Let it never be said that Ben Wheatley is a one trick pony. His last film, Sightseers, was a mash up of Bonnie and Clyde and Carry On Camping. The film before that, Kill List, was a brooding portrait of violence. A Field in England, written by Amy Jump, one of the co-writers of Sightseers, is by all accounts a thriller. Albeit one set in the 17th century, with a pinch of comedy, a swig of the paranormal and a couple of footnotes from the psychedelic Monkees vanity piece, Head.
Reece Shearsmith is Whitehead, an alchemist on a mission,primarily fleeing from his master during the course of a battle in the Civil War. After meeting two other defectors, the mean-spirited Jacob (Peter Ferdinando) and somewhat dim Friend (Richard Glover), Whitehead tracks down another Alchemist, O’Neill (Michael Smiley), who has stolen some valuable papers.
Filmed in less than a fortnight, A Field In England is sumptuous to look at. Rich blacks and over-lit whites, its imagery will bury deep into your mind like a tick. It harks back to an era of films we haven’t seen for while. Namely, Witchfinder General and Blood on Satan’s Claw. There is very little violence and gore, but it still has the power to unnerve. A main character simply emerging from a tent elicits more chills than you would expect it to.
Smiley truly stands out here as the villainous O’Neill. He shouts and barks with the air of a gentleman and we’d like to think that somehow he’s a descendant of Smiley’s somewhat calmer, but nonetheless vicious Gal in Kill List. As his foil, Shearsmith is superb playing someone who seems more outlandish than anything he’s created in Psychoville or The League of Gentlemen.
Like Only God Forgives and Spring Breakers, this film will not appeal to everyone. And exactly like those films, there is no middle ground. You will either hate it or love it. We got fully on board A Field in England and were itching to see it again once the credits started to roll.