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Film Review: Tank 432


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Ben Wheatley lends his name to a frustratingly wobbly psychological horror, entirely set within a tank. 

Formerly known as Belly of the Bulldog, and directed by Nick Gillespie, a camera operator on some of the most exciting recent British releases, from High Rise to A Field In England (hence the Wheatley connection), Tank 432 had a surprising amount going for it. 

Even the cast, a who’s who of largely forgotten-about (but still entirely reliable) British talent, from Rupert Evans to Michael Smiley and Skins’ April Pearson, seemed like a stab in the right direction. 

But sadly, within 10 minutes of the film’s opening, all hope has pretty much crumbled into nothing. 

Now, with a name that sounds like its writer fell on a keyboard (“maybe they won’t notice the numbers are next to each other if we reverse them!”) and a series of filming locations seemingly relegated to a taped-off bit of woods and an empty field, Tank 432 is revealed to be little more than a struggling mess from very early on. 

The semi-present plot follows a group of mercenaries (although this isn’t really apparent; they wear camouflage and carry guns, that’s about it) who suddenly find themselves on the run with two prisoners in tow, and are forced to take shelter in an abandoned tank. 

Once inside, the team begin to collectively lose their minds, hallucinating about everything from pretty flowers to rubber-faced beasts, as they slowly begin to turn on each other one by one. 

It sounds like a relatively solid set-up on paper, billed as Dog Soldiers meets Jacob’s Ladder, which isn’t too unfair a comparison. There are soldiers, there are nightmares. It’s just that Tank 432 is no where near as engaging or exciting as even the most boring moments of either. 

Fun fact: this is one of the only promo shots available - and is in the film for seconds at most.

Fun fact: this is one of the only promo shots available - and is in the film for seconds at most.

The team’s journey to the tank in question is little more than a chaotic dash, peppered with the odd bout of exposition (which is mostly screamed unintelligibly by unknown characters whilst running), whilst the actual drama itself that unfolds later, does so in the most blindingly confusing manner possible. 

Shots inside the tank itself (where a mind-numbing 80% of the film actually takes place) are massively dark and poorly framed, meaning it’s difficult to plot who’s who and what the hell is going on, and the actual events themselves rarely go beyond someone crying or shitting themselves (this actually happens and yes, you see it all).  

The cast do try their very best, but rarely find any sense of decent characterisation in Gillespie’s script, ending up as barely anything more than foul-mouthed, merciless soldier stereotypes, seemingly lifted from the background of a Call of Duty game. 

Evans is given a tad more to work with, as is Smiley eventually, but again, there’s nothing interesting actually happening for them to react to, so the whole exercise just becomes entirely pointless. 

Based on promo images and the attached trailer, you might misread this as some sort of monster movie, or at the very least, a claustrophobic thriller, but the ultimate truth is that Tank 432 isn’t really anything. 

It’s too edgy and eventless for the cheapo action crowd, and likely far too po-faced and arty in its ridiculousness to excite genre fans. So what’s left?

With little visual flair, a horde of one-note characters and a frustratingly empty plot, Tank 432 has no where to go. To quote the film, it’s nothing more than a “turd on a billiard table”. 

Someone actually says this. With a straight face. And no one laughs. 

Don’t see this film. 

Tank 432  is out on DVD in the UK from today. 

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