‘Klokkenluider’ is the Flemish word for ‘whistle-blower’ and this film by actor-turned-director Neil Maskell is a darkly comic thriller celebrates those who fly under the radar.
It’s 2014 and British IT guy Ewan (Amit Shah) has seen something on a UK government-owned computer that wasn’t meant for his eyes. He and his idealistic Belgian spouse Silke (Sura Dohnke), decide to share that information with a broadsheet newspaper.
Not wanting to be arrested, or bumped off, the couple invent a cover story and rent a ridiculously big house, in the Belgian countryside. Protection arrives, in the form of two security guards, terse Chris (Tom Burke) and garrulous Glynn (Roger Evans).
Evans gives a staggeringly knotty performance for a character that looks as innocently unhinged as Jackie Coogan’s Uncle Fester, gulps wine at every opportunity and has a special cushion for when he gets too angry. Constantly needled by the patronising Chris, Glynn finally loses the plot during a game of charades, to gasp-inducing effect.
Maskell (based in Antwerp with Dohnke, his real-life wife) will be familiar to many for his acting work. For fans of Kill List, Happy New Year, Colin Burstead and recent Apple TV+ show Hijack opposite Idris Elba, the 47-year-old’s writing and directing debut is well worth checking out.
He finds ingenious angles on the material. Overhead shots, in particular, give us a sense of Ewan and Silke’s frailty. By the way, did Maskell cast his actor spouse in a plum role because she was a) absolutely the best person for the job b) forced him to c) came cheap? Who knows, but Dohnke is fiercely funny and moving, and at her most mesmerising during that nightmarish game of charades.
True, there are moments when you wonder if Maskell is trying to kill time. And Jenna Coleman, as a rogue reporter, can’t quite sell a shoutily cynical monologue. Yet if Klokkenluider isn’t as consistently blind-siding as Reality (Tina Satter’s fact-based portrait of a whistleblower), it’s still a knock-out. Basically, the twisty finale is awesome. I sobbed my way through the whole of the end credits.
Maskell says he owes a lot to pal and mentor Ben Wheatley, who’s listed as a co-producer. Obviously, Wheatley’s latest blockbuster (Meg 2) will make more money than Klokkenluider, but so what? The student has become the master and Maskell’s done himself proud.
Klokkenluider is in cinemas from 1st September