Essential Killing

From the veteran Polish writer, actor and director Jerzy Skolimowski, comes a very unusual film with virtually no dialogue and told entirely from the perspective of a captured Afghani Taliban insurgent. It could almost be considered an art film because of the beautifully photographed landscapes and vistas of a figure running through other worldly, exotic locations.

An Afghani insurgent is captured by American forces in a canyon desert landscape and taken prisoner. Tortured and unable to understand or hear what is being said to him, he is taken to a secret location somewhere in Eastern Europe, where an accident allows him to escape. Running for his life, in a completely foreign, remote land, unable to communicate with anyone, he has no idea where he is and assumes everyone is out to kill him. 

There are elements of the Bourne series here because he is a trained soldier being pursued by secret government agents and armies and the action is non-stop. It is a visually stunning action chase film with very little dialogue and a totally believable performance by the lead actor Vincent Gallo, recently from Tetro (2009), whose character is never named. His nail biting performance is so suspenseful that you are constantly wondering what will happen to him next and how will his journey end, and who is this guy? 

Throughout the film we get short glimpses into his past life, as he dreams about his wife and home, and this seems to be what drives him to keep going. However this is not a conventional story, and we follow him for a short time but we don’t really know what happens to him. The movie finishes and we are left wondering what it all means. 

But it’s a fascinating glimpse into the crazy consequences of war, and our capabilities to survive at any cost. It shows how, in primitive and brutal circumstances, we regress to our basic animal instincts, making killing essential to survive. Similar in some ways to 127 Hours (2010), it shows how we are capable of the most desperate acts if our survival depends on it.

I would consider this to be a war film and some of the scenes are quite violent and graphic as you would expect in a war film. But it is a unique war film that shows a unique perspective on the war in Afghanistan; one that you will not see anywhere else, and this makes it worth seeing. One thing is for sure, this film is as fascinating as it is disturbing and you’re not likely to forget it. 



Lanre said...

I particularly love films that include stealth, intelligence and well, guns too. The James Bond and Bourne series films are among my favourites. I haven't seen this one but I'll check it out.

Sandra McLeod Humphrey said...

I'd never heard of this film before, but I'm going to add it to my "To check out" list. Thanks for your review--all your reviews are really helpful!