Film review: Byzantium (6 out of 10)

Saoirse Ronan in Byzantium
Saoirse Ronan in Byzantium

It seems we have had more than our fair share of vampire movies and tv series in recent years.

The fanged ones have found love, battled the devil and generally dominated big and small screens.

So how do you serve up yet another vampire tale that actually says something different?

Well, you try to make your main blood-thirsty lead characters as appealing as possible with their own sad stories so we feel sorry for them.

OK, so that’s actually not a new angle but Byzantium gets close to a half decent story... but not close enough.

For the most part the acting is very good and Neil Jordan’s direction is slick and visually stunning on occasions.

However, some of the dialogue made me cringe and the plot is one of those that just falls short of expectation.

I just got the feeling that this would have made a very good TV series with a chance to develop the story far more and flesh out some of the smaller roles.

On the plus side Saoirse Ronan continues to show amazing potential. She is the best thing in this movie (as she was in the recent The Host), while Caleb Landry Jones (Banshee in X-Men: First Class) is also impressive.

Ronan is Eleanor who, with her mother Clara (a rather miscast Gemma Arterton) have spent a couple of centuries moving from town to town in the UK, trying to find somewhere to settle, while feeding on the occasional person.

However, writer Moira Buffini has cherry-picked the vampire attributes. They prefer the dark but don’t burn up in the light and have a totally different way of getting to a person’s blood.

Eleanor and Clara move into a rundown hotal (Byzantium) with hapless normal human Noel (a waste of Daniel Mays excellent talent) but their past is set to catch up with them.

The flashbacks are done well with Jonny Lee Miller pretty good as the thoroughly unpleasant soldier Ruthven.

Unfortunately, the plot conks out somewhat in the final act and left me wondering how a couple of 200-year-old women appear not to have learned very much in all that time.

Film details: Byzantium (15) 118mins

Director: Neil Jordan

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton, Jonny Lee Miller, Caleb Landry Jones

Screening courtesy of Cineworld Crawley

Steve Payne