Dredd is a 2012 sci-fi action film directed by Pete Travis, written by Alex Garland and stars Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Wood Harris and Lena Headey. The film follows an operation conducted by Judges Dredd and Anderson as they attempt to nab a murder suspect.
My one-line plot synopsis does not do this film justice and because I’m damn near petrified by the thought of a judge dispensing justice on me, I’d describe the overall feel of this film as The Raid: Redemption with Judge Dredd and Cersei Lannister. The bare-bones story with no fluff added whatsoever makes this film ideal for an action extravaganza. This film needs no big theme to be addressed or has a want to be smarter than it already is. This script and film at large show most action filmmakers on how to make their product lean and mean.
Starting from the first scene which is peppered with narration, the film is always focused. It goes about its duty like this. Establish the world. Check. Establish the main character and his unshakable faith in the justice system. Check. Show the main character’s badassery. Check. Establish the supporting character. Check. Establish the bad guy sans overly expository/sinister dialogue. Check. Establish the claustrophobic environment at which the film is going to take place. Check. All this happens within the first 15 minutes and then the film has nothing but pure action to offer the audience. No need for unnecessary exposition, no need to say these two Judges will change the world because of their actions, none of that hokey noise. The fact that stakes are so low, makes the film excessively compelling.
Alex Garland is a master screenwriter when it comes to condensing a global phenomenon to the truly local. Take his previous work 28 Days Later as an example. He manages to condense a rage virus epidemic ravaging England to a character story of how humanity would react while faced with insurmountable odds and unavoidable annihilation. Dredd works because it uses a similar mechanism. When the film offers up its dystopian setting, it is a known fact that the world in itself is beyond saving. The only route to take is character-oriented storytelling. This film takes that 4 lane highway of a route, picks the fast lane as it condenses it’s setting, even more, rams it’s foot on the gas pedal and never lets the audience go. Intelligent writing like that is incredibly desirable.
My next big shout out goes to the visual effects, production design, makeup and directing departments. My god, this film looks gorgeous (I mean for a post-apocalyptic film). The set design is perfect, the makeup explains so much of the story, the action sequences are eloquently composed but do not move into the area of overkill (except for one dumb moment) and the film lets it’s characters use their brains rather than making it a show of force. A smart choice there, as it lets the audience know and understand the characters to a higher degree and not see them as meatheads with guns. The visual effects and styling are arresting. The use of the slow motion (especially for death scenes) would make the Max Payne series of games blush.
I would refrain from saying this film is as compelling, visceral and balls to the wall ridiculously fun as The Raid but this film stands on its own as a testament to good filmmaking. I am slightly disappointed that such a brilliantly executed film experienced a disappointing run at the box-office but knowing that the film is experiencing a resurgence on home video and is on course to become a cult classic warms my heart.
KARL URBAN KILLS AS JUDGE DREDD! He wears that scowl so perfectly. I thought Y’all should know that.