Movie review of “London Road”: An actual serial-murder case is turned into a musical in this brilliantly conceived and executed picture. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
With a serial killer on the prowl, what’s a community to do? In “London Road,” the answer is stew, speculate and, oh, one more thing: sing.
The picture tells a true story, a chronicle of a 2006 crime in Ipswich, England, in which five prostitutes were murdered before the killer was captured. The words spoken are all taken verbatim from interviews of neighbors and the coverage of news crews. Putting some of those words to music was the work of writers Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork, who turned them into a stage musical that opened in London in 2011. Blythe and Cork then adapted that musical for the screen with Rufus Norris directing.
Movie Review ★★★½
‘London Road,’ with Olivia Colman, Tom Hardy, Nick Holder, Kate Fleetwood. Directed by Rufus Norris, from a screenplay by Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork. 92 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (subject matter of serial murder). Sundance Cinemas (21+).
Shot in living rooms and streets, “London Road” captures the sense of paranoia, confusion and, yes, excitement that courses through the neighborhood as the killer is sought, then caught, then tried and finally convicted. He’s never shown. Nor are his crimes. Instead, we see townspeople gazing with suspicion at one another — “Is it him? Is it him?” they sing. Two teenage girls sing giddily, “It could be anyone,” thrilled by their sense of fear.
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Couples sit in their living rooms watching on the telly reports by news crews visible in the street outside their windows in a kind of closed feedback loop. The pack mentality of the media is captured as well, with the feeding frenzy reaching its peak as the verdicts are announced.
The choreography infuses the musical numbers with great urgency. The palette of the cinematography, gray at the start — skies, streets, interiors — signaling despair and unease, shifts to colors as the fear abates and normalcy is restored.
All in all, a brilliant piece of work.