Sunday, May 15, 2005

Review: "Dirty Pretty Things"

This movie, which came out two years ago, is worth seeing for at least two reasons: It proves that Audrey Tautou, of Amelie fame, is deserving of a place among accomplished actors who can succeed in more than one language and more than one type of character. And it's a thriller that doesn't rely on sensory overload and a depiction of a city's underworld that doesn't rub your face in the grit.

Don't get me wrong, it does qualify as a thriller with social commentary thrown in for good measure, but it doesn't feel excessive. If it weren't being marketed as a thriller, you might be inclined to focus more on its dramatic aspects.

It follows the lives of illegal immigrants working in a London hotel: a young Turkish woman (Tautou's character, speaking for the first time on film in English) and a Nigerian with a striking amount of medical knowledge and a mysterious past (played by Chjwetel Ejiofor, who was born in England to Nigerian parents). The title comes from something a character says about the hotel putting a pretty face each morning on dirty things that happen there each night. The plot is reminiscent of Maria Full of Grace in the way it explores how outcasts or asylum seekers are forced to use their bodies (and not just in the age-old ways) to "buy" their freedom or the tools to such an end.

Even if you don't like thrillers, Dirty Pretty Things is an excellent, nuanced film to see.

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