A run-of-the-mill home invasion holding few surprises
Home invasion movies are fairly common and most of them, sadly, are pretty bad. While David Fincher’s Panic Room was one of the better movies of this kind, we have also had to put up with such cinematic misfires as Breaking In, The Owners, and No Good Deed.
Barbarians is another movie that follows the plight of a group of people whose home is invaded by nefarious do-badders. But is it any good? Or should you lock your Now TV subscription before somebody breaks into your streaming service and adds it to your watchlist?
I’m sorry to say it, but it’s a case of the latter. Barbarians starts promisingly but in the end, it becomes just like the majority of other movies in this genre, with few surprises in store for those who choose to watch it.
The film focuses on four friends who get together for a dinner party. It is held at the house that Adam (Iwan Rheon) is thinking about buying with his partner Eve (Catalina Sandino Moreno) and the reason for the celebration is Adam’s birthday. The seemingly happy couple are joined by Lucas (Tom Cullen) and his girlfriend Chloe (Inès Spiridonov), and the scene is set for a night of drinking, chatting, and friendly bonding.
Well, I say ‘friendly,’ as despite being friends, the relationship between Lucas and Adam is an uneven one. Adam is meek and mild, whereas Lucas is a bit of a brute and bully. As the party heats up, so does the tension between the two but just as things start to get interesting for both them and the viewer, the home invaders arrive.
Before we get to the actual home invasion, there is a sense of foreboding when Adam spots an injured fox at the roadside while out running. His attempts to help the injured animal backfire when the fox snaps at him so Adam decides to leave the poor creature alone.
Strangely, despite being stuck in what appears to be barbed wire, the fox later turns up again in Adam’s kitchen. How it gets here, we never really find out, although it can be assumed that the bloody animal was placed in the house by one of the people that later turn up to spoil the party.
The animal is clearly in pain but it’s up to an early houseguest to put the animal out of its suffering. As Adam stands and watches, it’s clear that he’s not the courageous person he later pretends to be when his friends show up.
On the surface, the film is about what it means to be masculine. Adam is full of bravado but inside he isn’t the man that he wants to be. Lucas is his polar opposite but this creep is the very epitome of toxic masculinity as he uses his strength to get the better of Adam. If the film had focused on them, their respective partners, and their respective lies and secrets, it could have been a lot more interesting.
Sadly, not only do the home invaders turn up to ruin their evening, but they do much to ruin the film for the viewer too. After their arrival, the film becomes yet another home invasion thriller where violence and mayhem take precedence.
Who are the masked men who turn up at Adam’s door? That would be telling but you probably won’t be surprised at the final reveal when the masks are removed. Their motives soon become clear and while the filmmaker’s probably wanted us to switch sides and sympathize with the attackers, the fact that they are as unlikable as the partying friends means you won’t likely care who lives or dies by the film’s end. I know I certainly didn’t.
The point of the film seems to hinge on this question: what can cause a man to commit acts of violence? It’s something the filmmakers try to answer when exploring both the character of Lucas and the jumpsuit-wearing men who inveigle their way into the party. But in trying to tie two plot threads together, the film never quite gels as a cohesive whole, so in the end, it becomes quite unsatisfying to watch.
The film isn’t a total waste of time but it’s nowhere near as good or as pointed as it could have been. With a tighter script, it could have honed deeper into man’s capacity for violence but ultimately, it only scratches the surface.
Iwan Rheon is a talented actor but while he has done a lot of great television work – Game of Thrones, Misfits – he hasn’t found much success in the movie world. Barbarians is yet another misfire on his filmography but here’s hoping he manages to break into the hallowed realms of Hollywood sometime soon.
Verdict - 5/10