It’s always nice to head into a film with no expectations – tonight that’s just what I did as; other than knowing Jake Gyllenahaal was in it and it was about cops I had little idea as to what End Of Watch was about.
In the end I was pleasantly surprised by what turned out to be an interesting take on a fairly well trodden path of the cop buddy movie, though this wasn’t a buddy movie of the wise-cracking, happy smiling sort, more the “we’re in this together no matter what” sort.
The most notable thing about End Of Watch is certainly its camera work and editing and editor Dody Dom and director David Ayer deserve a lot of praise for wrestling a coherent story from the non-stop ‘hand held’ documentary style shots of Geoffrey Jackobsson.
There were moments where it felt like watching an episode of Cops, though never with the sensationalist tone, and other moments that had a real Cinema Verite vibe to them, but all combined to create a mockumentary/found footage style piece that actually worked.
This style of shooting really worked in convincing that this was a genuine story we were watching unfold and, if it hadn’t been Gyllenhaal, I may have believed that it was real (though as the film went on there were some obviously cinematic sections).
What this style of shooting and editing did was highlight something about how the story unfolded. While every element was in place for a fairly direct narrative it wasn’t at any point rammed down the viewers throat with painful exposition, instead we sat in the car with our two heroes and learnt about their relationship with each other, while watching their lives away from work grow too.
This made the film’s climax, where the one seemingly forced element of the film, a Mexican drug cartel, reared its ugly head all the more effecting, but I won’t say anything more on that for fear of spoilers.
The only real criticism I can find for End Of Watch was that it felt as if it should be making some kind of point. Whether that be social, political or what I’m not sure, but it certainly felt like it meant to say something, but in the end I didn’t really get a clear idea of what this might be which left me with a bit of feeling that this whole film might just be a big PR exercise for the LAPD (albeit not a totally positive one).
The other thing that struck me about the film was its occasionally surprisingly graphic nature both in terms of physical ‘gore’ and what, sadly, seemed to be worryingly real depictions of neglect, though the effect both these things had on our lead duo was expertly handled so as to maintain the verite feel to proceedings.
So in the end, while I struggled to find the purpose behind End Of Watch, it was a great way to spend two hours in a cinema and showed how the ‘found footage’ approach to film can be used to great effect when in capable hands and is certainly one of the best dramatic ‘cop films’ I remember ever seeing.