Directed by Alex Cox
Starring Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb, Andrew Schofield, David Hayman
Released on 5th August 2016
A white faced young man with bird’s nest hair sits in a dingy hotel room. He has blood on his hands and he’s being questioned by a non-too-sympathetic cop. The young man is Sid Vicious and it’s the surprisingly conventional start to Sid And Nancy, the story of his tempestuous relationship with Nancy Spungeon.
But this is a film that was made 30 years ago and has been re-released in cinemas in a newly restored version, supervised by its original cinematographer, Roger Deakins. He’s not the only person from the film who went on to bigger things. It also marks the on-screen debut of Gary Oldman, who plays Sid and who, according to director Alex Cox, pipped some guy called Daniel Day Lewis to the role.
The film itself covers just two years, the length of the affair between Sid and Nancy (Chloe Webb), one that ended dramatically in that New York hotel room. Their story is set against the rise of punk and the Sex Pistols. The band takes full advantage of all the pleasures that go with their fame and money and the relationship between the couple is soon fuelled by drinks and drugs. It also causes problems with the rest of the band and an American tour proves to be the last straw. Sid’s attempts at a solo career were hampered by his not-so-private life and it soon comes to a head in that room ……
While the ‘full circle’ approach to the narrative is a straightforward one, we’re soon plunged into the chaotic world of punk, with its rebellious attitude and aggressive music. And, once it gets past the grimy opening, this is a film that hardly looks its age. Deakins’ camerawork creates some strong contrasts between the band performing in front of its various audiences – including one group of all-American teenagers in Stetsons – and the more private moments between the doomed couple. There’s some equally strong single images as well: Sid’s dramatic entrance at a party, crashing straight through a plate glass door is just one. It’s all seriously in your face.
In fact, it’s only Gary Oldman’s youthful face that betrays the film’s age. He was a fresh faced 28 year old when he made this, and it’s still one of his best performances. He explodes onto the screen, full of rage and frantic energy, but struggles to cope with both his professional life and the demands of his destructive relationship with Nancy. And played by Chloe Webb, she’s a good match for Oldman, when it comes to portraying such a toxic mutual dependency. There’s the lingering feeling that what made it to the screen was probably just half the story.
If you remember punk and Sid and Nancy’s story, or if you don’t, it doesn’t really matter. Because the film is loud, direct and made with an attitudes that’s stood the test of time. And, although it’ll be out on DVD in a few weeks’ time, it really needs the big screen for the full effect.