At the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival and having its World Premier in the Midnight Category Section from director Simon Dixon and is the ever evolving TIGER RAID.
The film tells the story of Joe (Brian Gleeson) and Paddy (Damien Molony), two mercenaries sent out into the desert to do a job. Driving through Iraq, the two men begin to tell each other about life and a few secrets about love. Even through their conversation it is clear Joe and Paddy do not trust each other and barely like each other.
Each of them have a past that is haunting them and they deal with it in different ways. Joe is straight out vocal and has no problem doing what needs to be done no matter how henious it is. Paddy is less vocal but keeping an eye on everything as if waiting for something specific to happen.
When they reach their destination, Joe and Paddy become more aggressive realizing that the job they need to do now has strings attached. Shadha (Sofia Boutella) is the target they need to kidnap and she has secrets of her own regarding one of the two men.
What started out as a mission becomes a confrontation of the past.
Gleeson as Joe is the most volatile of characters. From the moment he is on screen there is a darkness hiding behind those eyes with an unclear memory hidden from the audience. The words that fly out are filled with venom toward anyone standing in front of him. It is an amazing performance by Gleeson that not only kept me riveted but actually made me very nervous.
Molony as Paddy is clearly not happy having to be around Paddy. The description of the woman he loves is the center of his world and drives him forward. His mission may not be the mission he was sent to complete. Watching Molony transform in a different way than Joe is subtle and a bit unnerving.
Boutella as Shadha is a woman who knows these two men are serious. Bringing in her own secrets to the mix truly begins to change the dynamics in a way I would never have expected. Just so well done!
TIGER RAID is a film that needs to be seen and then discussed. It is beautifully shot, the story line is intense and shocking and the cast pulls it all together and presents the audience with something absolutely stellar.
I have the exciting pleasure to speak with Brian Gleeson who plays Joe and Damien Molony who plays Paddy, about the film and their thoughts on their characters.
Hello gentlemen, thank you for joining me this morning.
Brian: Thank you as well.
I have to tell you, I watched the film last night and am completely blown away.
Brian: That’s great, really great.
There are so many things I want to ask you. Lets start with what were your impressions when you first got the script to read.
Brian: I have to tell you that I was amazed myself at what was on the pages. This film has these two men who are doing a job in the middle of the desert but that’s just what’s on the surface.
Damien: Yes, there is such an intense story here that its hard not to give anything away but these two characters are trying to get to know each other in a truck bumping down a road that looks like its going no where.
I will tell you what intrigued me, because at first I felt like I came in on a conversation of two strangers having no clue what was going on yet felt compelled to continue eavesdropping and then completely hooked.
Brian: The script is written beautifully that way.
Then the scene that is the first jaw dropper, which I won’t describe, but there you both are doing something many would consider horrifying yet you have the look of another day at work. How did you both play out a scene like that having a casual conversation.
Brian: They have been in a similar situation before, this is their work and what they get paid for. They can’t leave the fact that they are there so they do what they need to do as the story between these two men play out. Now the audience is processing it all. What I am so proud of with this film is that its off the rails and it keeps the focus all the way through which is incredibly hard. There is such a carnival of stuff happening so keeping that focus and keeping it about character is important. They focused on the story and the actors which is the most important things.
I don’t think I’ve seen a film that is being carried by two actors and every time you think you have it figured out there are little twists that take you into another direction, another thought process about the characters and the story.
Damien: Joe is kind of the monster and Paddy is the hero and your sense of these characters continually shift and your emotions change.
It doesn’t happen just once, in fact I think I lost count!
Damien: That’s to me is very exciting for the audience to watch that. The audience’s loyalty is shifting but also the characters for each other.
You think that one man is lighter hearted and the other dark hearted but, like human beings themselves, everything goes deeper and scope stretches.
There are moments where the humanness comes out in you both.
Brian: We are so saturated with the good guy bad guy narrative here. They are people and in different context they would be different people. Joe wouldn’t be this man if he were at his home. He’s not, he is in this circumstance. You can’t judge the person you are playing and once you don’t do that you are free to dig deep into his history and past.
That had to be an emotional roller coaster for you both.
Damien: Yes, and doubled with the fact that we were thrown into this environment that neither of us are use to. You put two Irish guys in the middle of the Jordan desert and you’ve already got something for nothing in terms of story. You have two very, very volatile dangerous people who are not really sure what’s happening and don’t trust each other and they don’t like the other person. To be dumped into Jordan for three and a half weeks and we all landed back in Ireland and I said, “what just happened?”. It’s an amazing period of time where there were no rules.
Brian: Yes, yes! It was so important to be in Jordan and our director said it wouldn’t have been in the same if we had shot it in Morocco or somewhere else. I mean we came home every night and could see Jerusalem or see road signs for Baghdad. So our world was cut off for us and still very nearby. Waking up every morning to the call for prayer, I mean we were in the cradle of civilization. I was thrilled to be there and it really was totally an immersive thing for me.
When you finished filming and saw what you had created, what was your reaction?
Brian: The director, Simon Dixon, was great in terms of letting us go off on tangents so I didn’t know what to expect when I saw it. The film is something when you are shooting it and something else when it is in post. It needs to click on so many levels so I didn’t know what to expect and I really was blown away. It is a very sharp and brought to the next level is what I saw. I was thrilled really.
Damien: We are really proud of it and thrilled as well. The type of story and film they created is so beautifully shot and it really shows Jordan wonderfully and in the beginning shots, the wide desert shots are really spectacular.
Did you feel an extra acting weight knowing that just the two of you are carrying the biggest part of the film?
Brian: I didn’t really think about it. Sophia’s (Boutella) character comes in later in the film and ups the game. You think it’s these two men and when she comes in it goes again to another level. She is the emotional harpy of the film. There is a huge amount of trust for the actors because we got to know each other. We really bonded and it was fun. It wasn’t all doom and gloom and I still think about it now. It was a brilliant life experience and it was only a few weeks. It was totally immersive and I never felt any pressure. I think once you get into shooting it you throw caution to the wind in a certain extent. You have to enjoy it. It was pure acting and didn’t feel manufactured, it was joyful more than anything else.
That’s interesting that you describe it as joyful in the midst of the dark story, I like that. How long did you say it took for you to shoot the film?
Damien: About three and a half weeks. We made so much of every day and we were on location most of the time. We were very close to where we shot and were able to do a huge amount in such a short time. Honestly, shooting any longer and we probably would have done the film a disservice because there was such a great energy to the film. It really, really helped.
When you are put in that emotional case for a short period of time you can’t go to much longer without ruining what you both created.
Brian: Yes, that’s exactly right. I think it was all so incredibly rewarding for me and I liked going to work every day. A lot of time on set you spending waiting around but here there was none of that. It was a rollercoaster and there was training, research and making sure we looked the part so by the time we started shooting we went diving in. It sometimes felt like we were there six months, not a few weeks but I really enjoyed what we were creating.
There aren’t any real night time scenes so the days had to be intense.
Damien: Yes, it was all fast so we kept each other sane but it was so rewarding. It is so dialogue heavy and that can be tough for an actor but honestly, it felt like pure acting because the camera were left to roll for so long. You found the relationship between the two characters organically and again it was hugely rewarding and something you might not necessarily get on a bigger picture or one with more money attached.
I felt like if anyone else showed up it would be a huge distraction. Do you think the fact that there are only three of you in the film keeps it at that really great place?
Brian: Yes, yes, right, that’s what we were hoping for! When you get rid of all the excess and clutter and focus on these people, because you are talking about people and people are fascinating. You don’t need any other characters. Yes, once there is the catch to that you find all the treasure.
In watching it, I have to tell you I didn’t want anyone else to show up. I truly wanted to spend my time figuring out both of your characters! I have to ask about the Irish joking, was that scripted or was that something the two of you did yourselves because it flowed so easily.
Brian: I think it was mostly scripted although we did a little improving. We wanted to keep it in the zone, bouncing off each other and keeping the energy levels up. I think there may be a couple of jokes in there. The script was written by Simon Dixon, Gareth Coulam Evans and an Irish writer named Mick Donnellan. The film was adapted from a play Donnellan had written so it is laced with that Irish humor and it wasn’t to much of a stretch for us lets put it that way, the humor of it.
Damien: It’s also a way for these two characters to remain sane, I mean as sane as sane can be for these two monsters. In the face of all that violence, it’s a nine to five office job for these two guys and the jokes helped them emotionally and emotionally in the violence of what they do.
Paddy is not disturbed by what they do and then Joe would be disturbed but the reactions are so subtle that I honestly stared at your faces waiting for something, anything! There were moments where a bit of humanity would surface and then snap away.
Brian: The idea we thought about is that these characters have been in the Middle East for a while and don’t think about things the way someone on the outside would. When Sofia’s character comes in you see the effect on real people. At first Joe is in a limbo land and he doesn’t have a home and you see his story unfold in this harsh place. He doesn’t see it the way the audience will.
When Joe keeps having his flashbacks, it is a slow delivery to the audience because it starts out blurry so the audience is left to create its own scenario of his past. It’s very unexpected.
Brian: Yes, I was never totally sure myself. It almost doesn’t matter because it’s the effect of everything that has happened to these two men. There so much past here as well.
For me it was Joe’s past and Paddy’s present colliding.
Damien: That’s exactly right. That’s what’s so shocking when Sofia’s character arrives and the whole film flips on itself. You constantly ask yourself who can you trust? You don’t know who you can rely on. The question of who is the good guy in the middle of these two bad guys is constantly evolving in a very volatile and dangerous landscape.
Even with Sofia’s character, she becomes a bit involved in the madness.
Damien: That’s right, totally. She is pretty extraordinary and it was so vital that the person who play that part be able to immerse in that world we created. She has the one speech where she talks about her life and that’s all you need really, that’s the window into who she is.
Thank you gentlemen, I am so happy to have been able to talk to you. The film is amazing and you should be exceedingly proud of what you have put together.
Damien: Thank you so much Jeri, that means a lot to us.
Brian: Yes, thank you for talking to us.
We are all looking for original film making in the mix of makes, remake, and reimagings. There is such intensity in TIGER RAID that is wrapped up in fantastic performances. When a film comes along that brings out such dark emotions, then it’s a film that needs to be talked about to the rafters.
TIGER RAID is that film!