opens innocuously enough. In a sleepy
diner that looks like something out of the 1950s Midwest, Anne (Dakota
Fanning) and her best friend Jimmy (Josh Hutcherson) are having
breakfast with Anne’s father. Overstretched waitress Carla (Kate
Beckinsale) alternates between a telephone conversation with her young
child and pouring coffee for hangdog driving-school instructor Charlie
(Forest Whitaker). Clean cut doctor Bruce (Guy Pearce) steps in to get
his morning caffeine fix, and holds the door open for an anonymous
looking stranger as he exits. The stranger thanks Bruce, then moments
later takes out a gun and starts shooting in a terrifying burst of
Aside from a brief
glimpse as he enters the diner we never really see the killer’s face.
The camera instead prefers to focus on the firearm, or the haunted
reactions of those involved, as the faceless shooter goes on his
senseless rampage before turning the gun on himself.
Anne and Jimmy take
refuge under a table and are spared. Carla likewise escapes unharmed.
Anne’s father and several other patrons, however, are not so lucky.
Charlie takes a bullet to the neck and is rushed to hospital, as is the
heavily traumatised Jimmy. Quickly given the all-clear, Charlie checks
himself out and promptly decides to celebrate his good fortune with a
bout of gambling. Carla prefers not to talk about the incident, instead
focusing her energies on her beloved son, and Bruce attempts to assure
his wife he is not unduly upset about his brush with fate, busying
himself with his professional responsibilities.
Based on the excellent
novel by Roy Freirich, who also wrote the film’s screenplay, Winged
Creatures unites its principle characters in tragedy in a way that
never feels contrived. It is the first Hollywood outing for Aussie
director Rowan Woods, whose two previous films The Boys and
Little Fish won him a strong critical reception in his homeland, and
is a fine showing of his cinematic talents. The tension builds to fever
pitch in places, and the excellent ensemble cast ensure the heavy
subject matter steers clear of melodrama.
Beckinsale is subtly
radiant as the angelic Carla, and perfectly conveys a sense of longing
for the handsome Bruce, portrayed to perfection by the always-brilliant
Pearce, who further cements his position as one of the finest actors of
his generation. Whitaker puts in a solid performance as the recovering
gambling addict giddy with a newfound sense of respect for his time on
earth, and both Fanning and Hutcherson are eminently believable as the
youngsters struggling to come to terms with the mindless slaughter
Not the most
light-hearted of fare, Winged Creatures nonetheless features some
astonishing performances and remains a gently executed celebration of