"An enjoyable and thought-provoking film, if a little ridiculous at times…"

Considering just how much news coverage belongs to the war on terrorism, it's a subject matter lightly explored within British cinema, with Chris Morris' Four Lions the only stand-out production. Cleanskin therefore carries a degree of intrigue as one of the first dramatic takes on the subject that has troubled us for over a decade.

Set in present day London, we follow secret agent Ewan (Sean Bean), briefed by Charlotte McQueen (Charlotte Rampling) to take down a terrorist group fronted by the seemingly intelligent, and ordinary Ash (Abhin Galeya). Despite his supposed normality, Ash has been brainwashed by the manipulative Nabil (Peter Polycarpou) into a life of crime, as the youngster is disgusted by the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sick and tired of seeing Arabs murdered across the world.

Ewan is partnered by the somewhat dense Mark (Tom Burke) and must track down Ash following a ring of clues that takes him across London, including one already successful terrorist attack killing quite a lot of people, as the former soldier and now a widower, will take down whatever gets in his way in his bid to save the lives of innocent Londoners at threat due to the suicide bombings planned for the near future.

Hadi Hajaig's feature has a strong political undercurrent running the entire way through, highlighting terrorism equally from both sides of the spectrum, taking an apt insight into the frightened members of the public, to those causing such fearfulness, getting in to the minds of the terrorists themselves. Four Lions is the obvious comparison to make, yet Cleanskin delves into similar themes without the satirical, somewhat tongue-in-cheek aspect. Although ironically, not as accurately presented as Morris' take.

Yet Hajaig does create personalities for people we deem faceless villains, provocatively testing our beliefs as we try to understand what makes people reach such extreme heights.  Although perhaps the feature is a little too considerate and understanding of the suicide bombers. Not that it promotes such a life choice at all, but as their reasoning and arguments are due to being anti-war, a seemingly peaceful campaign, it makes such arguments worthy, adding some validity and sympathy to their cause.

Hajaig does also delve into the bystanders’ lives as well as the perpetrators, and Bean encapsulates the ordinary man, struggling to understand the predicament and current climate, yet unlike the ordinary man, Bean is carrying a gun and is more than happy to use it. He looks the part too, barely smiling once throughout the film, playing the role with a degree of humility and sorrow. He is the ultimate northern warrior, as terrorists must feel the wrath of t'gun.

Despite the political and emotional themes explored by Hajaig, what transpires is a quite overstated and somewhat inane film, albeit entertaining. At times it is immoderate and nonsensical, taking on perhaps too many sub-stories, resulting in it becoming quite confusing to comprehend who is fighting on which side, and why such decisions and allegiances have been formed.

The most unnecessary aspect to the film being the romantic background between Ash and Kate (Tuppence Middleton). The point of such a romance to is to humanise Ash and to portray him as a regular student; listening to Blur and lying around half naked with his on-off girlfriend. Yet the flashbacks from such a time go on for far too long and rather than providing a mere insight into Ash's past, instead the romance takes a precedent over the actual story. 

On a more positive note, the film bears a very London feel to it, adding to the authenticity of the picture. Having said that, the aerial shots of the capital do look as thought they were filmed during the 1980's.

Cleanskin is simply a standard British drama, nothing too memorable, but an enjoyable and thought-provoking film, if a little ridiculous at times.  But for a film that is attempting realism, it doesn't do itself any favours by claiming Spurs had won the Champions League final in a closing news feature. Although we can but dream.