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Tribe, The (1998)
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by Chris Parry

"Puzzling for the most part, but there's something here worth watching."
4 stars

Odd flick, this one. Jeremy Northam is a real estate executive who has a special mission. He has to have a certain property vacated so that his boss can knock it down and build a humungous housing estate. The only problem is that the property is occupied by more than one person. In fact, it’s occupied by a kind of cult. A cult of personality, to be precise.

While most cults follow a religious figure or ideal, the cult in question here is more just a group of folks who’ve decided to look after each other, drop out of society and all the while follow the words, actions and leadership of the attractive Joely Richardson. Hey, I’m not holding that against them, I’d probably give all my worldly possessions to Joely Richardson too if I was half a chance.

So Northam’s doing his job and harassing the folks in black, but there’s something a little strange about Ms Cult Leader. She’s not crazy. She’s not a fanatic. She just likes to wear Matrix costumes and has minions that follow her around. I mean, really, who amongst us wouldn’t love to have minions, eh? Especially minions as attractive as Anna Friel and Laura Fraser.

Laura Fraser is one of those faces that is always ‘this close’ the popping out as a superstar, dealing out great performances in small roles and always causing the audience to be momentarily distracted. She’s a typical British beauty, pale in complexion, dark in hair, curves where curves ought to be. But there’s more to Laura Fraser. There’s something going on behind those breathtaking eyes. Sure, she’s gorgeous, but she’s also capable of blowing you away with her talent. Her turn in Titus, opposite Anthony Hopkins, wasn’t so much notable because she kept up with Hopkins’ awesome on-screen presence, it was because she kept up with him despite the fact that for half the film she had no lines – she was mute. Small Faces, the Man in the Iron Mask, Vanilla Sky, Virtual Sexuality, Divorcing Jack, A Knight’s Tale… she’s never put a damn foot wrong, no matter how bad the film. There’s a small list of unknown actors and actresses I’ll always stop and watch because I know that one day they’ll be humungous – Kevin Corrigan, Sam Rockwell, Mischa Barton, Ludivine Sagnier – and Laura Fraser has been the UK contingent on that list for five years now.

She’s reason enough to watch The Tribe, but there are plenty of other reasons as well. Stephen Poliakoff knows how to frame an image and turn that image into something haunting, as much of this film leaves the viewer lulled into a state of almost catatonia. You will not be on the edge of your seat watching The Tribe, but you will be engaged. The messages, the questions, the point that we cling to general society as a means of ensuring safety and at the same time attack any smaller societies that question whether we’re right, these are explorations that are well worth taking.

Not your average drama, and the BBC clearly didn’t think so either, dumping the flick to TV after sitting on it for two years, but there are plenty of people who swear this is some of the best TV they’ve seen. I wouldn’t go that far, but I’d rip out a fingernail to have a coffee with Laura Fraser, so perhaps I’m not the best judge either way.

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originally posted: 01/16/03 12:50:27
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User Comments

8/17/03 x wish i could find a cult like this 5 stars
8/17/03 xyong i LOVE it (and not past tensed...) 5 stars
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  02-Feb-1999 (M)

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