When Ian Curtis passed away this writer was a few weeks shy of turning 2 years old so this review isn't going to be full of "I was there" remarks or startling revelations of what life was like back then but that's not to say that the life of Ian Curtis or Joy Division hasn't had some impact on this writer. Sharing a room with an elder brother growing up there was always a supply of influential music but the impact of seeing the video for the re-release of 'Atmosphere' on one of BBC2's youth programmes in the late 1980's had a lasting impression. The starkness of the black and white footage, the sinister looking hooded characters, the chiming and ringing guitars and that voice. Without knowing too much, it was obvious the voice carried a depth of emotion and passion. The video was directed by Anton Corbijn, which brings us neatly to 'Control', which was also directed by Anton Corbijn.

The decision to shoot the film entirely in black and white turned out to be a tremendous decision, with the obvious link back to the 'Atmosphere' video but also in capturing Britain of the 1970's. It was a time of social upheaval and many historians or commentarists refer to the age as being a grey or dull time to be growing up. Ironically, one of the few things which brought colour and viour into peoples lives was the music of Glam Rock and we can see a young Curtis immersing himself into the world of David Bowie, along with a passion for poetry and pharamaceutical highs.

Unsurprisingly a lot of the early scenes that show the formation of the band interlink with the Joy Division sections of "24 Hour Party People" with the formation of the band originating from the legendary Sex Pistols gig in Manchester to Ian Curtis swearing at Tony Wilson which leads to the band appearing on Wilon's TV show.

As with most films there is some bending of the truth, with the film performance of the band appearing on Granada Reports featuring them playing 'Transmission' whereas the actual show had the band playing 'Shadowplay.' That aside, the dialogue from Wilson introducing the band was a replica of the real-life and the actors performance of 'Transmission' from Peter Hooks unique style of bass playing to Curtis' individual dance style was captured perfectly. A music film will live or die by the quality of the soundtrack and 'Control' is a sonic joy from start to finish. With incidental music from acts like The Velvet Underground, Iggy Pop and the afore-mentioned Bowie alongside Joy Division tracks, the band performance scenes captured the excitement and energy of the bands shows and places the viewer smack bang in the middle of Joy Division's rise.

Given that the film has its origins in the Deborah Curtis book, 'Touching From A Distance', the film gives an extremely balanced viewpoint on Ian Curtis' life. It does show the way he mistreats or ignores Debbie at times and of course, the repercussions of the front-man's affair is laid out but it's done very well and is not done in any way to make the viewer favour one party over another. The performance of Samantha Morton as Deborah Curtis is yet another fantastic performance from a talented actress. Through the film, the character develops from teenage girl who gets swept away in love to a woman who develops strength and conviction as she comes to terms with her husband becoming a star, watching his illness take over him and then seeing her marriage fall apart. With hindsight, it's probably fair to say that the Curtis' were married too early and the pressure of fame and the temptations that come from that situation combined to tear the couple apart.

The performance of Sam Riley in capturing the essence of the troubled singer is impressive, even down to the stare and dancing that Curtis was renowned for (even if it did have its origins in his epilepsy.) Playing such an engimatic and influential figure is a challenge for any actor, moreso one so young but Riley manages it well, again like Morton, taking the character from a carefree youngster through the trials of life and the pressure that were unique to his situation. Modern music fans will no doubt see an element of Pete Doherty about the life of Ian Curtis, which the film doesnt really shy away from (without necessarily encouraging it) but there was a lot more to Curtis' demise than the mainly self-inflicted state that Mr. Doherty finds himself in. With Curtis, the drugs werent so frequent, the hangers on not so many and many of his troubles came from trying to balance family and a normal working life (Curtis continuing his work as a Civil Servant for the early part of the band's career.) The media intrusion into Curtis wasn't as strong as what Doherty finds but placing the two situations in comparison it must be remembered that Ian Curtis wasn't living in a society where every piece of information about an act is available or churned out to the public. Back in the 70s, the intrusion into the singers life probably felt as highly charged as the modern equivalent into todays artists.

The film benefits from fantastic side-performances with most of the humour coming from the actors who played Peter Hook, Rob Gretton (the bands manager) and Tony Wilson. The one-liners between Hook and Gretton volley about at a fair pace with great wit and Wilson, again like in "24 Hour Party People", is the fall-guy for many of the comical moments.

There's been a spate of great music films in recent years, 'Ray' and 'Walk The Line' being noticeable and 'Control' definitely ranks up alongside them. The music of Joy Division gives them a brilliant start and the lives and times of the band gave enough stories and material to build a film around but the film comes to life and captures the troubles that wrapped around Ian Curtis. With the black and white vividly capturing the time and the kitchen-sink performance of Samanha Morton, there is a timeless classic feel about the film, which is pretty much the same as can be said about the band and their frontman.