Sometimes a simple description of a film’s essentials doesn’t help you feel the impact of what you actually see. End Of Watch is in that category. Simply put, it follows two Los Angeles policemen through everyday shifts; in the course of some routine enquiries they stumble unwittingly across something much bigger and the story changes gear into police action movie territory.
None of which does justice to the film’s visceral power; it’s sharp and intelligent script; the depth of emotional engagement with the main characters and the raw emotional punch of the film’s devastating finale. It’s all shot ‘found footage’ style – the characters are all filming themselves or others for a variety of reasons. Inevitably this leads to some convoluted devices, but for once it does what found footage movies are meant to do but have often failed to thanks to unthinking post Blair Witch overuse – the viewer is right in the middle of the drama. You feel intimately caught up with the central characters (brilliantly played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena), aided by as much time spent listening in on run of the mill, everyday conversation as on plot development. That may make parts sound dull – far from it. These are people you start to share life with; if the film had been two and a half hours of their everyday conversation, you wouldn’t feel short-changed. It isn’t all that, though; what it means is that the sense of threat and danger, when it comes (and it really comes) is all the more palpable; fear, physical pain, the real possibility of death – all creep up and engulf you with the central characters.
It ends with the sort of emotional finale which leaves you sitting silent, open-mouthed and slightly shaken. As you sit, letting the last bars of a brilliant soundtrack wash over you, it’s tempting to think that this is partly a simple hymn to the ordinary bravery of the police and their families – if so, it’s a successful one. It’s also as good a police thriller and human drama as you’ve seen in a long time.
I rated this film 9/10 on imdb.com and 4.5/5 on rottentomatoes.com