To create something near-original as a modern film maker is a tough challenge. Thousands of films are being made each year and although most of them are fine recycling older ideas, there's always a small group of films trying to deliver something the audience hasn't really seen before. Dominic Bridges's Two Pigeons (formerly known as Freehold) is a little like that, though it's the combination of subject matter and execution that sets this one apart. The result is fiendishly amusing though.
Two Pigeons is a film that leans heavily on its core concept, which explains its rather short running time. It's really just a single idea expanded into a feature film, but the execution is spot on, mixing eeriness and suspense with a big fat smudge of dark comedy. Some might say it would've worked better as a short, but the build-up is pretty on point and it would mean ditching some of the more elaborate pranks. As a result though, the film is somewhat of a one-trick pony, but when a trick is executed this well that's hardly a point of critique.
The film is essentially a home invasion movie, but with a sneakier intruder. The concept is reminiscent of several other films, but none of them were executed quite like this one. There are traces of Bin-jip, Amelie, Dream Home, 2LDK and Jaume Balagueró's Sleep Tight, yet Bridges manages to twist the plot in such a way that the film never truly references any other films directly. It sorta kinda feels familiar, but it also feels like watching something entirely new.
The story revolves around Hussein, a real estate agent living a rather cozy life in a 2-bedroom apartment in London. He goes through his daily routines, but isn't quite aware of a second person living in with him. The man only comes out when Hussein is away for work or when he's sleeping. At first the second man seems only there out of necessity, but as time passes he starts to undermine Hussein's physical and mental health. The pestering gets progressively worse with each passing day and before long Hussein's life is slowly falling to pieces.
Two Pigeons is a single-location film (quite literally, the camera never leaves the appartment, apart from the very last scene), but Bridges did his best to keep things visually interesting. The appartment is clearly a set (as some of the open wall/ceiling shots reveal), but it helped Bridges to be a bit more creative with his camera. The editing is tight and the use of color and lighting is pretty cool. It makes for a modern-looking film that may not make a big visual statement, but is easy on the eyes nonetheless.
The soundtrack is a collection of hip-hop and electronic-inspired instrumental tracks combined with more moody electronic for the creepier bits. It's nothing too out of the ordinary, but again it gives the film a fresh and easy-going flair that adds to the overall atmosphere. Bridges also keeps faithful to the typical British sounds, which, together with the thick London accents, give the film some spatial context. That's not too bad for a film that never ventures outside its four walls.
The cast is small, but picked with considerable care. Taking on the role of Hussein is Mim Shaikh, who turns his character into a goofy, somewhat miserable guy, yet manages to draw just enough sympathy from the audience. Not too much though, so his cruel punishment can still be shamelessly enjoyed. But the real star of the film is Javier Botet, one of the modern horror scene's most notable actors, yet virtually unknown to the public. It's nice to see him out of disguise for a change and he clearly grabbed this chance to prove he can do more than just look freaky on camera. The secondary cast is decent enough, but their parts are relatively negligible.
The first hour of the film focuses on an increasingly nasty payback, though the audience remains mostly clueless as to why these things are happening. There are some short narrations (featuring the titular pigeons) that include small reveals, but apart from that there's very little to go on. Somewhat surprisingly, Bridges sprinkles his finale with heartfelt emotion, which makes the ending that much more interesting. Based on his personal experiences, the ending leaves a bitter aftertaste without ruining the shameless pleasure of the payback. A tricky feat that he pulls off with style.
Two Pigeons is a small delight. It's not a big, swooping movie, but it offers plenty of nasty smiles, some genuine wonder and a very balanced ending. The film looks and sounds modern, features a strong cast and doesn't outstay its welcome. It's just one of those little gems that pop up out of nowhere and might fly under the radar should you blink twice. So if you get the chance to watch this one, make sure you do. It's a pretty safe bet that might leave you with a personal favorite.