Posted March 16, 2011 by Dan Clay in Films

Essential Killing Cinema Review

Nearly twenty years after Harrison Ford’s Dr Richard Kimble went
on the run in Andrew Davis’ gripping thriller, The Fugitive, comes a
much more gritty, realistic and downbeat take on the escaped man
scenario. Oh, and yet another swipe at the so-called War On Terror.

Taliban member Mohammed (Vincent Gallo), who lives in
Afghanistan, is taken captive by the Americans after killing three US
soldiers. He is transferred to a remote detention centre in Northern
Europe for interrogation but manages to escape from his captors. A few
lucky breaks later, he is unchained and on the run, in the midst of a
harsh Scandinavian winter, with only his wits and an orange jumpsuit to
keep him warm and in a continent he does not know. Not to mention the US
army, some particularly toothy canines and a chopper soon on his tail.

Essential Killing provides little exposition throughout the entire
83-minutes of the film, thus leaving the audience unable to determine
whether or not Mohammed is a dangerous terrorist or an innocent man.
Whilst it makes the tale all the more intriguing, it is hard to
immediately sympathise with the protagonist and some viewers might find
it hard to overcome. Not knowing exactly where to place our sympathies
makes it difficult to root for a man who will callously attack innocent
woodcutters or assault a mother by the side of the road in front of her
young child. Is Mohammed indeed a dangerous terrorist or simply a
desperate man?

Director Jerzy Skolimowski simply strips the narrative down to a man
struggling to survive, at all costs, cleverly aided by the fact that
Gallo does not utter one word throughout the entire film. Mohammed’s
only real interaction is with a mute housewife Margaret (Emmanuelle Seigner),
when he arrives at her door and she shows him compassion. Beautifully
shot by Adam Sikora, the Norwegian and Polish backdrops lends a
beautiful but deadly atmosphere; endless fields of white snow and
thicketed forest adding to the tension of the film.

It’s easy to see how Gallo’s assured performance gained him Venice
Film Festival’s Best Actor award, underlining his cred as the true
unspoken hero.

Dan Clay