It sounds like a familiar premise ‘beautiful female kidnapped and held hostage for ransom’, but what By Any Means comes with is a little more between the ears. This directorial debut from Leighton Spence offers up a thrilling tale of sinister motives, desperate measures and tainted reputations. But By Any Means doesn’t just stop there as it also manages to provide a social commentary on the current celebrity gossip driven culture that we live in and the role that the media plays in this.
The story focuses on reality star Mimi Wyatt (Brooke Burfitt) who has seen her celebrity status start to decline following recent kiss and tell scandals splashed all over gossip magazines. Following a nightclub appearance, after passing out in the back of a taxi, she finds herself waking up the next day in a darkened, cold basement, kidnapped. Her captor, Frank Watson (Thomas Gipson) wants ransom money to cover his terminally ill daughter’s cancer treatment in exchange for her release. After sympathising with Frank’s predicament she agrees to help him by arranging to sell her story to a magazine that will also transfer the full sum upon her release. However, after getting a little too close, a sinister turn sees Mimi thrown out of the house before the deal can be done. Shell-shocked, betrayed and violated she goes straight to the Police who must now try and work out what is fact and what is fiction as doubt is cast over her accusations.
Is she after justice or a front-page story? It is this question that ends up being so pivotal to the success of the film. Who would the Police believe? And how much of Mimi’s reputation will be put before her actual needs? In 9 out of 10 cases Mimi’s character would be seen as the victim and treated as such. Yet it is her lifestyle choices and the preconceptions that have been drawn from gossip columns, raunchy photos and chat shows that is raising doubt over her credibility. It’s ironic that it was the media, which initially helped Mimi obtain her fame, that now seems to have turned against her. It is this social commentary on the role that the media plays on our perceptions of the celebrity status and our role as consumers which gives By Any Means something to chew on long after the credits roll.
In filmmaking the story must come first and that’s what By Any Means nails from the outset. It provides a taut thriller which gradually peels back the layers before we have the whole picture, revealing a sinister and morally murky subtext. This is not just a kidnapping film and just when you think you know what is going to happen next, it has so much more to offer.
Of course without compelling performances from the two main leads, Brooke Burfitt in particular, the film wouldn’t have had the impact it did. Both characters are flawed and its very difficult to sympathise with either’s situation or actions but it makes captivating viewing.
Director Leighton Spence has crafted an impressive debut psychological thriller that is not only of deception, betrayal and manipulation but also manages to provide a very relevant insight into the role the media plays in our preconceptions of people and particularly with celebrity culture.
Make sure you check out By Any Means which screens its UK premier on Saturday 25th March as part of the first ever Ramsgate International Film & TV Festival and support independent film.
For more information and ticketing please visit: Ramsgate International Film & TV Festival