Ewan (Sean Bean) is a British secret service agent who starts to realise that a dangerous terrorist plot in being planned. While being manipulated by his superiors, he’s essentially given carte blanche to do whatever it takes to get to the plotters, something he’s more than happy to do, as he wants revenge for the atrocity that took his wife. However he starts to realise he’s mixed up in an ever deepening conspiracy.
Ewan’s incredibly violent and single-minded journey is contrasted to young Muslim Ash, the man who’s going to commit the suicide bombing. In flashback we discover how he got radicalised, while in the present things get ever more vicious as he prepares himself for what he believes he must do.
There are about three films that make up Cleanskin – a ridiculously paranoid conspiracy thriller, a character-drama about the radicalisation of a young Muslim and an angry dissection of the modern world. Separately each of the film could have been okay, but slammed together they’re a bit of a confused hodgepodge. The impression given is that writer/director Hadi Hajaig is interested in what would make someone become a suicide bomber and the clashes that causes anger and a spiral of violence on both sides of the war on terror. However in trying to marry that to a more commercial thriller, it creates something that seems too serious for the silliness of its conspiracies (although if you think George Bush ordered the 9/11 attacks from the Oval Office you’ll probably like it) and too grimy to be truly enjoyable.
Cleanskin presents a pretty dismal world, where everyone is constantly angry, violent, miserable, tortured and two-faced. The only character who seems to be having a decent time is played by Eastenders’ Michelle Ryan, and she lasts all of about 45 seconds in the movie. There’s the potential for a poignant love story between Ash and his university girlfriend – the one thing that could potentially pull him back from the brink of what he’s about to do – but every time it comes close to something profound, it cuts to Sean Bean being gruff and splattering somebody’s brains all over the wall.
It’s a shame as bits of Cleanskin are very good, but the way its very different constituent parts are mixed together results in a bit of a mess.
Overall Verdict: Cleanskin is the sort of film that takes a very pessimistic view of the world and tries to actually be about something, but its OTT conspiracies and clunky dialogue results in something a tad silly and a bit unpleasant.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac