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The Act Of Killing (2013)



Average Rating: 8.7/10
Reviews Counted: 132
Fresh: 126 | Rotten: 6

Raw, terrifying, and painfully difficult to watch, The Act of Killing offers a haunting testament to the edifying, confrontational power of documentary cinema.


Average Rating: 8.5/10
Critic Reviews: 34
Fresh: 33 | Rotten: 1

Raw, terrifying, and painfully difficult to watch, The Act of Killing offers a haunting testament to the edifying, confrontational power of documentary cinema.



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Average Rating: 4.2/5
User Ratings: 12,372

My Rating

Movie Info

Anwar Congo and his friends have been dancing their way through musical numbers, twisting arms in film noir gangster scenes, and galloping across prairies as yodelling cowboys. Their foray into filmmaking is being celebrated in the media and debated on television, even though Anwar Congo and his friends are mass murderers. Medan, Indonesia. When the government of Indonesia was overthrown by the military in 1965, Anwar and his friends were promoted from small-time gangsters who sold movie theatre

Dec 3, 2013


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January 17, 2014:
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All Critics (132) | Top Critics (34) | Fresh (126) | Rotten (6)

Bizarre, hypnotic, audacious.

December 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The emotional places this troubling movie takes him to are rewardingly primal and potent, forcing both subject and viewer to wrestle with internal demons.

December 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Time Out New York
Time Out New York
Top Critic IconTop Critic

I certainly do not move that the film should be suppressed, only that one should know what it is. It is a bath in a smiling madness.

November 14, 2013 Full Review Source: The New Republic
The New Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This stunning "documentary of the imagination" shows Anwar and other thugs staging scenes of torture and murder for the camera.

August 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

In The Act of Killing, director Joshua Oppenheimer pulls off the impossible: He confronts great, incomprehensible evil and puts a human face on it.

August 15, 2013 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Joshua Oppenheimer's documentary interviews leaders of Indonesian death squads responsible for deaths of millions & has them re-enact the killings. The combination of drama therapy and accidental self-exposure - utterly bizarre, unexpected and valuable.

August 8, 2013 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Maddening, sorrowful, brilliant, and unforgettable.

April 8, 2014 Full Review Source: Movie Mezzanine
Movie Mezzanine

The film of the year, if not the decade, if not documentary history.

February 7, 2014 Full Review Source: Concrete Playground
Concrete Playground

Most challengingly, though, there is something palpably cathartic about the ritual of the re-creations.

February 4, 2014 Full Review Source: SF Weekly
SF Weekly

One of the most audacious documentaries ever made, this mind-boggling film forces us to examine our opinions about human history far beyond the events covered on-screen.

January 31, 2014 Full Review Source:

Bizarre documentary featuring Hollywood-inspired, interpretive song and dance reenactments of ethnic cleansing in Indonesia.

January 19, 2014
Baret News

Offers too many repetitive sections in which Anwar and company seem to be waxing nostalgic rather than exploring the implications of what they did.

January 5, 2014 Full Review Source: Film Racket
Film Racket

Raw and wrenching but narrow retro-focus on the slaughter of millions of Indonesian leftists in collusion with the CIA. But much like Out Of The Furnace, locating truth evasively within the masses, rather than tracing US government and economic roots.

December 21, 2013 Full Review Source: WBAI Radio
WBAI Radio

It's a long and uncomfortable journey, but The Act of Killing is also fascinating, using film as a hall of mirrors to reveal not just the faces, but the twisted souls, of murderers.

December 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

Oppenheimer demonstrates how easily the passive spectator can become an unlikely abettor, and the great cause of his film is to make his actors and audience recognize their moral culpability.

December 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Boston Phoenix
Boston Phoenix

[The film explores] what happens when you give those who have done something terrible (in this case, killing thousands) a forum through which to tell their story to see if a new perspective changes their attitude.

December 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Film School Rejects
Film School Rejects

The shock of the final scene must be left unspoken; suffice to say its impact exceeds even the nightmarish queasiness which this brilliant and horrible film has striven to contain.

December 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Independent

[There is] an emotional disconnect that seems downright dangerous in a film about genocide.

December 16, 2013 Full Review Source:

I hate to make statements like this, but here it comes: The Act of Killing may be the strangest documentary you see this year (this decade?).

December 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer
Cleveland Plain Dealer

The cameras bring out the worst in all concerned, who think nothing of singing and dancing about mass murder.

December 16, 2013 Full Review Source: NOW Toronto
NOW Toronto

This is living history as a surreal pageant.

December 16, 2013 Full Review Source:

The emotionally manipulative use of some of the material raises all kinds of questions about veracity.

December 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Sight and Sound
Sight and Sound

One thing's for sure. You won't see another documentary like this one.

December 16, 2013 Full Review Source: NUVO Newsweekly
NUVO Newsweekly

Of all the uncomfortable experiences you might endure in the name of understanding the evils of history, this film is arguably the kind that is most necessary.

December 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Willamette Week
Willamette Week

The Act of Killing works brilliantly on many levels, capturing like no other documentary I have seen, like no other film I can imagine, the fevered insanity of those days.

December 16, 2013 Full Review Source: The Australian
The Australian

The originality of The Act of Killing lies in Oppenheimer's decision to treat artifice as a roundabout path to truth.

December 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Sydney Morning Herald
Sydney Morning Herald

Audience Reviews for The Act Of Killing

Documentarians ask the leaders of Indonesian death squads to reenact their crimes.
There are some incredibly absurd moments in the reenactments of various fifty-year-old murders, including one of the henchmen dressing up in drag for no discernible reason. But the heart of this documentary is compelling the film's primary subject to face his own flagging, ignored conscience. It takes a while, and there are blithe pronouncements about death and killing that make one's stomach turn, but the film eventually pays off.
Overall, the gimmick of the film, the reenactments, seems a little weird, but the premise is still compelling.
May 27, 2014
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

You know a documentary is worth watching when both Werner Herzog and Errol Morris both produce, stating that it is the 'Most astonishing film ever made'. Astonishing is an understatement. Devastating is probably the first word that comes to mind. The Act of Killing pushes the boundaries of documentary film making as this isn't a document of fact in the classical sense. Nothing is a lie, more an exploration but you never can quite tell whether anything is real or not. It is essentially surrealist realism. It's not the impossibility you might think it is. Maybe it's because we never quite believe what we hearing because it is so alien to us, I often wondered throughout the film whether these people were actually so poorly educated that they were just simply using the wrong words but by the end of the film we see that this clearly isn't the case. The film explores the different perspectives of our own morality and natural empathy. Can we commit horrible deeds even when we are told it's the right thing to do. We never really find out, morality and madness walk hand in hand in this tale. The political and social issues raised should also make people sit up and pay attention in today's current climate. The only window of resolution is revealed in the last scene. It's open to interpretation but in my opinion the answer is clear as we watch the simplest of situations reveal so much of what makes us us and what it is to be a human being. Some things cannot be taught or unlearned, it's our nature in it's purest sense and a glimpse of hope. Seriously, that last scene is astonishing. There is no other film like it, it's a must watch, an uncomfortable watch and quite possibly one of the greatest films of all time. Yes, seriously.
May 16, 2014

Super Reviewer

These may be the most absurd two hours of film I'll ever see. Though this documentary follows many mass murderers as they set out to make a movie boasting about their genocidal slaughters, it focuses in on Anwar Congo. Among these killers, Anwar made the biggest name for himself with his apathy and creativity. At the beginning of the documentary, he upholds his image as an untouchable, joyful and easy-going celebrity "free man." With a smile and tools in hand, he casually recalls and demonstrates his methods. Over the course of these two hours however, his internal transformation is the only thing that will make any sense. The footage here is astounding, and raises an overwhelming amount of questions about Indonesia's history and it's current state, as well as America and the UK's own culpability.
March 31, 2014
Matthew Slaven

Super Reviewer

While extremely painful to watch, "The Act of Killing" displays a brutally honest story about the life of Anwar Congo, a gangster who helped the mob kill millions of communists. This film displays he himself re-enacting scenes of actual events that he remembers from the past. He puts on display for the world to see, the horrific ways of killing people and sometimes you feel like throwing up while you are watching. Anwar begins to realize that even though what he did back then was legal, he himself, after personally experiencing the effects, has a complete turn around with his feelings. This film is something that needs to be shown to the world, but only to those who are mature enough to view. I will never say I love this film, based on it's subject matter, but it is a brilliant documentary that almost feels like a shoe-in for the Oscars. "The Act of Killing" is superb in it's messages.
February 27, 2014
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

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  • The Act of Killing - L'acte de tuer (FR)
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