Appearing at the edges of many a sketch show, Steve Oram and Alice Lowe are familiar faces from the little screen. They have been supporting players for the likes of Harry Enfield's later career, and occasionally catching the wind of more interesting work like The Mighty Boosh or Garth Marenghi's Dark Place. So I suppose for a lot of you, you may be none the wiser when watching Sightseers as to these talented people's careers, but I urge you to seek out Garth for Lowe as Madeleine Wool or catch Alice's Winter Wonderland once Radio 4 see fit to repeat it.This semi-anonymity undoubtedly helps Ben Wheatley's third film to surprise and bend genres much as his previous two have. Lowe is the dowdy, mousy Tina rescued from her humdrum life with her miserable moaning mum by Oram's unprepossessing caravan enthusiast, Chris. These thirty-somethings are off to visit the sights of parochial Northern England - pencil museums, petrifying caves and historical abbeys.
En route, Tina will blossom and become empowered and Chris will display a lack of impulse control with those he feels have wronged him or offended public decency. The dull, nice couple meet all manners of British archetypes - the yob dad, the hen party crowd, the self-righteous rambler and the stuck-up middle class couple - and the results are less than peaceful as our happy couple cut a swathe through our society.Ben Wheatley maintains a cheerfully conspiratorial tone and celebrates the unfashionable, peculiar Britishness of Chris and Tina. The vulgarity of crotchless knitwear, the worlds of tie-dyed leggings and cagoules, and the sex-lives of caravans, every easy target is laughed along with whilst crueller treatment is reserved for properness, cyclists and snobs.
Moving from the unremittingly dark tone of Kill List, Wheatley manages the comedy with a sure touch for the dead pan and uses the long working relationship of Oram and Lowe to convince the audience. A myriad of TV faces support the central couple and provide their victims, and a choice and humorous selection of familiar pop songs add to the perfect tone of the best British film comedy for aeons.A great third film from the already impressive Wheatley has also raised the profiles of the excellent Oram and the criminally under-celebrated Lowe, and if you want evil laughs then there are few better places to find them.
The main feature boasts a hefty 27GB transfer that shows off the film well in high definition. The plentiful close-ups display tremendous detail and no obvious edge enhancement to spoil the image, the naturalist photography is aided by lovely colour balance and the few night-time scenes display trueish black levels. Completing the HD package is a choice of two lossless audio options. Now, being honest, the 5.1 master audio mix offers little in terms of surround elements in the dialogue or atmospheric effects, so the choice between it and the LPCM stereo is probably one you can make based on your own prejudice. I like a bit of coverage, so preferred the DTS track for that reason. Top marks to Studiocanal for having an audio-descriptive track and HOH subs.
The cast commentary unites Wheatley, Oram, Lowe and Richard Glover and after a nervous start gets very funny. The importance of improvising to the director comes out and the central cast's research having taking their own trip a few years before shooting is mentioned frequently. Wheatley also contributes a commentary with Laurie Rose, the director of photography which is similarly well spirited, if a trifle dull.
This is a region B locked disc. Extras features are presented in HD with the Behind the Scenes featurette being 1080I encoded and everything else being 1080P. In that piece, we get to enjoy the film being shot and hear from our central trio on how they know each other (BBC Three's the Wrong Door) and how they got the project off the ground. 12 and a bit of minutes of outtakes are included in slightly different aspect ratio with lots of corpseing, punching the camera and single handed sex scenes!
Not quite Bonnie and Clyde for the 21st century but still a lot of fun, Sightseers gets a very good Blu-ray release