This review, written by me, was first published in Newcastle University’s newspaper, The Courier, and has been slightly altered for the purpose of this blog post.
Based on Laura Wade’s play Posh, The Riot Club is about ten students at the University of Oxford who have been carefully selected to join an age old, prestigious and slightly infamous club, which is speculated to be based on Oxford University’s real Bullingdon Club.
Alistair Ryle (Sam Claflin) and Miles Richards (Max Irons) are two freshers at the university who have been chosen to become The Riot Club’s newest members. From the moment Alistair and Miles meet they become unspoken rivals. Throughout the film each character shows their good and bad sides as they get more involved with the club, making it difficult for the audience to choose who they empathize with and who they want to do better than the other.
Overall, I thought the film was really impressive: the convincing acting of all cast members creates a foreboding atmosphere that lures the watcher right in. I had one main issue with the film: instead of showing several big events that then lead to the ‘big scene’ where things traditionally go wrong – after which traditionally the problem is resolved and the characters learn and become better people – there are only a few events leading up to the ‘big scene’, which is then stretched out and used to its full extent. As a whole, the film is quite static: there are not very many different settings. However, after discovering that the film was based on a play, this structure makes a lot more sense to me, allowing me to appreciate it more. Wade, who also wrote the screenplay for the film, appears to have decided to maintain the story’s original theatrical structure and use of sets. It is a somewhat unusual way of giving form to a medium like film and one that certainly wouldn’t work for every film but I feel like for The Riot Club, it does work.
I must add: if you are someone who does not like the flat-out portrayal of violence, you might want to skip this film as it does not shy away from the monstrosity of a drunken fight.
This film is great if you enjoy watching films that are intriguing, shocking, yet realistic and that makes you question how far someone would go to belong.