hospitalized. Yet, she gives birth to a daughter. In a coma, Joanne never recovers and Tommy is now a single dad. His problems increase with the attackers hounding him in his apartment. He is burglarized, chased, beaten, and beaten again, until he finally decides to set things right. His path to redemption is not a straight forward one, however.
The story's structure is set up in such a way as to make the film a psychological journey. Tommy is passing through grief, fear and guilt by facing those who perpetuated his current state. He overcomes these negative emotions by seeking help at a local trauma centre. He also finds friends in a crazed priest (James Cosmo) and an overly optimistic nurse (Wunni Mosaku). Both of these secondary characters fall at some point, while Tommy continues to face his haunting memories and the imaginary demons who hound him.
Just as an aside, the character Danny (Jake Wilson) seems to be an externalized inner child. The inner child is in each of us and this part of the psyche holds all of a person's past traumas, experiences, fears and misgivings. Danny is simply another part of Tommy. Both characters are relying on each other to face a group of malicious hoods' (their fears of violence externalized). It is only when Tommy faces his fears that his inner child is satisfied.
Outside of the psychological elements in this piece, Citadel is an enjoyable horror feature. The horror elements are amplified by lighting. They are often flickering or completely off, which adds a dark mood to the film. As well, the villains are small, but numerous. They are able to intimidate through their numbers. There is also a common Christian versus evil or Satan theme running close to the film's central story. A Catholic priest is only able to start Tommy on his journey; the rest is up to him. Overall, Citadel is compelling fiction based on some very real instances of youth gangs from Foy's past.
Citadel begins its North American debut November 9th and fans of horror features or of psychologically based thrillers are encouraged to see this film on the big screen. This story feels real even if Tommy's demons are a construct of his mind. This dramatization of youth violence is affective in showing the after effects that haunt victims e.g. agoraphobia. And, many of the scenes create tension through an eerie mood thanks to the film's lighting and settings. The Citadel is believably a threatening place to visit, but you should take the journey anyways.
Overall: 7 out of 10.
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