First thing to share you may not have come across: The film Starred Up, directed by David Mackenzie, featuring Jack O'Connell. Starred Up is, ultimately, brutal. I won't knowingly watch something if it's brutal but the brutality doesn't have a point - but that isn't the case here. This is not pointless violence.
It is an unsparing look into the psychology, physicality, and the (seemingly inevitable/undying) patterns of prison life.
The film starts off with a young kid (O'Connell) being booked into an adult prison, transferred from a youth facility which we find out later can no longer safely contain him.
He is young, but he is physical, and O'Connell has an almost feral screen presence throughout, constantly moving and vibrating, giving a spectacular breakout performance which vibrates with the energy and uncertainty of pure youth. O'Connell is thrown into the adult prison, but we immediately see that he has the tools (literally) he will need to succeed in this new world. He almost immediately proves to be too much for the even this new prison to handle, getting into an accidental altercation with another inmate which causes the guards to chase him back to his cell where he has covered himself and the floor with baby oil, which makes it incredibly difficult for the guards to get a handle on him.
The film is the quintessential prison flick, featuring fake tough guys, older inmates who are on the take, a very clear organizational structure which O’Connell’s character upsets, a group of guys who are actually trying to do better and become stronger and less violent men while living in a very violent place, and everything else you’d really expect to see in a realistic film about prison life.
A note on the realism: It feels unmistakably lifelike and accurate throughout. The characters resonate, their motivations make sense, the action is claustrophobic, and the dialogue crackles.
The dialogue is amazing and notably intense to follow. My wife teases me about turning the volume up when I am watching a Brit show (which I do to help me hear the dialogue through the accents) and this film needs to be turned up to 11 so that you can catch 80% of the dialogue. Mackenzie chose to show the film without subtitles so as to not take away from the visual elements of the film, but you will find yourself missing bits and pieces throughout, and subtitles probably would have prevented that outcome, but at the expense of some measure of the realism. I think the challenging nature of the dialogue adds to the feeling that you are spending your time in a real place (Australian prison), with language and customs and undercurrents you can feel but don't quite yet understand.
Starred Up paints an incredibly bleak picture of the rehabilitation prospects of a young man who has been thrown into a world where he is basically raised by wolves and needs to establish himself in the pack. It is tough to watch. It is also executed flawlessly. The punch Mackenzie intended lands, and it hurts. Check it out if you get a chance.
Starred up on IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2567712/
I think some context for a review/suggestion is helpful, so I'll add these when I share a book/film/show that I think you might like:
I think you’d like this film if you loved Animal Kingdom and/or A Prophet.