Director: Sean Spencer
Cast: David Gyasi, Pippa Nixon, Jason Wong, Yennis Cheung
Watch Panic online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
Desperation can make people do crazy things, and there’s no greater demonstration of that than Sean Spencer’s Panic. With London as its backdrop, Panic is a study in urban isolation, desperation, and London’s ghost community through music journalist Andrew Deeley’s (David Gyasi) subjective lens. In a similar vein to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Deeley observes a girl, Kem (Yennis Cheung), through his window and becomes drawn into a dark world when a violent confrontation leads to her disappearance. Plagued by debilitating panic attacks, he must overcome a number of obstacles to save her. What follows is an emotional and intense thriller that touches on key issues in the seedy underbelly of criminal England.
Filmed over 13 days, Spencer’s film maintains a raw intensity that revolves almost solely around his protagonist’s psyche. While there are very few principal characters in Panic, it is of little consequence to the audience because these individuals have more than enough variety and strength in personalities to guarantee them a place of prominence in comparison to their other, more mainstream, counterparts. Panic is a film driven by the powerful performances of its lead actors, especially David Gyasi and Pippa Nixon. Gyasi’s performance is near faultless; he lends Deeley a subtle vulnerability and stubborn determination to see events through to the end. It is almost over-generous, then, that we also get Pippa Nixon as the intriguing and resolute character that Deeley needs like a rock for support through his ordeal.
What works best about Panic is its exposition of London’s ghost community and the issue of human and sex trafficking. These problems are not widely discussed in the media and to have Panic examine them through Deeley’s frantic search makes the film relevant. The film only touches briefly upon the problems that are faced by trafficked individuals every day, though, exploring the issue through Deeley’s reductive view and one-tracked quest, which means we don’t see as much development on the topic as could have been possible.
Incorporating elements from various neo-noir classics, Spencer has made a film that is engaging and powerful. While the plot is perhaps too straightforward, it’s wonderfully executed by Spencer and cinematographer Carl Burke. The crisp visual imagery and effective narration create an arresting watch, and Christopher Nicholas Bang’s striking score is the perfect accompaniment to the character’s internal and external struggles. Together, Panic is an absorbing semi-detective thriller that explores the lengths one will go to relieve another of their desperate situation.