Essential Killing (15)

Film

Thrillers

Essential Killing

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Posted: Tue Mar 29 2011

Maintaining the quality of 2008’s sadly unreleased ‘Four Nights with Anna’ –  which marked the return to filmmaking of Polish maverick Jerzy Skolimowski after a 17-year sabbatical as a painter – ‘Essential Killing’ is a ruthless, darkly funny survival movie charged with provocative political undertones. Vincent Gallo delivers a career-best performance (helped no end by the fact he is silent throughout) as a nameless, petrified Jihadi soldier who is captured by American troops, subjected to torture and who then escapes into a snowy wilderness while being rendered across country. The film asks how low would you go to preserve your own life, as Gallo’s encroaching delirium leads him to plumb ever more base depths. Delivering an absolute minimum of context, the film dares us to forge our own reasons for rooting for or despising this savage. Also, the way in which Gallo’s suffering is translated through a cascade of sound and images makes ‘Essential Killing’ a film to utter in the same breath as Elem Klimov’s sense-battering 1985 World War II film, ‘Come and See’.
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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Fri Apr 1, 2011

Duration:

83 mins

Cast and crew

Director:

Jerzy Skolimowski

Screenwriter:

Jerzy Skolimowski

Cast:

Vincent Gallo, Emmanuelle Seigner

Users say

0
<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:4
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:2
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|19
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Marek

Could not agree more with gilmuni. Narrow-minded bigots, religious fundamentalists and George Bush types do not like this film at all - I wonder why?

Marek

Could not agree more with gilmuni. Narrow-minded bigots, religious fundamentalists and George Bush types do not like this film at all - I wonder why?

gilmuni

Most of the negative reviews in these comments appear to be from people who have never met a jihadist brought up in the mountains of Afghanistan. Not saying i have but i have met people in that part of the world brought up in poverty and acculturated to see the world through a narrow lens of religion and clan. Drop someone like this in the middle of a forest in eastern Europe and they certainly might behave the way Mohamed does. The set piece criticism seems a ridiculous complaint to me that appears to be used by people who think using such phrases makes them sound like an expert film critic.The film is in my view a powerful one both about what a human will do to survive and about the brutal war on terrorism that creates the conditions for this mans survival struggle to take place.Get over your American exceptional-ism and try to put yourself in someone else's shoes. Certainly there have been equally bizarre situations in movies you have seen that you liked that compare favorably to the logging truck fight and the breast milk scene. Open your minds people !

gilmuni

Most of the negative reviews in these comments appear to be from people who have never met a jihadist brought up in the mountains of Afghanistan. Not saying i have but i have met people in that part of the world brought up in poverty and acculturated to see the world through a narrow lens of religion and clan. Drop someone like this in the middle of a forest in eastern Europe and they certainly might behave the way Mohamed does. The set piece criticism seems a ridiculous complaint to me that appears to be used by people who think using such phrases makes them sound like an expert film critic.The film is in my view a powerful one both about what a human will do to survive and about the brutal war on terrorism that creates the conditions for this mans survival struggle to take place.Get over your American exceptional-ism and try to put yourself in someone else's shoes. Certainly there have been equally bizarre situations in movies you have seen that you liked that compare favorably to the logging truck fight and the breast milk scene. Open your minds people !

Erasmus

I watched this collection of scenes (movie?) and its a total load of trash...not worth the DVDs its burnt into. The escape scene is ridiculous. The director claims he avoided any politics. But if a picture tells a thousand words then the scenes are very political. The search team goes after him for a few kilometres and then lose him? And a chopper gets a warning beeper and backs off and the rest of the film is just a walk through the snow covered forest with some berry picking , breast milk and a night in a cottage. The film ends with the white horse standing there. What rubbish.

Trent

I think you are getting away from the point that this movie points towards a sympathetic view towards the Taliban, as a soldier i was disgusted by this movie. And at no point did I witness any 'essential' killing, what a crock shite I think the people that made this movie need to take a long hard look at themselves.

The voice

In all honesty the biggest load of shite iv ever seen to be realistic nothing essential about killing three guys at the start .syco rampage would have been better title

Marek

Dear All, I did not say that he had any choice at all in this film. (perhaps some cynics may suggest he had a choice of kill or be killed). What I meant was simply this:- Is man inately a wild animal, who will always regress to this when he is in peril? Or are other factors involved? Does the environment that the person is in have a part to play, too?

Albert

Imagine, after making the DECISION to stowaway on a logging truck to put distance between himself and his pursuers, to arrive at a lumberyard, and then coming across a convenient running chainsaw in the hands of a lumberjack that had just been using it a moment before! And then making the DECISION to try to kill the much larger guy rather than surrender. In every interaction he made a DECISION to kill or not, which he didn't do in every instance. I thought it was pretty amazing how his conflicts over his choices and actions were expressed without words.

Albert

Imagine, after making the DECISION to stowaway on a logging truck to put distance between himself and his pursuers, to arrive at a lumberyard, and then coming across a convenient running chainsaw in the hands of a lumberjack that had just been using it a moment before! And then making the DECISION to try to kill the much larger guy rather than surrender. In every interaction he made a DECISION to kill or not, which he didn't do in every instance. I thought it was pretty amazing how his conflicts over his choices and actions were expressed without words.

dumdumboy

Marek I'm not sure how you can suggest the film questions what would one do to survive. When apparently ALL you have to do is generally wander in any given direction before REMARKABLY coming across a convenient trapped dog; a convenient running chainsaw; a convenient milk-laden cyclist!!!! REALLY!!!!! He makes NOT ONE decision about survival other than to apply the result of the tableau playing out in front of him. There are many films that question violence, levels of violence and THIS IS NOT ONE OF THEM. He may be 72 and may have spent a long time in the cold making this but SO WHAT? This is ABUT THE FILM not the director's plight. Go see 'Raging Bull' 'Taxi Driver' if you want to see films that question what man might do with violence...

Marek

Deeply ambigious film, this. On the one hand, it asks the question - what would you do to survive? On the other, it simultaneously asks where do thes 'base instincts' come from, are they inside all of us? The film is very, very disorientating. You do not know where you are, and the direction of the film helps with this. there is also one point, that few critics/reviewers have seemed to notice. This is a very short film, at only just over 80 minutes. However, it tells us all we need to know in the time. It is a very well-paced, and darkly funny film. The only criticism I would have is that the ending seems to be very much against all that has gone before. But do go and see this film.

M R

re: dumdumboy's comments: it's true that a film or song can have allegorical references and still have polish like dumdum's Bowie example--or can have a rawer edge more akin to old folk ballads or Dylan - where immediacy, lyrical content and a rougher emotional feel trump polish - I think this is closer to the atmosphere Skolimowski was going for. Keeping the music metaphor, it was a song at a different tempo than the action film norm (or a Bowie song if you prefer). I thought the director articulated his aims well in an interview with the Canadian Metronews: "What’s interesting is that as Gallo’s nameless protagonist becomes more desperate, the film’s pace slows, rather than accelerates — almost an action movie in reverse. “I felt like if I grabbed the audience’s attention in the first few scenes, like an action movie, I could gradually slow the pace and turn it into a more poetic or philosophical film,� says Skolimowski, adding that it was precisely these tactics that caught the attention of the Venice jury’s president, Quentin Tarantino." It's hard for me to think of a 40 day and night shoot in three countries in conditions going down to minus -35 as "lazy" for a 72-year-old director. I do wonder about the marketing and viewers drawn with false expectations because of the slambam trailer and "kill to survive" advertising hype. I will say the bit with the tree got a little close to Wile E. Coyote but I found the other parts fit the increasing desperation and delirium. The film hinges on Gallo's Mohammad and if you don't 'believe' him, even though he was obviously designed to be sympathetically convoluted, it could just seem like a series of slapped together set pieces but I thought the scenes flowed with perfect sense and with everything having a reason to it. It can be seen that it was not a huge budget film but I didn't see it as lazy in any way.

Phil Ince

The opening half hour in English is strangely crude but the later part in Poland (or wherever) sometimes looks gorgeous. Unfortunately, I wound up finding the film funny. The hapless bastard murders his way across the world while, in the course of 45 minutes, in an entirely empty, snow-filled wilderness a Pythonesque quantity of misfortune befalls him. An accidental comedy.

dumdumboy

I'm sorry but I have to disagree with the heavy love being afforded this lazy piece of filmmaking. Now I'm all for movies pushing at the edges of the percieved wisdom of any given genre. But Essential Killing is not some allegorical, revisionist thriller. IT IS LAZY FILMMAKING. A series of ever more ludicrous set-pieces (convenient still-churning chainsaws, Milk-laden girls convenient spilling over on our protagonists very road - this sort of stuff would be ridiculed in, say, a Steven Seagal film (I'm no Seagal lover - but I hope you get my point) Just because a films tries to be 'heavy' does not mean we simply accept its premise. David Bowie sang about 'Keter' and Malkuth' in the title track from his classic 'Station To Station' album. Did we necessarily need to know the references? No, the track's a corker! So metaphor and allegory are all well and good and great lyrics, but only if the tune's good too!

Carinthia

This film won the Special Jury Prize and Best Actor (the Volpi Cup) in Venice, the first film to ever win 2 major prizes, breaking the Festival rules by Jury President Quentin Tarantino's request -- so it can hardly be considered a student film. And anyone who doesn't want to see Gallo play a Taliban insurgent is crazy! It's an excellent and thought-provoking curio, also featuring the beautiful Emmaunelle Seigner.

Carinthia

This film won the Special Jury Prize and Best Actor (the Volpi Cup) in Venice, the first film to ever win 2 major prizes, breaking the Festival rules by Jury President Quentin Tarantino's request -- so it can hardly be considered a student film. And anyone who doesn't want to see Gallo play a Taliban insurgent is crazy! It's an excellent and thought-provoking curio, also featuring the beautiful Emmaunelle Seigner.

M R

My experience of this film was much closer to Mr. Jenkins' review than that of Mr. Walker's user review below. I would not say that it was a perfect film but to call it a student film makes me think Mr. Walker did not manage to see the director's intent clearly. It could be argued that Mr. Skolimowski could or should have been more explicit but that is not how his movies have ever been. Perhaps expectations have something to do with it but post-MTV "fast paced scenes with snappy, sharp editing" would not have served the mood it seemed he was going for. It's clear that nature is the costar to Gallo in this film. I believe the editing style, much of the "focusing on cinematography" and those shots and scenes he saw as having been better left on the cutting room floor were largely the point of the movie - to emphasize the character, the beauty - and hostility - of nature as well as to convey the "hazy sense of time and place" to which Mr. Jenkins refers. To complain that it is at the cost of "no focus on story or characters and basic filmmaking" seems a narrow-minded view of the "rules" for an aspiring filmmaker especially as it appears the intent was specifically _not_ to emulate the standard of the genre. I believe Skolimowski knows the rules and his choices of when to deviate from them are deliberate. On the issue of uniforms and weapons choices, this is minutia and I don't think Skolimowski was looking to make a sequel to Blackhawk Down or that absolute realism in military detail was his aim. They were clearly American forces and, as the POV was meant to reflect the perspective of the Gallo's Talib, it looked to me that they were meant to be somewhat spectral and shadowy. That said, the uniforms were clearly pre-2005 (which puts it into the time frame that such bases would have been active so this may be more 'accurate' than supposed). As to "the incident that causes the escape to happen" not being believable - mild spoiler warning - it did not seem improbable to me: a convoy on an icy road - the first vehicle brakes because of animals in the road, the second vehicle swerves to avoid collision and goes off the road. There are parts of the story that stretch plausibility but this did not strike me as one of them. I also disagree on the ending which I found poignant and appropriate. But, yes, not climatic in any Hollywood sense. To over-stress the point, the review reminds me of a young art student who prefers photo-realism complaining of the proportions being wrong in an abstract painting. The criterion are not the same. We do, however, agree as to "different strokes for different folks". I can easily see where many people wont like it. I did, and am grateful to see movies that operate outside of the normal rules the way this one does.

Sam Walker

I saw Essential Killing only yesterday as part of The British Film Festival. I shall say this, to me it was as if i had just watched a student film with some budget behind it. I'll admit there was some wonderful cinematography, this amplified the use of brilliant locations, but this did not save the film, nor does it warrant the film being held as brilliant. To have a brilliant film you need all the elements to come together and for me this film had only a few. For example; I did not believe the soldiers were soldiers as there uniforms and choice of weapons did not fit, I did not believe the "incident" that causes the escape to happen was believable nor represented the severity of the scene. Shoddy editing reminded me I was watching something that was not real. And finally shots/scenes that should have been left on the editing floor as they were not needed, further reminded me I was in a cinema full of other people watching a screen, not a story. As a young (19 year old) cinema goer and short film director I and my fellow generation can be questioned to having a different mind set for consuming film. We generically like fast paced scenes with snappy, sharp editing and the director is of another generation of film, but this does not excuse the lack of pace in "Essential Killing". The potential in this film was vast, but I felt that the director put all of his efforts into focusing on cinematography, mis-en-scene and no focus on story or characters and basic filmmaking. Along side its unsatisfactory and blunt, lazy ending, that is why I am going to rate this film poorly. I have not sat at the end of a film as the credits rise up and looked around to see a bulk of the other members of the audience clapping, causing me stand up and say "Why are you clapping?". All I am going to say is "Different strokes for different folks". You may like it, but personally, Its a no no.