Greenwich Mean Time

UK 1998

Reviewed by Mark Sinker


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

London, the present. Rix, Bobby and Bean make experimental jazz-jungle music. Their manager Sam, Bobby's lover, is trying to get them a deal. Sam's uncle Henry who's in music business will only take them seriously - as a band called GMT - if they get a vocalist. Sam thinks they should, but the others aren't interested. Bean has a fling with Bobby's work chum Rachel. The band's schoolfriend Charlie crashes his motorbike and is paralysed from the neck down. Bean and Sam argue bitterly over the direction of the band, and Bean walks out.

Sam sets up recording sessions with vocalist Iona. Rix works reluctantly with Iona, but Bobby leaves the band. Bean becomes a drug-runner for dealer Ellroy. Sam and Rachel become lovers. After talking to Bean, Rix discovers Sam has lied to him. He confronts Sam; learning of his lies, Rachel dumps Sam. An angry yardie boss confronts Ellroy over missing money: Ellroy blames Bean and brings him to the yardie boss' club. Newly signed, GMT give a triumphant show at the same club: Bobby, Rachel, Charlie and Bean all arrive to show support. During a fight for a gun, the yardie boss, his goon and Ellroy are killed. The next day, Bean and Sam arrive simultaneously at Rachel's workplace. Bean pulls a gun, and the police are called. Bean deliberately makes the police gun him down. The surviving friends take his ashes to the Irish beach he always dreamed of visiting.


Guy Sigsworth's music is vastly the strongest thing in Greenwich Mean Time, a coming-of-age tragedy about making it in the pop world, and the trumpetwork Lester Bowie provides, as stuntlips for the Bean character, is a key to this strength. So it's perhaps perverse to argue that they hired the wrong Bowie; GMT would be better - stranger, truer, funnier - if David Bowie, in his current incarnation as clownish BritArt technopixie, had been asked to revive the role he played in Absolute Beginners, slick pop entrepreneur Vendice Partners. GMT's unwise attempt to shoehorn a television-realist 90s (yardies, quadriplegia, Talvin Singh, Canary Wharf) into a treatment of the entertainment industry that's pure Colin MacInnes c.1958 might just have worked if it had given itself some consciously playful cartoon elements. As it is, there's no pirate radio, no DJ magazines, no listings-mag guides to hip club arcana here. Just a camp uncle in the biz, whose opinions about jungle are well square, daddio. Expresso Bongo with crack dens - but without self-awareness.

In fact, somewhere in this mess, a critique is being attempted, of adolescent attitude as unearned cool: GMT would love to believe itself wise to the contradictions and callow perils of 'not selling out'. Certainly those male characters most given to no-compromise moralising - Bean, Rix, Charlie - endlessly throw immature tantrums, while Sam the manager-manipulator is on the whole proved right, despite himself, about how life works, and how to stop it sucking. Of course, he's also castigated for using Charlie's accident to win an argument with Bean, as if the plot isn't busy using the accident to win arguments with us.

But any such examination of why and when people should compromise - and what makes bastards bastards - is lost in a heavily overstocked plot. Knock-off MacInnes idealism, yardie cliché and hospital-ward histrionics swirl about, until no one storyshaper - writer, director, cinematographer, composer - can recall what the others are aiming for. Writer Simon Mirren in particular seems mesmerised by his own cleverness: too often his script, in self-indulgent pre-emptive compensation, requires weak inter-character banter to be followed by bouts of laughter on-screen, while the audience is unmoved. As for Mirren's sextalk, if only its thudding bravado were hipping us to the anxieties that can afflict even the cute and hardbodied; instead it merely broadcasts, even less subtly than usual, youth culture's boastful self-image of its own expressive freedoms and capable bed-hopping.

Indeed, grown-ups in GMT are goofy wallpaper at best, a hoary pop-cultural trope that kills dead any imagined critique of youth cool. Weirdly, this point too is made, but not until over the closing credits, where snaps of the unknown public, at a race meeting and a wedding, exhibit the unscripted dignity and energetic invention which iD magazine explored, in its long-vanished radical salad days: when it knew that 'street style' meant how people on the street, young and old, chose to look and behave. (This striking stills photography appears to be that of Jonathan Olley, stuntlens on behalf of the Charlie character.)

Meanwhile, back at the film proper, director John Strickland casts fashion-plate faces and shoots them in glib, forced transactions. The idea that these fingers, lips, brains or cheekbones contributed to the alert, adaptive, self-mocking GMT sound is often dizzily implausible. GMT's music has integrity - as the script doggedly requires and Sigsworth triumphantly delivers - largely because it dispenses with heart-tugging cliché. If only the script knew how to achieve this: true, I laughed aloud when Bean at last arrived on the dreamed-of Irish beach where his mother's ashes lie, but this time I don't believe I was meant to.


Taylor Hackford
Simon Mirren
Director of Photography
Alan Almond
Patrick Moore
Production Designer
Luana Hanson
Music/Music Producer
Guy Sigsworth
©Anvil/GMT Films Ltd
Production Companies
Icon Entertainment International presents an Anvil Films production
Executive Producers
Ralph Kamp
Jamie Carmichael
San-Fu Maltha
Paul Spencer
Line Producers
Simon Hardy
Simon Scotland
Associate Producers
Gina Blumenfeld
Simon Mirren
Logistics Supervisor
Ananda Coulier
Production Managers
Adam Bohling
Alex Belmont
Location Manager
Eddie Standish
Post-production Co-ordinator
Sarah Isherwood
Assistant Directors
Richard Lingard
Stefan Gates
Sasha Mann
Script Supervisor
Laura Goulding
Casting Director
Doreen Jones
Additional Photography
Adam Rodgers
2nd Unit Director of Photography
Steve Parker
Camera Operator
Rodrigo Gutierrez
Steadicam Operators
Peter Robertson
Jan Pester
Stuart Howell
Steven Cassidy
Concert Lighting Design
Nick Jones
Special Effects
Tom Harris
Any Effects
Art Director
David Walley
Art Production Manager
Anita Gupta
Special Photography - Charlie's Work
Jonathan Olley
Storyboard Artist
Joseph Adams
Costume Designer
Stephanie Collie
Costume Supervisor
Georgina Gunner
Hair/Make-up Designer
Graham Johnston
Hair/Make-up Artist
Marese Langan
Main Title Design
Dan Robey
Empire Design
General Screen Enterprises
GMT Musicians
Hinda Hicks
Imogen Heap
Additional Vocals:
Donna Gardier
Guy Sigsworth
Lester Bowie
Talvin Singh
Tony Vegas
Production Supervisor
Paul Spencer
Music Engineer/Editor/Mixer
Damian Taylor
Lester Bowie's Trumpet Recordist
Michael Ade
Concert Songs Mixers
Neil MacLenna
Luke Gifford
Music Consultant
Paul Spencer
"Rachel's Song", "Summer Madness" by Guy Sigsworth, performed by Lester Bowie with GMT; "Tears Are Waiting", "Where Is the Love?" by Guy Sigsworth, Alexander Nilere, performed by Hinda Hicks with GMT; "Succumb to You", "Please Can I Go Now?" by Guy Sigsworth, performed by Hinda Hicks with GMT; "Spend the Night" by Michael Dominie Wizgowski, Martin Lascelles, Dani'ele Gaha, Danny J. Lewis, Anthony Codrington, performed by Danny J. Lewis; "Mean Time" by Guy Sigsworth, performed by Imogen Heap with GMT; "Who Would You Have Me Love?" by Guy Sigsworth, Jon Hassell, performed by Hinda Hicks with GMT; "I Wanna Be Your Lady" by Sikiru Oluwa, Michelle Escoffrey, performed by Hinda Hicks; "Once More" by Alex Paterson, Andy Hughes, Thomas Fehlmann, Aki Omori, performed by The Orb; "Can't Stop Lyric Robot", "All I Wanna Do" by Jason Ong, Stephen Austin, performed by Different Levels; "Vikram the Vampire (Guy Sigsworth Mix)" by/performed by Talvin Singh; "Sincere" by/performed by M.J. Cole; "Put the Freaks up Front" by Tom Barman, Craig Ward, Klaas Janssens, Julien De Borgher, Danny Mommens, performed by Deus; "Christiansands" by Adrian Thaws, D. Davies, R. Walters, performed by Tricky; "PVSP" by Paul Pesce, performed by Peshay; "Baptism" by Rodney Smith, Vanessa George, performed by Roots Manuva; "Ladies & Gents", "Take Hold of Yourself" by Will Crewdson, David Ryder Prangley, Robin Guy, performed by Rachel Stamp
Sound Recordist
Danny Hambrook
Dubbing Mixer
Tim Alban
2nd Unit Sound Mixer
Rupert Ivey
Concert Sound Mixer
Paddy Addison
Supervising Sound Editor
Simon Gershon
Dialogue Editor
Joe Illing
Pete Smith
Dave McGrath
Jens Christensen
Paul Harris
Paula Boram
Andrea King
Graeme Stoten
Graeme Stoten
Stunt Co-ordinator
Roderick Woodruff
Alec Newman
Melanie Gutteridge
Georgia MacKenzie
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Steve John Shepherd
Alicya Eyo
Benjamin Waters
Anjela Lauren Smith
Freddie Annobil-Dodoo
Joe Duttine
Robbie Gee
Hinda Hicks
Alun Armstrong
Uncle Henry
Geoffrey Beevers
Mr Finch
Debbi Blythe
Trevor Byfield
Amber Charles
Karl Collins
Charles De'ath
Christine Ellerbeck
Perry Fenwick
Enoch Frost
David Gant
Fiona Gow
Roger Griffiths
Peter Helmer
Simon Mirren
drug dealer
Matthew Radford
Paul Ritter
drug buyer
Ray Stevenson
Mr Hardy
George Sweeney
Mr Rowntree
Sheila Whitfield
Nurse Louise
GMT Band
special guest appearance
Talvin Singh
Tony Vegas
Rachel Stamp
Will Crewdson
David Ryder Prangley
Robin Guy
Rebecca Grover
Francesca Grover
special guest appearances
Icon Film Distribution
10,585 feet
117 minutes 37 seconds
Dolby digital SR
Colour by
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011