107 of 114 people found the following review helpful
on 16 October 2007
I've now seen this story played out 3 times, twice at the cinema in the last 2 days and once as a 15 year old Northern lad. In the true spirit of the "Kitchen Sink" genre, it begins like a modern day "A kind of loving" and has a touch of " Room at the top" (the wedding car scene). Sam Riley is outstanding, portraying Curtis in a way that does not show him as the icon he became posthumously but as a somewhat immature 20+ year old man. This of course is countered by a soundtrack that reminds us of his musical genius played by the actors in a very authentic "Garagey way". A portrait of a man torn between his old and new life complicated by the onset of an illness he was struggling to come to terms with.
If that wasn't enough the photography is glorious, every other shot could be hung on the wall, it never looked so good when I was a lad! I understand that Corbijn was trying to shoot the film like a sequence of music videos and with his massive experience as a still photographer it all works beautifully. He sank a large amount of his own money into this project, and you can tell that making it was important to him as a fan and aquaintance of the band You can see his passion and committment to the film throughout. The sequence in the kitchen towards the end of the film was electric, an incredibly haunting dramatic shot. This Film demands the biggest screen that you can find.
I read a review that said you don't watch this film you live it, the first time I saw Control I was angry at the futility of it all, the second I wept tears for lost youth, his and mine. My advice ? Get yourself a really big telly and a really big box of tissues and enjoy what must be considered the best music film of all time. There's no getting away from the end, like Ian's all too short life it comes too soon in this film and there ain't gonna be a sequel, but buy the DVD and enjoy watching it over and over again. A Classic........
44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on 8 October 2007
The film fits Joy Division's music perfectly. It is beautifully shot in monochrome, the two leads are superb and the attention to period detail is meticulous. Actual Macclesfield locations are used - particularly the house on Barton Street.
Like most people, I only saw Joy Division via the handful of film clips that exist. The live scenes in the film look totally convincing and Sam Riley captures Curtis's manic, twitching intensity perfectly.
As it ostensibly deals with the breakdown and suicide of a confused young man, don't expect many laughs - though the blunt, wisecracking Rob Gretton character provides much needed light relief. Neither is it a cliched band biopic as it is more concerned with the more mundane kitchen sink drama of a failing relationship.
Joy Division spods can have fun spotting factual errors (e.g. they didn't do the song Transmission for Granada TV), but if you accept that sometimes facts need to be compressed to fit a film, this is fairly faithful to the true events (and yes, Ian did have a donkey jacket with HATE on the back).
Nobody really knows why Ian Curtis killed himself, but the contributing factors are lined up like suspects in a murder case - prescription drugs, infidelity, career pressure, debilitating illness, etc. It doesn't touch upon Deborah Curtis's scary assertion in her biography that Ian might have planned it all along. Best not go there.
If you have any attachment to the band, this is required viewing (and I doubt if you've waited for the DVD). It's the necessary counter-balance to the hedonism of 24 Hour Party people and more in keeping with with the bleak, northern soul of Joy Division's music.
43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on 22 November 2007
Having read and in many cases re-read the majority of books written about Ian Curtis and Joy Division, while living with the music for approaching 30 years the anticipation surrounding the release of "Control" almost became a living and breathing obsession.
I was lucky enough to see Joy Division in Glasgow and remember being transfixed by the presence and intensity of Ian Curtis; it was just the once and fleeting but even now, after all these years, that feeling of witnessing something special and unique still lingers.
As a result I approached Control with a preconception of what the story should tell us and what / who the characters were and how they should be portrayed.
Dealing with the negatives first, for the sake of brevity a lot of the key musical moments were either ignored or given passing reference, i.e. the recording and issue of Unknown Pleasures and the significance of the Closer lyrics as an insight into Ian's state of mind leading up to the 18th May 1980.
That however is the only negative and given the emphasis on the story on the triangle of Ian, Deborah and Annick it was the correct decision. My complaint, such as it is, is probably because I'm a bit of an anorak where Joy Division is concerned and would have liked the film to be longer, totally selfish and impractical.
Sam Riley and Samantha Morton are simply awesome; I was gripped from the outset and immediately put aside my preconceptions and ended up being swept along by the story, the cast (who were all outstanding) and the cinematography, all credit to Anton Corbijn.
The closing scenes were simply overwhelming and I don't have the words to capture the impact it had on me.
This is a film for all; a film for people who can appreciate a story lovingly and painstakingly constructed, or should that be re-constructed; a film for people who wish to be challenged and reflect on their own lives; above all it is a film for music fans and fans of Joy Division in particular.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 October 2010
Like many an immortalised front-man before him, the jury may remain out on Ian Curtis's talent (he even sounds like a certain Jim Morrison when he sings), but there's no denying that he was a uniquely troubled thinker. Besides, how are we to know what musical riches he may have mined, if he'd the chance to grow into a man?
Control is sad, yes. But it is also a call to compassion, informing us that there is a wealth of love in the wildest heart.
Reducing the supporting cast to sketched ciphers serves to enhance the sense of Curtis's isolation. The one other character with real flesh is Debbie, his wife, skilfully played by Samantha Morton as endlessly beaming yet bereft, with an Ian-shaped hole in her soul which will never fully be filled.
Real-life singer Sam Riley's performance is impressive precisely because he doesn't strive to impress; rather, he is a clenched fist of internal turmoil. We first witness his bleak romanticism as he quotes Wordsworth, gazing from a window into the middle Macclesfield distance. A few short years later Debbie is confronting him about his infidelity, and his eyes are on his feet, and he's quoting nothing, not even himself, as if the elusiveness that was once his allure has become his mind's ball-and-chain.
In pristine monochrome, the film portrays the brief life of a promising urban poet, from Bowie beginnings to an Iggy Pop end, via the Sex Pistols; and so, far from the usual fill-the-blanks perfunctory closing caption, the final reminder that Curtis was only 23 when he died hits us like a punch to the heart.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Corbijn is first and foremost a photographer - you may be aware of him from his work with Joy Division and Depeche Mode - and the style he brings to the film is self-evident. He and the cast also bring plenty of substance to the film as well.
Riley has the has the hardest role - the task of telling a very familiar story: on the eve of the band's first trip to America, Curtis hanged himself. But even if you don't know the story - if you don't know your Joy Division from your Cheeky Girls - that won't matter, it's still a great account of Curtis' short influential life, reclaiming the myths of him as a trench-coated visionary and reminding us that here, at 23, was a kid who died too young.
Making clear Curtis' humanity, Corbijn gives his tale a rich and unlikely seam of dry humour to counter the darkness of his moods.
The energy of this film when Joy Division finally perform is astounding - playing live rather than miming, the cast bring the band's sound vividly to life, but again Riley is the standout in his imitation of Curtis.
An excellent first film from Corbijn
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 1 December 2009
I remember seeing the film in the cinemas when it came out and thankfully I wasn't disapointed.
Based on the excellent book by his wife Deborah its tells through her eyes how she had to put up with his constant gigging with Joy Division, their relationship breaking up, his epilepsiy and depression, when you you are watching Ian some parts you feel sorry for him and others you just want to hit him and tell him to treat his wife better.
Good parts in the film would obivously be the performance of the songs which are on the extras part of the disc along with the soundtrack, Rob Grettons and Peter Hook's sense of humour, the gig where a riot was caused due to Ian not being able to perform and then being told by Tony Wilson that he had created history cause of it and of course the acting of Sam Riley and Samantha Morton who were brillant at playing Ian and Deborah.
I'd have to say that the last moments of Ian's life I found disturbing and sad you felt sorry for him but he was also being selfish for killing himself.
A must for Joy Division and music fans you'll enjoy the extras that include the performances of the songs, the making of the film and the atomsphere video you won't be let down.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 26 August 2010
I absolutely loved this film. It is beautiful, thoughtful and respectful. There is a subtly and gentleness about it that I really appreciated. There were so many beautiful shots that made it seem as though I was watching a piece of art - and I loved the fact that Anton Corbijn made the decision to film in black and white. Obviously, the story of Ian Curtis is incredibly tragic and the sense of tragic waste left me with a sense of heavy sadness as I watched - and for some time after. However, I would thoroughly recommend it for the script, direction and acting.
Sam Riley is incredible. I felt that his portrayal of Ian Curtis was sensitive, moving,intelligent and empathetic. In addition to giving such an amazing performance, Riley sings and the actors who played Joy Division actually play their instruments in the live performances, which lends even more credibility to the film
It is most definitely a five star film and I am very thankful that Anton Corbijn made the decision to direct it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 January 2012
Brilliantly directed, superbly acted and also an excellent choice to shoot this in black and white, I really don't think it would work in color. Sam Riley gives off an exceptional performance of Ian Curtis, both generally and on stage. At times, I felt he became Curtis. As for the other actors, well they're overall pretty damn convincing. The soundtrack is also essential: capturing the iconic music of the time which helped shape Joy Division's sound. It's almost as if the band itself created a playlist of their favourite musicians during that timeline. The ending... well, you know what's coming, but it's still one of the saddest and most heart wrenching moments in all of cinema. The usage of "Atmosphere" completely energizes the chilling intensity of the scene.
Control is one of the best biopics I have ever seen, and allows us to understand the pain and troubles Curtis confronted. I've been a fan of Joy Division for as long as I can remember, and having a fascination with reading up on Curtis' life, I was interested to see it played out on the screen. I can safely say this picture completely does the iconic frontman justice. I can't think of many flaws, apart from the crappy cover from The Killers of Division's classic "Shadowplay". Thankfully, it's at the end credits. I recommend this to everyone who is familiar with Joy Division and want a larger understanding of Ian Curtis' troubled life. And to a lesser extent, anyone who is new to the band and their background and what sort of artist they're getting themselves into.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Before watching this film, it struck me how many ways they could get this film wrong - pandering to his wife (who co-wrote the script), unconvincing acting and, perhaps the greatest potential error: pretentious directing.
The good news is that the film avoided all of these pitfalls and was actually way better than I expected (for such an acclaimed film). Although not a ray of sunshine, the acting was convincing and the plot wasn't too focused around the bleak side of Ian Curtis. In my opinion, it seemed in keeping with Stephen Morris' description of Curtis being "an ordinary bloke just like you or me, liked a bit of a laugh, a bit of a joke."
And as for the story being biased in favour of his wife, the story seemed fair when it came to Annik Honore (Curtis' alleged mistress), portraying her as more of a friend, rather than any sort of bad influence.
Of course, if you don't like bleak films or biopics about troubled rock singers, then this isn't for you.
However, if you want to see a fairly balanced and well-researched treatment of the story of Ian Curtis, which shows him as a 3 dimensional, fairly normal guy, then this is about the best you'll get.
It's also worth mentioning that I'm not really a fan of Joy Division and have only really ever heard 1 or 2 of their songs. If you're concerned that this film is an inpenetrable geeky fan portrayal then don't worry - it's not.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 17 January 2008
Anton Corbijn has made a humane and beautiful film about the tragic Joy Division singer Ian Curtis (1956-1980). Curtis (Sam Riley) is presented as a Bowie-loving apathetic adolescent who doesn't want to be in his own gang, as a loyal, responsible employee at Macclesfield's Job Centre, and as a young groom whose domestic and creative lives soon boomerang into one another. Riley plays Curtis poignantly, brilliantly imitating the on-stage epilectic fits that Curtis felt so ashamed of and sensitively portraying his terrible crisis of conscience as he shuttles between his young dowdy wife Deborah (Samantha Morton) and his beautiful Belgian affair Annik (Alexandra Maria Lara). When performing as Curtis in the packed clubs, Riley's sweaty, jerky march-dancing is startling, showing how the singer "reclaimed his epilepsy as stagecraft" as someone else has said.
The muddy black-and-white cinematography aptly evokes late-1970s Macclesfield. Corbijn doesn't resort to the usual clichés to convey the grainy atmosphere of the period: instead of TV clips of Margaret Thatcher's rise to power, we see deserted and grimy red-brick streets, a beer-filled Sex Pistol concert, a rackety wash-line hanging ominously in the kitchen, and Iggy Pop's record The Idiot spinning on the turntable. Simple details convey the conflict between domesticity and creativity: in Ian's room as a teenager, he has three folders on his desk titled 'Novels / Poems / Lyrics' whilst in Deborah's kitchen stand three upright containers labelled 'Sugar / Coffee / Tea'. The ending when it comes is expected but incredibly sad as plumes of thick cremation smoke rise into the sky over Macclesfield. It's to the film's credit that Curtis's suicide is not shown, but only heard.
However much I liked Control (and it is definitely worth seeing), it's not flawless. Annik's character is insufficiently fleshed out - she comes across as rather bland and uninteresting with only inane lines to say like "I'm a little scared of falling in love with you" (the film is based on Deborah Curtis' book Touching from a Distance, so perhaps this is understandable). Music guru Tony Wilson and manager Rob Gretton are impersonated by Craig Parkinson and Toby Kebbell, but their characters are not allowed by the tight script to develop into more rounded figures and remain stereotyped. Also, I'm a great fan of Samantha Morton's acting, but felt that she overdid the coyness of the young Deborah. She is much better when portraying the adult Debbie, shouting furiously at Ian about his affair and the collapsing of her marital expectations as well as howling in despair upon the terrible discovery of his body.
It's easy to make Control sound more bleak and fierce than it is. There is enough comic relief and Riley's smirky smile also helps to lighten a heavy atmosphere. More importantly, Corbijn does not try to romanticise Curtis as a doomed rock-star cliché. "The movie doesn't try to make them into big mythological people," Corbijn has said. "It's very down to earth, really. It's very human. It's basically the story of a young boy finding his way, and getting lost."