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Agoraphobia (ag-uh-ruh-FOE-be-uh): type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and often avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.
Wait….. what? No, that can’t be right. This is a newer film. Do I even review newer films? Well, damn, I guess I do now. Did I at least pick a good movie for my first review of a more recent film?
Citadel is the story of young husband and expectant father, Tommy. Tommy and his pregnant wife live in a run down apartment complex in Glasgow, Scotland. As the film opens, Tommy and his wife are leaving their apartment for the last time as the building has been condemned. Tommy takes the last of their belongings downstairs to a waiting taxi cab while his wife waits for his return at the door of their apartment. I’m not sure why she didn’t go downstairs with him as there was plenty of room in the elevator and there were no further possessions to take downstairs, but hey, it’s not my movie.
After putting the stuff in the taxi, Tommy returns to the building and heads back upstairs for his wife. He takes the elevator back up, but due to the shoddy state of the building, the elevator door sticks closed as he arrives at his floor. Tommy watches through the small glass window of the elevator doors as 3 kids in hoodies approach his wife, their backs turned to him. The kids attack his wife as the elevator starts to make its return trip to the ground floor. Tommy is forced to run up 11 flights of stairs in his attempt to rescue his wife (and presumably, his unborn child), her screams echoing through the stairwell. He finally reaches the hall of his floor to find his wife bloody and beaten, a syringe sticking out of her stomach. The kids flee as he arrives.
The next scene finds Tommy in the waiting room of a local hospital. His anxiety and despair resonate from the screen as he desperately awaits word of his wife’s condition. Tommy is handed his newborn daughter. Mom is not seen. We will soon find out that his wife has been left in a coma. No, I do not consider this a spoiler as it is revealed fairly early in the film.
At least a year passes. (I am judging this as a year as his daughter is now a crawling toddler.) Tommy and his daughter, Elsa, live in a new apartment building, this one looking more dilapidated than the last. The attack on his wife has left Tommy a broken man. He now suffers from a severe case of agoraphobia. The fear has manifested itself in Tommy’s appearance. He hair is shaggy and uncombed. Dark circles have taken residence under his eyes. He has become the walking definition of “victim”. The only times that he leaves his house (or so it seems) is to attend meetings to help deal with his issues or to visit his wife’s bedside.
After one exceptionally painful trip to visit his wife, Tommy returns home to find the door to his apartment locked shut. He has been evicted. He is forced to bust the door in, which causes the deadbolt lock to break. Stuck with a cheap chain lock as his only defense, panic begins to set in. Later that evening, he finds the door cracked open. The chain is still attached. He pushes it closed, but as he does so, someone in the background walks across the room.
Even later that same night, Tommy returns to the door to find it unlocked and open. He forces it closed again and return to his living room. There he finds a syringe lying on the floor. The power goes out (which happens quite a bit in this film), which only escalates Tommy’s fear. As his daughter begins to cry, he passes back by the entrance way of his house. The kids have returned and are standing just outside his front door and windows. The one at the door smashes his hand through the glass and unlocks the door. This is where we first find out that things are much more sinister than believed as the hand is revealed to be not…… well, “normal”. The “kid” busts through the door and rushes for the baby’s nursery. The “kid” trashes the nursery and then escapes through the window.
Tommy is soon befriended by a nurse that assisted his wife. She attempts to help him deal with his fears and also to help keep him from losing his daughter to child services. After the break in, Tommy rips off cupboard doors and other pieces of wood from around the house and nails them over the broken glass on the front door and the other windows in his house. He takes his daughter and barricades them in his bathroom. It is the nurse the finds him the next morning when she comes to visit.
She introduces him to a foul-mouth priest who knows the truth surrounding these little heathens. In the priest’s care is a blind boy who seems to have a connection to the “hoodies”. All is soon revealed to the audience after an incident on a city bus forces Tommy to confront not only the “kids”, but also his constant life of fear.
Citadel is the directorial debut of Irish filmmaker Ciaran Foy. Foy himself was the victim of an assault by a group of youths years prior and also was left dealing with his own agoraphobia. It would be safe to say that this movie is Foy’s own attempts to deal with the events that happened to him. In any case, Foy’s own intimacy with this affliction only serve to make the events more believable. Well, to a certain extent, at least.
The highest praise that I can give the film lies in the performance of actor Anuerin Barnard, who portrays “Tommy”. His portrayal of grief, despair, desperation, fright, and panic carry the movie through the first 2 acts and help save the film from completely derailing in it’s fairly clichéd final sequences.
As for the final sequence? I wouldn’t consider it enough to ruin the movie by any means, but it does come off as the director trying to “go big” and somewhat losing what made the movie effective in the first place. The film begins by capturing the “home invasion horror” of something like The Strangers, and manages to do so quite effectively, in this writer’s opinion. However, the final act starts to feel more like a zombie film with its characters finally taking more of a role in their own survival instead of just remaining “victims”.
I was also a little disappointed in the “reveal” of who/what these kids are and their motivations. While not necessarily a “lame” twist, I don’t feel that it actually enhanced the threat or intimidation presented by the “kids” earlier in the film.
I found Citadel to be a fairly enjoying and memorable film, but I guess I’m alone in that assessment as most of the other reviews that I have read have completely blasted the production.
WARNING: I have include the trailer as I usually do with these reviews. However, if you have any interest in watching this film, DO NOT watch the trailer. It gives away quite a few vital plot elements. I should also note that the menu screen on the disc also gives away quite a few “twists”.