Metascore
68

Generally favorable reviews - based on 21 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 21
  2. Negative: 0 out of 21
  1. 89
    Sellbinding, distressing, and possessed of a dark and terrible beauty.
  2. Reviewed by: Jay Carr
    88
    In all respects, from choice of material to fullness of execution on every level, The War Zone is an extraordinary piece of work.
  3. 40
    The ultimately uncomplicated view of sexual and emotional violence in a family is only tragic, not insightful.
  4. 100
    Brilliant and heartbreaking, takes place in the present but is timeless.
  5. Roth, there's no denying, creates considerable suspense out of our desire to confront the forbidden.
  6. Reviewed by: Moira Macdonald
    50
    Its grimness is so unrelenting that I can only recommend it to filmgoers who need a movie to tell them that incest is bad.
  7. Reviewed by: Ernest Hardy
    40
    Wrought with pretension -- and a blind eye to its own exploitation.
  8. 50
    Roth can obviously direct actors sympathetically, and he paces the movie adroitly.
  9. Reviewed by: Eric Harrison
    50
    Much of its strength resides in the way it eschews narrative contrivance. The movie observes behavior without explaining or judging it.
  10. 75
    Grim, tight and well acted.
  11. 68
    A brooding, stunningly realistic portrait of familial self-destruction that raises far more questions than it can possibly answer.
  12. Showing as much courage and talent behind the camera as he has while acting in front of it, Roth has crafted for his first film one of the most bluntly graphic and disturbing movies ever done on the subject.
  13. A relentlessly grim, rather heavy-handed drama of family dysfunction.
  14. 100
    A masterfully varied set of images, paces and moods.
  15. One of the most impressive actor-to-filmmaker transitions in recent years.
  16. Roth, though, is like a sociopathic arsonist, one enthralled with his ability to start little blazes and one who would even call the fire department, but wouldn't stick around to see whether anyone put them out.
  17. Sticks in the mind and simply won't go away.
  18. Reviewed by: Janet Maslin
    60
    The actor Tim Roth makes a fierce, disturbing directorial debut with a film that treats incest as something worse than a terrible secret.
  19. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    80
    Actor Tim Roth's austere directing debut is one of the most difficult, emotionally wrenching experiences you're likely to have in a movie theater any time soon.
  20. 70
    We may not want another film about incest, but there's a necessity about this one that won't be denied.
User Score
8.7

Universal acclaim- based on 11 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 9
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 9
  3. Negative: 0 out of 9
  1. Feb 17, 2013
    8
    "The War Zone,"-Tim Roth revisits emotional rawness, and makes one of the most impressive actor-to-filmmaker transitions. A searing drama about incest, "The War Zone" is a brave act by Roth. The subject is noncommercial, and the way Roth confronts it angrily, without sentiment or exploitation is guaranteed to upset those members of his audience who like their drama filtered and safe.

    They live in a comfortable cottage, warm and sheltered, life revolving around the big kitchen table. Mum (Tilda Swinton) is very pregnant. Dad (Ray Winstone) is cheery, extroverted-- good guy. Tom (Freddie Cunliffe) is a 15-year-old, silent and sad because he misses his friends in London. Jessie (Lara Belmont) is 18 years old, ripe with beauty. This looks like a cheerful story. Casual nudity when bathing and horseplay begin to give way to something far more sinister lying just below surface. The son begins to suspect of incest, piecing together evidence, but unsure of how to address the abuse.

    Roth's direction is moody and austere--it emphasizes the simple details of domestic life and the ways in which families unwittingly collude to avoid the truth. He favors scenes that appear to be about nothing: Mum talking on the phone in the background, while in the foreground Dad bounces the new baby. He lingers on these uneventful moments as if to imply that such genial routine can provide a smoke screen. One of the lingering questions is whether Swinton's character knows what's going on.

    The ensemble acting is excellent throughout--but perhaps the most impressive instance is a raw exchange between the two non-professionals, Freddie Cunliffe and Lara Belmont. As she implores him to physically abuse her by placing a cigarette lighter to her bare breast. her desire to manifest her psychic scars, and her mistaken belief in her complicity are unbearably heartbreaking. Belmont's performance is stunning and painful. Cunliffe does credit to Tom by underplaying his role, and reacting that builds to a dramatic breaking point. It's here that the film stumbles slightly, with a more predictable act of violence that doesn't deliver the feeling of authenticity we knew in earlier scenes. It's a movie moment, but it passes. The final shot of the film finds Roth regaining his poise, with a stark framing of the siblings huddled together alone in the bunker. It's framed like a painting, and held long enough that the pain and damage done to these children is apparent to every viewer in the audience. When the credits begin to roll, you are almost powerless to move.

    A father who loves his children, and wants the best for them but can't stop himself from destroying what he cherishes most.
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