Review: Essential Killing (2010)

Essential Killing (2010)

Directed by: Jerzy Skolimowski | 83 minutes | thriller, war | Actors: Vincent Gallo, Emmanuelle Seigner, Zach Cohen, Iftach Ophir, David L. Price, Nicolai Cleve Broch, Stig Frode Henriksen, Tracy Spencer Shipp, Klaudia Kaca, Dariusz Juzyszyn, Robert Mazurkiewicz, Lars Markus Verpeide Bakke, Even Løken Bergan, Thomas Berg, Eirik Daleng, Morten Enger, Håkon Speirs Færvik, Phillip Goss, Anders Kile Grønningsæter, Lars Berg Jensen, Niklas Nygaard, Torgrim Ødegård, Varg Strande, Christian Teisnes

‘Essential Killing’ is a combination between a classic survival story and a committed protest film about the fight against terrorism. An Afghan Muslim fighter is taken prisoner after a bloody clash with American soldiers and moved to a secret prison camp somewhere in Eastern Europe. He manages to get away by accident due to a car accident. Hunted by soldiers and the cold winter weather, he tries to escape his attackers. In the snowy forest and far away from his homeland, however, it seems like a hopeless battle.

To stay alive, the Afghan has to regularly take up arms, resulting in a number of fatalities. Hence the title ‘Essential Killing’, the man has to kill to keep himself alive. The Muslim warrior does not say a word in this film, which does not mean that he faces his fate without emotion. The man is visibly suffering from the heavy violence he has to inflict on his victims. That also seems to be the central question that director Jerzy Skolimowski wants to ask the viewers. Does the Afghan have no other options or is killing his opponents really his only way out?

The makers of the film don’t seem to be clearly taking sides. In times of need, the Afghan frantically reaches for learned Islamic Qur’anic texts, which must convince him of the necessity of his senseless struggle. In a certain sense, however, the man is also a victim, because he is snatched from hearth and home by the Americans and hunted like game. So the Afghan is also driven by despair and therefore acts so extreme.

Essential to the success of ‘Essential Killing’ is the question whether Skolimowski has succeeded in portraying the nameless terrorist’s inner struggle. In fact, that has not been successful enough. Due to the strong emphasis on the chase, the film has a rather bare-bones story and the lack of dialogue makes you insufficiently aware of the thoughts that lie behind the emotions of the Muslim fighter. Also, quite a few improbable things happen in the film. For example, the Afghan is being cared for by a deaf woman who lives in a hut in the woods, when he crashes in front of the door, bleeding and with a gun in his hand. An attack on a woodcutter is not heard by any of the other woodcutters. ‘He should have been dead long ago,’ you think.

Comments are closed.