Friday, 17 February 2012

Review - Essential Killing (2010 - Dir. Jerzy Skolimowkski)

In a similar (ish) vein to The Artist, Essential Killing is a silent film. Well, virtually. It just seems to be missing a little fellow in a penguin suit playing his organ on a little podium as accompaniment. It would certainly help, as it needs a bit of livening up.

Vincent Gallo plays a... well, you never quite know what. Is he an insurgent, blowing up Americans left, right and centre with a rocket launcher or has be been caught in a situation just by accident. He could be a pork butcher from Grimsby for all we know. The director never lets you in on the secret. Regardless, the American army bang him in a Guantanamo Bay style camp and take him for a spot of water-boarding. Bless 'em. They don't go the whole hog and take him to Skegvegas though. In true Fugitive style, he escapes and legs it into a snowy forest. The rest of the story then concerns his hardships and exploits.

As hunger sets in, he pretty much does anything to survive. Even when he gets up to some fairly unpleasant malarkey with a woman breastfeeding her baby, you're still not sure what kind of a character he is: a desperate man willing to ignore his morals to stave off his life-threatening hunger or just a pervert. Like Lupin.

In an interview, the likeable director talks about how he didn't want to make a political film. And he hasn't. It's just a bit dull. You never fully engage with Gallo's character or care what happens to him. His morally ambiguous nature makes him distinctly unappealing. Some politics may have made for a more interesting film; make the character an insurgent and then attempt to get the viewer to care for him. Mmm, challenging stuff.

As it stands, it's not the best example of a silent film; there's not enough visual interest or emotional impact. A shame, seeing as though the director is such a pleasant little fellow.

If you like this you could also try:
Rabbit-Proof Fence, Papillon, The Fugitive.


  1. I guess any moron can cluelessly barf all over greatness and call itself a critic. WTF are u to call a genius like Skolimowski "a little man". The intelligent critics at Cahier Du Cinema picked it 1 of the 10 best films of 2011.
    A visionary and masterful film. There is a story, it just isn't told in the same stock way. I think the story is a poetically-told and profound one. If you want Rambo and sneer at the idea of an "art film", then skip it. You won't know how to watch it and your insipid commentary will be misplaced. If you understand that politics is elemental, consequential, and, yes, essential, and is more than ideologies and labels and bad guy verses good guy frames of reference, you could get something out of it. If you understand that politics is really (or had better be) ultimately about the planet, other life forms, seeing people whole, and each man's soul, or at least have an open mind to seeing a more encompassing view of "politics", you might like it. Skolimowski's best, in my opinion, and that says a great deal.

  2. It's very telling that you lump yourself in with the intelligent critics and then call me a moron and have a little swear (even if it is an acronym).

    As I've said in the 'A bit more about us' section I know that these won't be the best reviews in the world. That's not what this blog is about. It's about bringing varied films together. I haven't got a clue where you got the Rambo and sneering at art films from, have you looked at the other films I like. I actually wanted it to be more intelligent and challenging.

    In the end it's all personal opinion. I'm happy that you enjoyed it. I was bored by it. It would be fairly dull if we all liked the same thing. That's exactly what this blog is about. Accept that every one has their opinion and revel in our differences.

  3. Dear Anonymous, I think you've got the wrong end of the stick. 'pleasant little fellow' seems to me to be a compliment, not an insult. I watch loads of art films and sadly, I'd have to say that I found this a tad boring. Not one of the best.