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Essential Killing (2010)



Average Rating: 7.5/10
Critic Reviews: 5
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 0

No consensus yet.



liked it
Average Rating: 3/5
User Ratings: 2,528

My Rating

Movie Info

A soldier must fight for his own survival as well as the cause of his people in this powerful drama from acclaimed Polish filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski. A pair of American security operatives (Zach Cohen and Iftach Ofir) are on patrol in Afghanistan when they stumble upon a Taliban fighter (Vincent Gallo), who kills them despite his terror and nervousness. While trying to escape, the Afghan is captured by American forces; he's tortured during interrogation, but doesn't tell the Americans anything,


Mystery & Suspense

Jan 24, 2012

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All Critics (35) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (29) | Rotten (5) | DVD (7)

Under the guise of current events, Skolimowski artfully conjures an elemental archetype of human life itself. In English, Polish, and Arabic.

May 2, 2011 Full Review Source: New Yorker
New Yorker
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Stripped of its political vestments, Essential Killing is a chase film almost existential in its rawness and virtually silent in its unfolding -- just a pursued man reduced by circumstance to a primitive state.

April 1, 2011 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

View it as an existential thriller illustrating how violence begets violence.

March 30, 2011 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Delivering an absolute minimum of context, the film dares us to forge our own reasons for rooting for or despising this savage.

March 30, 2011 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The movie deftly shifts from its initial chase thriller mode to a grueling, offbeat tale of human survival.

December 2, 2010 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Skolimowski's fresh approach keeps us on guard.

March 14, 2013 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

What is striking about it, of course, is the way that the filmmaker manages to garner sympathy for an essential villain.

February 10, 2012 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

An astonishingly dull piece of work...

July 4, 2011 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

Gallo's humanity is reduced to its naked essence

June 30, 2011 Full Review Source: Movie Habit
Movie Habit

On its surface, "Essential Killing" is a chase and survival thriller, but through his protagonist's actions, first in war, then for survival, and ultimately through his ironic ending, Skolimowski couldn't be clearer in his political intent.

May 28, 2011 Full Review Source: Reeling Reviews
Reeling Reviews

...a unique film in concept and execution. Brief moments of action are interspersed with Mohammed's struggle to survive the elements, hunger and a pursuing enemy.

May 25, 2011 Full Review Source: Reeling Reviews
Reeling Reviews

Although in terms of its core elements, Essential Killing feels as familiar as any standard Hollywood chase movie, from the Bourne and Rambo series to The Fugitive, Skolimowski ensures this is a wholly different kind of experience.

April 28, 2011 Full Review Source: Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post

Whatever narrative shortcomings the picture might have, as a parable of these days it is certainly serviceable, though a bit too ambivalent for comfort. Visually, however, it is never less than stunning.

April 22, 2011 Full Review Source: Screen International
Screen International

Gallo does his best acting work since appearing in his own directorial debut Buffalo 66 13 years ago.

April 10, 2011 Full Review Source: Scotsman

Essential Killing would be much less powerful if it didn't show the jihadi's physical sufferings with such visceral immediacy, and if the realism weren't strong enough to deliver surrealist shocks like the staggering final image.

April 5, 2011 Full Review Source: Sight and Sound
Sight and Sound

Essential Killing is something of a comeback, if a relatively minor one.

April 4, 2011 Full Review Source: Guardian

An arresting snow-bound oddity concerning a character you can't care for and yet feel compelled to watch.

April 4, 2011 Full Review Source: Film4

The film's nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is. Gallo starts as an extremist nutjob, killing for his beliefs - but turns into a hungry maniac, killing to stay on the run. Does the film draw a fascinating comparison between the two? No.

April 3, 2011 Full Review Source: News of the World | Comments (3)
News of the World

The minimalism feels a bit affected, but as a near-abstract rumination on war and survival, it has a certain stark potency.

April 2, 2011 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

An abstract chase movie inspired by the war on terror, it starts well but fades into irrelevance.

April 1, 2011 Full Review Source: Daily Mirror [UK]
Daily Mirror [UK]

The stark, propulsive filmmaking and Gallo's impressively committed performance must be judged against the evasiveness of its maker's motivations.

April 1, 2011 Full Review Source: eye WEEKLY

Director Jerzy Skolimowski has no time for politics, dialogue or anything approaching complexity; he simply tells a story about a man trying to survive in an utterly foreign world from one moment to the next, at any cost.

April 1, 2011 Full Review Source: NOW Toronto
NOW Toronto

It could almost have been made as a silent movie, which is a credit both to Gallo's performance and Skolimowski's pared-down storytelling.

April 1, 2011 Full Review Source: Independent

Audience Reviews for Essential Killing

Even if not original and proving to be a wearing experience, this visceral film deserves credit for being almost without dialogue - and Gallo does a good job as a desperate man struggling for survival in an inhospitable place, while the locations highlight well his isolation.
June 29, 2012

Super Reviewer

The meditative, subversive and provocative thriller, "Essential Killing," is about the hunt for a suspected terrorist(Vincent Gallo), told almost entirely from his point of view. Except like in real life and the movie, things are not so simple. We first see him in a cave, trembling before killing two American contractors(Zach Cohen & Iftach Ophir) and their escort, who are there off-book and quite possibly involved in drug smuggling, in order to escape. Soon after this, he is captured and processed at an airbase and cleaned up. He is shouted at by an American officer(David Price) and might answer if not for all the ringing in his ears from the explosion. All of which resembles a production line more than anything else.(This is not the only time the movie references "Brave New World" by the way.) Since the waterboarding produces no results, he is shipped with others to Poland. In any case, this makes for a poor first impression.

His escape into the snowy wilderness occurs when the army convoy comes across a literal pack of road hogs, causing the truck he is in to go over the side of the road and overturning. At which point, the conflict becomes less man vs. man than man vs. nature, as the former prisoner makes a bid to live off the land like the hunters and fishermen he sees with one extreme example thrown in for good measure.(Considering how much he seems to know about the flora, it would probably come as no surprise that he has done some hunting himself.) At the same time, we get glimpses of a past, happier existence.
January 10, 2013
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

Sometimes visually striking, virtually dialogue free piece with some memorable moments and a committed, if over-egged, performance from Vincent Gallo. The symbolism becomes wearying however, and Jerry Skolimowski doesn't have the even hand of Gus Van Sant's "Gerry" or Terrence Malick's "The Thin Red Line", which explore similar themes.
August 11, 2012

Super Reviewer

An endurance test, for both the main character and the audience. I didn't care for this film exercise without any real plot, hardly any dialogue, and often glacial pacing. Vincent Gallo deserves recognition for putting himself through the wringer, but I watched this because of Emmanuelle Seigner's prominent placement in the credits, so imagine my disappointment when she doesn't show up until the thing is almost over - and she's a deaf/mute!
April 16, 2012
Doctor Strangeblog

Super Reviewer

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