Much of the pre-release discussion about Confession, (not to be confused with the 2020 serial killer film Confession) centred on its stars Colm Meaney (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Soldiers of Fortune) and Stephen Moyer (True Blood, Godzilla: King of the Monsters). And although they both are excellent actors, that wasn’t why I decided to review it.
I was more interested in writer/director David Beton a/k/a Ronnie Thompson. As Ronnie Thompson, he’d directed, but not written, the tense thriller Tower Block. And as David Benton, he’d co-written, but not directed, The Banishing, an enjoyable ghost story that also had significant religious content. I was curious to see what he could do filling both roles.
After a rather cryptic prologue, we join Father Peter (Colm Meaney) as he’s wrapping up his duties for the evening. That’s interrupted by a knock on the door, refusing to be dissuaded by “I’m about to lock up for the evening”, Victor (Stephen Moyer) enters. The first thing we notice about him is his gun, the second is the bloody wound in his side. And he wants to know how many exits the church has.
Now, if you think all this is the setup for some kind of siege scenario think again. Confession is a thriller but not of the action variety. It’s a dialogue-driven story that plays out in real-time as the two men talk and eventually begin to find common ground, perhaps more than they would like to admit.
Most of Confession is a two-character film although the viewer knows from early on that there is another person in the church. Willow (Clare-Hope Ashitey, Jimi: All Is by My Side, Suspects), is also armed and wounded. And she knows who Victor is, but that’s all we’re told about her until later in the proceedings.
What we get is a lot of dialogue, loaded with twists and revelations as the night wears on. Some of these are shocking, some are mundane and a couple made me want to roll my eyes. For the most part, Beton keeps it interesting, but there are moments where he seems to have written himself into a corner and has to stretch the viewer’s suspension of disbelief to get out of it.
This is especially true after, in one of the film’s few actual action scenes, Willow reveals herself and Confession becomes a three-way conversation. That’s also when we find out that, despite being shot in Debenham, Stowmarket UK, it’s set in Massachusetts USA when Willow reads Victor his Miranda rights and shows an MA State Police ID. At least this time they got actors who sound American.
The result is a film that feels like an adaptation of a stage play with a very small cast and for the most part one location, the nave of the church. And, as noted, lots of dialogue and very little physical action. The tension comes from the back and forth as allegations are made on all sides and the viewer has to try to determine who to trust. And given actions on the part of both Victor and Willow that won’t be easy.
Benton does push things a bit too far with Confession’s final twist. It feels like it’s really reaching and relying on coincidence when it brings in Jude (Kris Johnson, Black Site, Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot) and Madison (Sadie Jean Shirley). It’s a tense enough scene, but there had to be a better way to get to it.
As long as you don’t mind the play-like staging and lack of action, Confession is a good choice if you’re in the mood for a thriller. It certainly kept me guessing much of the way through.
Uncork’d Entertainment released Confession in theatres on January 21st. It comes to VOD on January 25th. You can check the Uncork’d Facebook page for more information. In the UK Signature Entertainment will release Confession on Digital Platforms on January 31st.