Shan Khan’s London-set debut feature, Honour, attempts to combine a thriller framework with a social-issue concern — “Honour killings,” which, per the movie’s closing credits, are estimated by the United Nations to total well into the four figures on a yearly basis.
Khan invites the possibility of having his political agenda override his filmmaking responsibilities; thankfully, though, he reveals a strong knack for constructing suspense, and the movie’s ultimate flaws are more narrative-based than message-related.
Honour tackles its subject from the perspective of Mona (Aiysha Hart), a British-Pakistani real-estate agent who develops a relationship with a Punjabi man (Nikesh Patel). However, Mona’s strict family — led by her mother (Harvey Virdi) and her policeman brother (Faraz Ayub) — condemns such an against-tradition union, and, in an unflinching scene, Mona’s brother strangles her on the family couch.
The back-and-forth structure of Khan’s script, which often diverges from the present to explain the events leading up to the attack, keeps at bay key information. For instance, when the British actor Paddy Considine appears as a bounty hunter hired by the family to find Mona, it’s not initially clear how — if at all — Mona might have somehow managed to escape the strangling alive.
The result is that the striking up-and-comer Hart and the veteran Considine, sporting an Aryan Brotherhood tattoo, are occasionally stranded off-screen while Honour reveals other extraneous actions.
But Khan’s orchestration of suspense impresses; he proves especially skilled at dropping well-timed close-ups on objects that immediately add conflict to a situation: a knife in the kitchen, a photograph of Mona, a bundle of cash wrapped in a newspaper (a Psycho reference?).