When making your feature length writing and directorial debut what sort of film would you make? Something nice and sweet? A thriller? Maybe an action movie or comedy? What about combining drama with thriller, something that we see a lot of on British TV and more recently all the Scandinavian TV we are seeing. This is what we have with Panic.
Filmed in just 18 days, Panic sees music journalist Andrew Deeley, David Gyasi (Interstellar, Cloud Atlas), who eight months ago stepped in to stop a girl getting some hassle. For his heroics, he receives a punctured lung, broken ribs, lots of stitches, a lovely scar and some phycological damage that means he’s reluctant to leave his flat.
Sat in his flat all day he takes to using his binoculars and watching a Chinese girl in the flat opposite. He’s not doing this as a fantasy or sexual thing, he just watches her. When Deeley orders an escort off the internet she picks up the binoculars and happens to see the Chinese girl getting knocked about. Deeley goes to phone the police and the escort runs. What follows is Deeley’s attempt to find out what happened that night to this Chinese girl. The adventure takes him through the seedy depths of London and into rival Chinese people traffickers.
First of all it has to be said that this is a stand out performance from Gyasi. He nails this role portraying the vulnerable yet determined Deeley perfectly. His emotion comes through a lot throughout and his panic attacks at various, usually inopportune moments, give you a sense of what he’s going through.
Writer and director Sean Spencer (Romance (TV Short), Stripes (Short)) has created a fantastic feature debut. The dialogue is minimalist, short and sharp which reflects Deeley’s character. The directing is brilliant, framing the not-so-nice and not usually shot parts of London, Tottenham in this case, very well. Though most of the film takes place during the night the orange street lighting is used well and provides an eerie glow to proceedings.
Pippa Nixon (The Bill, John Carter) plays the escort who Deeley tracks down to help him on his quest. She’s initially very reluctant but eventually agrees to help. Jason Wong (Jarhead 2, 24: Live Another Day) plays the London Chinese ring leader who helps Deeley as it will help his war with the northern Chinese people traffickers.
All this is not to say the film doesn’t have a few slight snags. For me, Deeley seems to overcome his agoraphobia a little too quickly. From not being able to open his front door to suddenly roaming the streets of London late at night following people all seems to happen a little too quickly. Likewise his ability to break into places and face down some pretty formidable people seems a little too hard to swallow.
That can be forgiven though. Spencer has wrote and directed a fantastic feature debut and unearthed a real star in David Gyasi who we next get to see in Alex Garland’s (28 Days Later, Ex Machina) Annihilation alongside Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac and more.
If you get chance to see Panic I would take it with both hands. An accomplished feature debut and I can’t wait to see more from Spencer and Gyasi.