Citadel may look like another run-of-the-mill hoodie horror, but Ciáran Foy’s moody debut has more on its mind than leering curtain-twitching or lingering scenes of bloodshed and screaming.
Aneurin Barnard plays Tommy, a young man who witnesses his pregnant wife being brutally attacked by a young gang of hoodies outside their front door in a council tower block. With his wife’s life support due to be switched off, the now severely agoraphobic Tommy is left alone to look after their baby, and he still sees the hooded children everywhere.
Kindly nurse Marie (Wunmi Mosaku) tells him that it’s all in his head, but an irascible priest (James Cosmo) is convinced that the gang is after Tommy’s child and they won’t stop until they have her.
Foy wrote the script for Citadel following his own experiences overcoming agoraphobia, and it is Tommy’s struggle to get out of his own front door that provide the film with some of its most compelling moments.
It quickly becomes clear that Foy is more interested in his main character than delivering the kind of relentlessly grim, stab-happy gorefest we’ve come to dread from films with kids in hoodies on the poster, and that’s a very good thing indeed. Brief news footage shows rioting, Tommy tells Marie that “the police won’t come here,” and the bus driver is protected by a metal grille, but there isn’t that sense of lip-smacking pleasure with which similar films depict their broken Britains. It’s grim, but it’s not luxuriating in its grimness.
Barnard (The Facility, Elfie Hopkins) delivers a strong performance as Tommy. His sympathetic presence at the centre of the film ensures that there’s an emotional connection, which is important given that a good deal of the running time is focused on him flinching.
Mosaku gives the film a warmth that is definitely lacking elsewhere but it’s veteran actor James Comso (Game Of Thrones‘ Jeor Mormont) who proves to be the film’s strongest cast member, however, sinking his teeth into the role of the foul-mouthed, violent priest who is determined to make Tommy realise that he needs to take action.
However, the script encounters problems once the Priest reveals his grand plan to take on the hoodies. Despite Cosmo’s best efforts, the exposition is a little clunky, and the second half loses some of the emotional impact as they determine to take on the Citadel. Although it loses its way towards the end, this is visually impressive, well-acted, and it’s certainly a promising debut for Foy.