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Film / Detainment

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Detainment is a 2018 short drama film directed by Vincent Lambe. It is an account of one of the most disturbing crimes of the past century, namely, the 1993 murder of a Liverpool toddler named James Bulger. The film focuses on the two young perpetrators being questioned by the police (about 80% of the dialogue is taken word-for-word from interview transcripts).

The film opens with the boys in question, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, being taken to the police station with their parents where they are interrogated by the police. Venables is terrified at the prospect of being punished for what he has done; Thompson keeps his head held high and swiftly denies any involvement. Gradually, the police get the boys to confess what they have done. As the boys tell their story, several flashbacks play out that show them abducting Bulger and walking with him through the streets of Liverpool, before they stop at the rail yard and kill him.


  • Adults Are Useless: Flashbacks show that several adults noticed Bulger with the two boys and asked what was going on, but didn't actually do anything to help.
  • Anachronism Stew: At one point during the opening sequence, when the boys are shoplifting from a store in the New Stand shopping center, a SpongeBob SquarePants toy can be seen in the background. SpongeBob started in 1999; the crime took place in early 1993.
  • Based on a True Story: A highly accurate retelling of one of the most notorious crimes of the 20th century. (What it doesn't say, however, is that the boys were eventually released from prison after they turned eighteen; Thompson has apparently stayed out of trouble with the law ever since, but Venables has been imprisoned twice for possession of child pornography.)
  • Death of a Child: The entire plot of the film revolves around the killing of a two-year-old by two primary school boys.
  • Enfant Terrible: Though the film does not portray them as villains, Venables and Thompson certainly fit this trope.
  • Flashback: The kidnapping of Bulger and the walk down to the rail yard is shown in a series of flashbacks as the boys are being questioned.
  • Foreshadowing: In the opening sequence, just before the two boys notice Bulger outside the butcher shop, they are shown tossing a wind-up soldier toy down an escalator where it breaks into pieces - a subtle reference to what they do to Bulger later on.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Aside from a bump on Bulger's head from the first time the boys hit him, none of the violence inflicted on him is shown on camera.
  • Heroic BSoD: Venables loses his composure many times during the film, but by the end he is wailing and screaming "make it stop!" over and over while punching his dad, who just sits there with the kind of stare you’d expect one to have upon finding out that their child murdered someone in such a gruesome manner.
  • Shown Their Work: "A true story based on interview transcripts and records."
  • Title Sequence: The opening credits show the boys being taken into the police station for questioning, intercut with flashbacks of them playing at the New Strand Shopping Center and stealing various things from stores, before they notice young Bulger and get the idea to abduct him.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Thompson is shown acting defiant and angry during his interviews, shouting back at the police and not showing the tiniest bit of remorse. Venables, on the other hand, cries in the way you might expect of a child accused of such a thing, but of course, his behavior in committing the murder fits this trope.