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average rating is 3 out of 5


William Hemingway


Posted on:

Nov 1, 2022

Film Reviews
Directed by:
Paul Franklin
Written by:
Steven Lally
Charlotte Riley, Ivanno Jeremiah, Denise Gough, Hammed Animashaun, Sophie Wu

The best film to have ever been set (mostly) in a situation room is of course Dr Strangelove (1964), whereas most other films and TV shows which employ this type of backdrop struggle to come up to par. There is an inherent difficulty in setting your story in such a tight, dark, tense space and most writers/directors know that finding a balance between the intense drama and a lighter, comic tone to release some of the pent up emotions is not an easy task. Similarly a balance must be struck between using the true to life, accurate language of these acronym infested rooms and dumbing it down enough for the audience to understand, or at least work out, what is going on. Then there's the problem of keeping your characters and internal conflict relevant and exciting when everyone knows that the real action is taking place thousands of miles away in a far more exotic location. In essence, it's exactly like watching a James Bond movie but entirely from the perspective of M.


Two recent films which tried to buck this trend, without fully managing it, were Good Kill (2014) and Eye In The Sky (2015) where they introduced us to the ins and outs of modern warfare through the engagement of drone combat. Both films suffered from the restrictions detailed above, but tried to redress this with deep, personal conflict and a window into the combat arena itself. Here, Fireworks is up for giving things another go and rehashes most of the plotline of Eye In The Sky to bring us a fifteen minute short based in one of the Ops rooms of MI6.


Gillian Lye (Riley) is in charge of a small team who are today conducting an operation on the ground (and in the air) somewhere in the Middle East. As is par for the course, Lye is a feisty, hard-nosed operator who likes to press her authority at every opportunity and is partial to more than the occasional swear word. She is assisted by Pep (Jeremiah) who serves as something of a moral compass and a couple of tech-nerds (Animashaun and Wu) who try to provide a lacklustre amount of comic relief. So far, so standard.


The mission of this special operation is to take out a known international bomber by any means necessary, regardless of who else might be on the scene during Go-time. Government stooge, Ellie Sherberg (Gough) pops in to make sure that everything is running smoothly and the desired outcome is achieved while also stomping her big bollocks around being an even feistier, hard-nosed version of Lye. With the team assembled, the intrigue and complex moral dilemmas can begin.


Where Fireworks really sparkles is in its production. Director Paul Franklin is otherwise better known as a double Oscar winner in visual effects for Christopher Nolan films and here he uses his knowledge to provide an impressive display of tech-based narrative. The Ops room feels real (to those of us who have no actual idea of what an Ops room looks like) and in the scenes when the walls fade away to leave us in a dusty street of a Middle Eastern city the effect is mesmerising.


The actors are all regulars of the British small screen and work magic around Steven Lally's script to at least not appear as caricatures but more like enhanced versions of real people. The script itself tries to imbue the characters with personalities and give them some semblance of the dark sarcasm that is probably needed to work in these particular types of pressure cookers, but in the end they do tend to remain as cookie cutter, small team tropes.


Everything looks, feels and sounds great in Fireworks but sadly the film is let down by on-the-nose writing that offers the audience no way to relate to those on screen, as well as by its basic premise and setting. There is no real tension or drama in the entire fifteen minutes because the audience feels so removed from the scenario and also because we've seen it all before in nearly every BBC and ITV drama we've been subjected to over the last decade or so. Fireworks shows us that even with excellent production value a film won't fly without a decent story or setting to bring the viewer in.

About the Film Critic
William Hemingway
William Hemingway
Short Film
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