After serving in Afghanistan, battle-scarred, demobbed paratrooper Miller (Toby Kebbell) returns home to the bleak, crappy housing estate and the violent gang culture he joined the army to escape. Alienated and alone, haunted by his combat experience and suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, Miller’s return to the hood brings him into conflict with local gangsta Tyrone (Ashley Bashy Thomas) who’s looking for someone with just Miller’s skillset. Unable to find a job, he drifts into the employ of a shadowy government agency, run by sinister spooks Tony Curran and Brian Cox, who want him to keep tabs on a home-grown terrorist cell. Increasingly drawn to beautiful informant Alanya (Adi Bielski) who may have gone native in the terror cell she’s infiltrated, he is sucked deep into the heart of an international conspiracy. Isolated and unsure who to trust, Miller falls back on his military training and is forced to take violent action to clean up the streets.
Camouflaging itself in the cloak of Social Realism and paying lip service to the problems faced by combat veterans re-entering civilian life and re-integrating into a society that neither understands nor values their experiences, The Veteran, at its heart, is just a damn good vigilante thriller with a bonkers, breathless climactic running gun battle that sees our hero take to the streets with an assault rifle to wage war on the local drug gang.
So good as the mentally fragile brother in Dead Man’s Shoes, Toby Kebbell here steps into Paddy Considine role of distressed war veteran, delivering an intense, complex performance as Miller, a brooding human time-bomb just looking for a direction to explode in. Displaying a raw physicality during the film’s bruising fight scenes, his cool air of detachment during the film’s violent climax as he strolls through the streets of the estate, almost casually gunning down the bad guys, is truly chilling, cementing Kebbell’s status as both an action man and an actor to watch. He’s ably supported by Tony Curran’s amoral secret agent and Brian Cox whose self-justifying speech about governments maintaining control by fear-mongering and sleight-of-hand has never seemed so topical.
Unusually for a British film. The Veteran‘s biggest flaw isn’t lack of ambition but too much, trying to juggle too many plots. There’s the combat vet unable to cope on civvy street strand, there’s the urban thriller storyline as our hero is forced to take the law into his hands and clean up the streets and there’s the shadowy, Spooks-style conspiracy thriller. Ultimately, The Veteran can’t do justice to them all and, like the UK itself, finds its strength divided as it fights on too many fronts.
Tense, brutal and efficient, The Veteran is an entertaining urban thriller with a star-making performance from Toby Kebbell.
Toby Kebbell, Brian Cox, Tony Curran, Adi Bielski, Ashley Bashy Thomas, Tom Brooke,
Matthew Hope and Robert Henry Craft