I found a copy of a posting from 2007 that even today, nearly ten years on, I’m quite proud of. The old blog was less than a year old and having just found my feet and gaining the confidence to post every day, I then found myself in Toronto for a five-month spell that prevented me blogging every day ( mainly a combination of pressure of work and not having access to the thousands of mp3 files I had lovingly created); but the time in Canada brought other great opportunities my way that more than made up for it.  Such as being among the first to see a stunning movie that I reviewed at the time.  From 9 September 2007….

This past week and a bit saw Mrs Villain join me for a short stay in Toronto. It was her first ever visit to the city, and we did loads of touristy things including going along to something that was part at the recently opened Toronto International Film Festival 2007.

We were lucky enough to get two tickets for Control. We had hoped to get to the first showing at 9.45pm on a Friday evening, but the tickets were impossible to obtain. But we had the consolation of getting to the second and final showing, albeit at the ungodly hour of 9am on a Saturday morning.

First surprise was that we were far from alone. The cinema was almost full to capacity with maybe the best part of 1,000 folk inside. Second surprise that it was not an audience entirely made up of music fans – just behind us we heard one exchange along the lines of “Was this guy Curtis some sort of cult figure?”. The third surprise was a brief personal appearance by Anton Corbijn, who expressed his delight that so many people would come along so early in the morning to watch a black and white feature by a first-time film director.

The effort of getting out of bed at such an ungodly hour on a weekend was more than worth it. Control is an exceptional piece of work. I’ve long been a fan of Corbijn’s photographs and videos, so I had a fair idea that it would look good. What I wasn’t prepared for was the level of performances from just about everyone in the film.

The part of Ian Curtis is played by the relatively little-known Sam Riley, and he does an unbelievable job. The more famous Samanatha Morton is outstanding as Deborah Curtis, especially in the second half of the movie as she begins to come to terms with how her husband is treating her.

The other young actors who play the members of the band – James Anthony Pearson (Bernard Sumner), Harry Treadaway (Steven Morris) and Joe Anderson (Peter Hook) are just about perfect, and not just because the roles called on them to play live. Bernard in particular comes across perfectly as the wide-eyed little-boy not quite believing that he’s making it as a musician.

While the overall mood of the film is, as you would expect sombre, the script is packed with some fantastic one-liners, some of which are delivered by Hooky, but most of whom belong to Rob Gretton who is played by another relatively unknown actor, Toby Kebbel.

If I have one gripe, it was that I wasn’t initially convinced by Craig Parkinson as Tony Wilson – most probably because I found myself comparing it to the way that Steve Coogan portrayed him in 24 Hour Party People – but I did find myself loosening up a bit as the movie progressed and appreciating his performance.

And there will be some people – there always are – who will be apoplectic with rage that the film has not stuck 100% to the facts. For example, Tony Wilson introducing them on So It Goes on Granada TV. In real life, Joy Division performed Shadowplay, but the film has them playing Transmission.

There’s also a number of occasions when the need to have the movie go along at a decent pace means some things appear just a bit too melodramatic – for instance, the inspiration for the lyrics behind She’s Lost Control.

I understand that Control will be coming out in the UK early in October. I also expect that not everyone will greet it with universal approval. For instance, Kevin Cummins, another photographer who worked with the band has said “The film lacks humour. It would appear that Corbijn has bought into the mythology surrounding the band…the crypto-fascist young men in their grey overcoats from the grim north of England. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

I think that’s a bit harsh, but then again it is a fact that in just under two hours, there’s no evidence of the light-hearted side of Ian Curtis (such as the well-documented high-jinks the band got up to when they undertook a tour as support to Buzzcocks).

There will be others who just don’t get it. There’s one scathing review kicking around on the web from the Reuters Hollywood Correspondent who saw the movie at Cannes back in May. He didn’t like Control because it doesn’t live up to the 1960s black and white movies set in Northern England that often starred Albert Finney or Tom Courtenay (and which were so beloved by Morrissey).

It’s a dreadful and lazy comparison to make- the films of the 60s were based on fictional novels whereas Control is of course based on real-life events – the only thing they have in common is that they are black and white films.

It is my view that Control falls into the category of ‘must-see’, especially if you are a fan of Anton Corbijn, Joy Division, Ian Curtis or indeed Samantha Morton.

Incidentally, I’m not ashamed to admit that I was in floods of tears at the end of the movie – as was Mrs V. Yes, we both knew how it was all going to end, but that didn’t stop the intensity of the performances from the two lead roles having a huge effect on us. We weren’t the only ones sobbing and sniffing away in Toronto. So take along your hankies….

song : Joy Division – Passover

2017 update

By now, I’m guessing all of you with any interest in the band or film-making will have seen Control.  I think my initial review, written and published the following morning after its second screeing at the 2007 festival has stood up well.



  1. The Mrs and I saw in in a cinema in York, with just one other person watching. It was freezing cold. Apt, somehow.

  2. It did take me two viewings to fully get the power of Control. I admit that I went in with a skeptical mindset, but that was lighted by the individual performances from the off. Some of Corbjin’s style of filmmaking does leave me cold – there’s a overriding feeling that given the opportunity, he’d have made this film in the style of a Surrealist like Bunuel.
    But by the second viewing of Control I found myself much more satisfied by the film and the way the story of Ian Curtis was told.

  3. I’ve fluctuated over the years with Control. At first I thought it was very good, great performance from Sam Reilly, beautifully shot etc. But watching it again a year or two ago I felt differently about it- the whole Ian Curtis death cult thing (which I think this film has really gone for) unsettles me a bit. I suppose you should really watch it context with Hooky’s book about JD for some balance.

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