Control Takes Time To Sink In
by Reinier Macatangay


Going into a movie without having any knowledge of the story isn’t always fun. But Control is a quietly enjoyable film, even if you aren’t a fan of the band Joy Division. It was difficult for me to like this movie at first, as I am not really a fan of this genre of music, but I was still able to appreciate the dark serenity that emanates from this movie.

The movie follows the true life story of Ian Curtis (Sam Riley), lead singer of the monumental band Joy Division. This dramatization of a true story takes place in Macclesfield, England circa 1973.

Somewhere along the way, Ian meets some musicians at a concert who were unhappy with their vocalist’s performance. Ian takes his place in the band and they begin performing under the name Joy Division. While Joy Division is beginning to make a name for themselves, Debbie, Ian’s wife, becomes pregnant and Ian discovers that he has epilepsy. At the time, Ian is working a second job as a civil servant, but is forced to quit on doctor’s orders. Although he continues to play in the band, he frequently has seizures while playing. Ian’s epilepsy is compounded by lack of sleep and alcohol. Later on, he meets a woman named Annik while out on tour and has an affair with her. This leads to problems with his wife, but Ian is constantly undecided about what to do and doesn’t know which woman to commit to.

Control is predictable, even if you have no knowledge of his story beforehand. Ian has no “control” over his problems. They lead his life to an ending that the whole movie sets up for. But if you can accept that fact that you know what is going to happen, then the complex circumstances that lead to that point can be appreciated. The ending was very isolating, yet beautiful at the same time.

What I especially enjoyed was the quiet nature of most of the film. It was shot in black and white, giving it a really dark, moody feel that fits the storyline. The atmosphere of this movie almost feels like a dream. The black and white is also nice because it matches the changing moods of Joy Division’s music.

Sam Riley is perfect as Ian Curtis. His tortured black and white soul is what will draw most people to this movie. The scenes of his epileptic seizures are moving, to say the least. The scene where Ian has an attack onstage is sad and surreal at the same time, as the crowd keeps up their wild behavior while he is carried offstage. Another memorable scene is when Ian, recovering from a hospital visit because of his seizures, cannot get himself to go onstage and sing because of fear that another attack will occur. When the crowd boos the backup singer, I was drawn into the suspense of what Ian was going to do and whether he’d overcome his anxiety to sing again.

Tony Kebbell plays the band’s manager Rob and is very convincing. He speaks in an angry, rushed tone which fits his character well. The rest of the cast is good too, but none of them really stand out. This movie is not spectacular and takes a while to sink in, but the haunting overall tone of the film will hook most people and make the two hours spent watching it time well spent.