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Time Out says

Mon Oct 15 2007

Balabanov having put his idiosyncratic stamp on the perverse art-movie ('Of Freaks and Men') and and the populist gangster film ('Brother 1 & II') turns to to the horror genre in this, his latest, possibly allegorical,  provocation set  in a grimey industrial town in Kazakhstan (Leninsk, whose history  includes the gulag made famous by Solzenitsyn and the secret  headquarters of Russia's early space and nuclear missile facilities) during the period of 'shortages', war  (in Afghanistan) and so-called perestroika in 1984.  A compromised Professor of Atheism (Leonid Gromov), whose car breaks down, and a partying young couple,  a self-seeking would-be entrepreneur (Leonid Bicevin) and the vulnerable party chief's daughter (Agniya Kuznetsova) he's picked up, find their paths cross at an isolated illegal drinking hole patrolled by a chillingly  creepy  look-out (Alexei Poluyan), a moonlighting local police captain and psychopath. Balabanov, adopting a tone which blends the explicitness and moral inscrutiblility  of John McNaughton's 'Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer' with a cynical black humour  that exceeds even Kubrick's at his darkest, contextualises the ensuing terror against a carefully, brilliantly observed background of wholesale degradation, personal,  environmental, political, moral and, most significantly, religious. Whether this superbly-acted, finely-directed, vision of hell is intended as a despairing state-of-the-nation address or a shocking spirital wake-up call is unclear; what is certain, it's certainly  provides this year's grizzliest cinematic ghost-ride. As the opening credits calmly inform us, it's based on a true story. (WH)
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