Essential Killing

Year: 2010
Production Co: Hanway Films
Director: Jerzy Skolimowski
Producer: Jerzy Skolimowski/Ewa Piaskowska
Writer: Jerzy Skolimowski/Ewa Piaskowska
Cast: Vincent Gallo

It wasn't until after the fact that I realised this film had some controversy attached to it. My understanding is the controversy was simply because it portrayed a Taliban foot soldier. It wasn't quite sympathetic to him, but was very much from his point of view.

One-man controversy magnet Vincent Gallo plays Mohammed, who we first meet trying to hide from a small group of American solders and civilians in the dry caverns of Afghanistan. Far from the irrational whacko terrorists are portrayed as, he's terrified and looks like he'd rather be anywhere else. When they draw too close, he has no other choice and blows them away with a rocket launcher and is captured by the US army soon after.

We join him in a brutal transport process, much of it from his own point of view as he's hooded, dragged from place to place and physically abused and attacked, and while crossing the snowy forest roads somewhere in Europe the prisoner convoy is interrupted when one of the vehicles crashes, giving Mohammed the chance to escape.

After he does not much else happens. Maybe the appeal was all resting on the controversy of telling this story – the movie itself gets kind of boring. But Gallo plays a good role, never speaking a single world throughout the film, his entire performance stumbling around the wintry forests, trying to stay out of sight and steal what he can, in constant terror and so hungry at times he eats bark straight off a tree.

But nothing much happens other than a series of adventures and misadventures of him trying to stay alive and – as the title suggests – killing others to protect himself in the process. If there'd been a bit more focus outside the main character and a bit more exploration of the central moral conundrum it might have made the film a little more valuable.

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