What if the Cold War never ended? Suppose a coalition was formed by the Soviet Union and China, leaving Britain to evolve into a ruthless fascist dictatorship in order to quell the threat of Communism. Such is the political backdrop to Bastion, helmed (and co-written) by the directorial duo of Louis Hannah and Dominic Hodge.
Increasingly paranoid office-worker David (Leo Taylor-Jannati) ditches city life for the idyllic village of Taverstone. As he becomes further estranged from his pregnant wife Abigail (Victoria Slinger), David falls under the wing of omnipotent Lord Taverstone (Keith Flood) who soon employs him as a spy to help keep his village under guard.
As David, Taylor-Jannati gives a disappointingly soulless performance, not helped by the fact that Hannah and Hodge kept their protagonist firmly unappealing throughout. Faring much better is Slinger as the hapless Abigail, comfortably delivering the film’s best performance by a fair stretch. The often lazy script provides little explanation to suggest the motivation behind the character of David; it just comes off as clichéd Big Brother paranoia and a superficial plot device to get the story to Taverstone. In fact, the setting of a totalitarian Britain is never convincing, and ends up bearing little weight on the story. Whether one buys it or not, the set-up isn’t going to be making it into any screenwriting manuals, that’s for sure
Things become more interesting when the couple do eventually arrive to Taverstone. The picturesque village contrasts with the odd hostility of the locals, lending proceedings an almost Hitchcockian touch, whilst Abigail’s bizarre dream sequences bring the film a dash of much-needed creativity. Another more classier performance is delivered by Flood as the quietly sinister village tyrant, whilst Levan Bailey and Liberty’s Shaw cinematography of the fictional Taverstone (in real-life, Lancashire’s Scorton village) is splendid. After the sloppy start, a sense of atmosphere and mystery does begin to creep into the film. Yet, it’s again let down by lazy plotting. Taverstone takes on David as his stooge from nowhere and, by the film's end, he has made the more than unlikely transition from village newcomer to a Michael Corleone figure.
Slow and often dull, Bastion is a missed opportunity, particularly given the beauty of its Lanchashire locations. Ultimately, Hannah and Hodge’s film would have worked better as a straightforward thriller; the filmmakers certainly show more potential for atmosphere and mystery than they do for dystopian politics.