GFF Review: Trespass Against Us and Empathetic Crime Drama

Police car behind police tape

Felicia Bengtsson

Trespass Against Us will be released on March 3rd

The feature film debut of director Adam Smith and writer Alastair Siddons, Trespass Against Us centers on a traveling community and tells a story about outlaws from the inside out.

The crime-drama features Michael Fassbender as Chad, father and rebel, living without respect for the law as he goes head to head with his father Colby (Brendan Gleeson). Chad ventures to break away from Colby’s controlling presence and the criminal behavior of his community to provide a better life for his wife and children. After a series of high-profile robberies, the men are put at odds not only with the police but also with each other – with the expectations of respect and the sacrifices that accompany fatherhood.

From the opening scene the film is fast paced, never slowing down for more than half a scene. From thrilling car chases to moments of honest familial affection, the frank script and Smith’s dynamic directing takes the audience from sitting uncomfortably at the edge of their seats to becoming entirely immersed in an utterly unfamiliar world.

The film is based on a true story about a family known to the police as The Johnson Gang. Smith, having interacted with the family for a documentary project twelve years prior, spoke after the screening at the Glasgow Film Festival of the man who served as inspiration for Chad’s character. Smith affirms that he was brilliant at what he did, despite it being illegal. There is a tragedy in an upbringing which presents thieving as the only attainable prospect, but it also a basis for personal identification. Fassbender portrays this tension with precision; Smith disclosed that he understood Chad on a “deeply and kind of profound level.”

The challenge of the film lies in the use of thick Gloucester accents and heavy traveler slang. The language stands as a barrier that accentuates the outsider status of the viewer. Smith nevertheless defends the use of dialects, arguing that while the language was often “too impenetrable for people, you don’t understand a lot of the words … it was important for us to take you into that world.” Unsurprisingly, Smith stands correct in his assertion – while challenging, the language aids the viewer in becoming increasingly engrossed in the community.

At the GFF screening, Smith mentioned that he likes “going to the cinema and being taken off into that world”, and this is precisely the experience he offers his audience in this audacious, tragic and beautiful film.


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