Every film festival brings with it that film that flies under the radar, the kind of project that no one really takes time to see for one reason or another. At London Film Festival, that film is director Roland Joffe's politically-charged The Forgiven.

The year is 1993. The Apartheid has ended and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Forest Whitaker) is chairing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission – an organisation that offered amnesty to those that confessed to their racial crimes. But with racism still not fully trampled, and many furling their brows at this movement, Tutu organises to meet Piet Blomfeld (Eric Bana) – a convicted racial murderer – who seeks redemption for his harrowing crimes. However, after their meet goes horribly awry, what develops is an intense game of cat-and-mouse between the pair as Tutu remains unbroken, and Blomfeld a man hell-bent on breaking him. The Forgiven is a fascinating, politically-charged drama and one that, whilst flawed, certainly never fails to impress. The film is at its best when it focuses on the truly brilliant dynamic between Tutu and Blomfeld and their captivating game of shadows. The back-and-forth between both characters, such polar opposites, makes for such gripping and powerful viewing; there is so much hate and resentment fuelling their interactions and we find ourselves so invested in their storyline. However, sadly, The Forgiven is just so choppy and uneven and the Blomfeld/Tutu scenes are very few and far between. This is, at times, part-prison thriller; part-political drama; part-mystery and it can feel a little too all over the place for its own good.
The writing itself, from Michael Ashton, is sharp; the dialogue is rich and juicy. However, the story tries to be so much more than it is and tries to juggle so much, that it feels overstuffed and lacks focus. This is evident in just how convoluted the proceedings become but also in the pacing which, at times, can become very sluggish. However, The Forgiven is competent and intriguing enough, nonetheless. And it’s anchored by two masterclass performances, from Forest Whitaker and Eric Bana. Both stars bring such emotional gravitas to their roles, the former captures Tutu’s heart and sincerity superbly but also his vulnerability and how worn-down he is – this is a man dealing with so much, and it shows! Meanwhile, Bana is terrifying as Blomfeld; his performance is blistering and explosive and he steals every single scene he is in – so much so that we want more; it’s the prison stuff that is easily the film’s strongest aspect. It’s absolutely staggering work that makes for one of the strongest, most memorable performances of the year. Of course, the dynamic between the pair is fiery and nail-biting and both actors work so magnificently opposite one another. The Forgiven has a poignant message and decent story to tell, but it’s the two astonishing performances that make this film one to watch.

The Forgiven is a great slice of political serving, but it's anchored by two astonishing performances that make it one to watch.

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Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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