‘A Patch of Fog’ Isn’t Inventive, Just an Effective Thriller

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A Patch of Fog

We’ve seen variations of the story within A Patch of Fog many times before. A lonely stranger forms a bond with someone who reluctantly shows a bit of kindness. It’s only a matter of time before that lonely stranger steps over the line into full-fledged creepiness and it all leads to violent showdown. The story has been a standard of cinema for decades now, and the film by Michael Lennox works because it stays true to its roots while featuring two strong lead performances. There’s nothing really new in A Patch of Fog, just a sharp little thriller that escalates well before its devious conclusion.

Sandy Duffy (Conleth Hill) is an author and college professor who rose to prominence with his novel entitled A Patch of Fog. Despite his success, Sandy has been taking his time with his follow up novel, relying more on his teaching and television work to remain in the public eye. But Sandy has a little secret, he shoplifts and finds incredible thrills in swiping little items here and there from various stores. One day, Sandy is caught by Robert (Stephen Graham), an awkward and lonely security guard. Robert agrees to let Sandy go if the television personality will go with him to the pub and buy him a Coke. But Sandy isn’t off the hook yet as Robert informs him that he has access to the security camera footage that will be released if the author doesn’t hang out with him, threatening Sandy’s life as a TV personality and professor considering the teaching of ethics are major part of his profession. The two soon settle into an awkward friendship with Sword of Damocles hanging over Sandy’s head, and the pressure may soon push him over the edge as Robert’s behavior becomes more and more possessive to his blackmailed friend.

There’s very little in the screenplay by John Cairns and Michael McCartney that hasn’t been done elsewhere, and yet it works because they do an excellent job in establishing the life of Sandy Duffy. This is a character with everything to lose – reputation, wealth, employment, and the emerging relationship between himself and television host Lucy (Lara Pulver). What Cairns and McCartney have crafted is a simple morality play, one where all the tension and terror could’ve been avoided had Sandy just owned up to his crime and took the punishment. Compounding matters, when Robert starts crossing boundaries in this forced friendship it leads Sandy into more bad behavior that will further place his luxurious life in jeopardy. A Patch of Fog simply proves that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to tell a compelling story. All you need are clearly established stakes between characters and escalating events.

It’s the two lead actors that keep the tension alive in A Patch of Fog. Conleth Hill brings a sense of aristocratic arrogance to Sandy Duffy, as if he’s just too good for the company of a lowly security guard. There’s also a vulnerability that Hill brings to role, one that adds a layer of unsettling actions to the forefront. Hard as you try to be sympathetic to Sandy, Hill’s brashness won’t allow it. Opposite Hill is the soft spoken creepiness that Stephen Graham brings to the lonely Robert. The veteran British actor brings a multi-faceted approach to the character extending beyond just the surface level creep factor. There’s a child-like enthusiasm Graham gives to Robert, especially in the moments where he believes his plan to blackmail someone into friendship is paying off. The two actors craft a fascinating dynamic between their characters, one that is integral in making A Patch of Fog work as well as it does.

A Patch of Fog isn’t a wildly inventive thriller but it does get the job done. For the most part, Michael Lennox’s direction is fairly pedestrian, but it works because he allows the two strong leads to carry the film. Much to the credit of Lennox and the film’s screenwriters, there are a few little surprises that are quite effective within A Patch of Fog, especially the film’s climax which takes the viewer in one direction and then reverses course at a break-neck speed. It doesn’t do much that haven’t seen elsewhere in one form or another, but A Patch of Fog left me entertained for its 90-odd minutes of morality drama.

A Patch of Fog
  • Overall Score
3

Summary

A Patch of Fog isn’t inventive in its story of a man blackmailed into friendship by a lonely security guard, but it makes up for it with two strong lead performances and clearly established set of stakes in this entertaining little thriller.

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