Michael Fassbender plays the defiant traveller in this spotty drama
The trio of Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson and Sean Harris (the villain in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, weirdo in many other films) is so vastly talented that the prospect of the three on screen together should have any film fan salivating. They prove a combustible combination in Trespass Against Us, even if a thin script doesn’t offer them much fuel.
At the heart of this spotty drama is Chad (Fassbender), the heir apparent of a small traveller community. Extremely skilled as a getaway driver and a thief, Chad wants out of his current existence and is making plans to take his small family to a quieter camp, where they can live a more innocent life. Standing in his way is his dad, Col (Brendan Gleeson). A wannabe Don Corleone in a second-hand shell suit, Col expects the world to bend to his will. His son should do anything asked of him and his word should be unquestioningly followed. He’s so pompous that he believes the Earth is flat because his father told him so, and any attempt to correct him is disrespect. He’s the most dangerous kind of authoritarian: a thick one.
These are good, solid characters. Archetypes, certainly – the prideful, fading father; the defiant but frightened son – but you can do surprising things with archetypes. Alastair Siddons’ screenplay, though, doesn’t. The paths these men take are well worn and as the film progresses it’s up to the viewer to plug the gaps in the characters based on what we know about their type. Col is feared by all, but the film only really shows him to be petty and vindictive. There seems a link missing between Chad’s love of crime and his insistence that he’s done with it, but we know how to join those up.
Harris is the hastiest sketch, as a simpleton coddled by Col. Watching Fassbender and Gleeson go at each other is as compulsive as you’d hope. These are two great actors who feed hungrily off each other. It’s a shame they’re not given material that draws out parts we don’t know. This talent combination ought to surprise instead of simply satisfy.