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You Were Never Really Here - Film4

(Image credit: Studio Canal)

Playing a haunted military veteran who rescues kidnapped girls from sex-traffickers, Joaquin Phoenix is absolutely mesmerising

Playing a haunted military veteran who rescues kidnapped girls from sex-traffickers, Joaquin Phoenix is absolutely mesmerising.

Adapted from Jonathan Ames' pulp-noir novella by Scottish director Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin), this is a brutally compelling thriller.

Phoenix's suicidal loner exudes a bone-weary anguish - we see fleeting flashbacks to an abusive childhood and traumatic war service - but he sets about his business with grim determination and ruthless efficiency.

Indeed, we're already flinching the moment he picks up a hammer – his weapon of choice; he rarely uses a gun – but Ramsay actually keeps most of the violence off screen or at the margins of the frame. We witness a remorseless assault on a brothel for paedophiles, for example, via fleeting moments of black-and-white CCTV footage.

Aided by Tom Townend's arresting cinematography and Jonny Greenwood's disquietingly dissonant score, Ramsay sustains a mood of intense tension and menace that really gets under your skin.