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The film is colored with dull, drained tones, harkening for a sense of antiquity. Certain shots do achieve a kind of chilling nostalgia, like looking into the past. The compositions themselves have a splendid sense of depth and photographic expertise. Note the special attention given to Dover’s powdery cliffs.

The score is often overbearing: low and foreboding or charging with big-band brass and percussion. The film is more effective when striving for a more subtle poise: a splotch of dirt on a cream-colored carpet, the penetration of blaring light through a window, Pinkie pulling the legs off a spider to the cadence of “She loves me, she loves me not.” Yet for all its enigmatic plotting and glowering atmosphere, the pace is rather lethargic and interest wanes. Helen Mirren and John Hurt, despite their talent, seem in awkward orbit around the main plot.

Brighton Rock opens September 16 at Landmark Hillcrest.

Reviewed in the movie capsules: Shaolin and Shark Night.

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