You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but maybe it’s okay to judge an actor by their directorial debut. Klokkenluider (Dutch for “whistleblower") is certainly the sort of inviting black comedy you’d expect from Neil Maskell; the character-actor sensibilities he’s sharpened in British independent cinema, especially with Ben Wheatley (who has an exec-producer credit here), make a sturdy appearance in this bleak sojourn into political conspiracy.
It's an inevitable ending, but worth the build-up.
With its self-contained setting and tragicomic notes, there is a sense this could have been written for the stage. Hints of Beckett and Pinter can be heard in the mundane repartee of the odd couples, Maskell zooming in on them as they navigate tedium and perilous uncertainty — though he does take a few scenes to find his rhythm. Aerial shots and wide angles of government employee Ewan (Amit Shah) and his wife Silke (Sura Dohnke) walking around the rented abode overstress their isolation; sinister music keeps a gloomy cloud over proceedings; but when paired with slo-mo, it only stifles the impact of these dire straits.
Shah plays his highly strung whistleblower with jumpy charm, while Dohnke’s assertive, no-nonsense partner is rather flat compared to the male personalities she’s stuck with. The married couple’s conversations about phone-chargers and party nibbles inspire far less mirth than when Tom Burke’s priggish Chris and Roger Evans’ affable Glynn, security guards both, are moaning about PPI calls and an itchy back.
The hitmen of Wheatley’s Kill List (in which Maskell played one) and Pulp Fiction spring to mind with these two; at their most pithy, even Blackadder and Baldrick. An explosive game of charades earns Evans a scene-stealing high point before Jenna Coleman’s late-stage arrival as a clichéd ‘Is she the baddie?/Isn’t she?’ tabloid journo catapults the third act into a violent climax. It’s an inevitable ending, but worth the build-up. A punchy debut from an indie stalwart.