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Dirty Pretty Things is quite a change of pace from the usual thriller pictures. With an excellent cast, an unusual storyline and a strong director, does the film mesh together as well as one would hope?  And is the DVD worth the price of admission? Read on to find out.

Dirty Pretty Things

Movie
Dirty Pretty Things takes a look at the seedy London underground through the eyes of two immigrants. Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Love Actually) is a Nigerian doctor, now living in London illegally. He is a drifter, working multiple jobs to earn enough money to escape his situation and is living on the couch of another immigrant. Senay (Audrey Tautou, Amelie) is from Turkey and has a visa allowing her to live, but not work, in London. However, as these things go, she must work in order to sustain life. Senay is employed as a housekeeper at the same sleazy hotel where Okwe works the front desk.

During a routine evening at the hotel, everything changes in Okwe’s life as he makes a discovery in a toilet in room 510. He brings the discovery before the hotel manager, Juan (Serig Lopez, Lisbon), who offers to let Okwe speak to the police. Of course, Okwe cannot risk getting involved with the authorities (and neither can Juan). Thus begins Okwe’s personal quest to discover the truths about the hotel and what happened in room 510. His investigation leads him to discover much darker truths about the London underworld, the immigrants doomed to roam it and the lengths some will go to start a new life.

Masterfully directed by Stephen Frears (High Fidelity), Dirty Pretty Things is a sly political statement not worn on the sleeve but rather hidden away in a deep pocket, lingering somewhere in the shadows of the film. At times a sly thriller, character drama and romance, the film simply exists. Never once are cheap tricks or inane plot twists used to enhance the story and, frankly, none are needed. The story moves at its own natural pace and while that may put some off, I found it quite refreshing. Nothing seems forced and it allows time for the viewer to experience the characters for whom they are and, in the process, become to know them intimately. Some of the subject matter is slightly gruesome, but it is necessary in the story and is never gratuitous.

The cast assembled here is excellent. Tautou shines as the amusingly timid (yet at times feisty and biting) Senay. Though some have said her accent here is more Eastern European sounding (rather than her character’s Turkish), I could not tell. Her performance is deep and nuanced, perfectly handling a script that demanded the widest range of emotions and a difficult character arc. Ejiofor is excellent as well and plays wonderfully along side Tautou. His performance is also deliciously rich, portraying a man who is questioning a mystery with genuine curiosity and innocence. Ejiofor carries the film with his ability to show that there is much more to his character than the audience expects.

There are some excellent standout performances from side characters as well. Lopez as Juan (aka “Sneaky”) is both comical and sinister. Sophie Okonedo, playing the prostitute Juliette, provides another bit of well-placed comic relief as does Zlatko Buric as Ivan the doorman. Only in such a well-written script (penned by “Who Wants to be a Millionare?” creator Stephen Knight) are supporting characters so rich.

Dirty Pretty Things is excellent in the way that it is able to make the viewer believe that everything going on is pure fact. The characters are so rich and the situations (although at first seemingly implausible) are strikingly believable by the end. It would be extremely hard not to feel for these characters and one is almost ashamed for having never considered these sorts of atrocities occurring to such normal people. Several moral and political questions are raised and the true genius of the film is not that it answers them, but takes its time to ask them carefully. Stephen Frears has crafted a wonderful thriller that contains some great scenes of beauty and some disturbingly realistic scenes of desperation. The title has multiple meanings and is one of the best chosen I’ve seen in some time. The film is equally dirty and pretty, but always engaging.

Dirty Pretty Things

Video
Dirty Pretty Things’ 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is quite good. Colors are slightly subdued but, overall, very detailed. Flesh tones especially come across very well. There is a minimal amount of grain during a few of the darker scenes, but nothing to worry over. Contrast is handled very well. There are a few noticeable nicks on the print used for the transfer but are extremely few and far between. The DVD transfer itself is free from any signs of compression artifacts and there are no discernable signs of edge enhancement to be found.


Audio
The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack provided on the DVD is far from spectacular. This, however, is through no fault of the disc. The soundtrack to the film is almost totally dialogue. All dialogue, though, is crisp and clean and at the necessary levels. The few instances the rear channels are used are to highlight the entire unobtrusive score and for some light ambiance effects. While the track will never be considered a good test for a new sound system, it perfectly handles the film. A French language track is also offered in Dolby Digital 5.1.

Dirty Pretty Things

Extras
The rather thin set of supplemental material begins with a commentary with director Stephen Frears. Although there are a few quiet spots, Frears manages to keep the commentary very interesting. He sounds like a man you could talk with all night in a bar and be constantly entertained. His chatty commentary goes into detail about the locations used and stories about the actors and multiples stories about the shoot itself. Frears is a very open and honest director who is not afraid to point out the few parts of the film that do not work as well as the rest. Although not ranking amongst the best I’ve heard, this commentary does serve well to fill in the gaps left by the lack of any other quality extras on the disc.

There is a behind the scenes featurette complete with interview bites from the director, writer, producer and stars.  Unfortunately, this piece never lifts far above the typical marketing piece. There is much talk about the plot of the film and the stars of the film, but so very little about the actual making of the film. Much information that could have been potentially covered here is, indeed, covered by Frears in the commentary. Though, it would have been nice to see more of the filming taking place.

Finally, there is a collection of “Sneak Peaks”, trailers, for Amelie, American Gun, Veronica Guerin and The Magdalene Sisters.

Dirty Pretty Things

Overall
Dirty Pretty Things is a strong film. It is slow and precise but never boring. In the end, it ends up being considerably powerful for the engaged viewer. Miramax brings home the film with an excellent video transfer but a distinct lack of extras. Still, the commentary is a good source of information about the film and should be required for fans of the film. Do yourself a favor and check out Dirty Pretty Things for its brilliant performances and intriguing plot. You won’t be disappointed.


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