A welcome change from the current spate of futuristic fantasies, this contemporary thriller packs a solid punch. The pairing of the volatile Jason Statham and debutant director Steven Knight, whose earlier scripts were filmed by Stephen Frears (Dirty Pretty Things, 2002) and David Cronenberg (Eastern Promises, 2007), yields one of the few recent examples of the genre which keeps us on the edge of our seats.
A character-driven drama, Hummingbird draws us into the life of its battered-down protagonist. After a prologue set in strife-torn Afghanistan, the rest of the relatively straightforward story unfolds in London. The UK capital has rarely been filmed as enticingly as it is here by the celebrated cinematographer Chris Menges.
A former soldier-turned-homeless alcoholic (Statham), subsisting on the mean streets is intent on turning his life around. In his desperation to evade some hoodlums, he barges into a luxury apartment which is conveniently unoccupied. Overlapping narrative strands involving a kind-hearted Polish nun (Buzek), Chinese mobsters and a fellow drifter lured into prostitution are seamlessly interwoven.
Realising that he can’t wish away his guilt-ridden past, the ex-serviceman strives to steer away from a path of self-destructive violence. The denouement is as disquieting as it is forceful. There are scenes of considerable tenderness between our avenging anti-hero and the brave nun.
Their burgeoning relationship might possibly ruffle a few feathers. A last act revelation of the nun’s own dark past hurtles her redemption-seeking friend into an emotional maelstrom.
In addition to the sensitive script and direction, the cast elevates the film above the usual popcorn franchises. Underrated action star Jason Statham delivers a performance of aching authenticity. But the real revelation is the radiant Agata Buzek. Recalling the young Edith Scob, Ms. Buzek effortlessly creates a soulful character that lingers in the memory long after the end credits. Hummingbird is the surprise winner of the week.