Elephant - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Elephant Reviews

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December 3, 2016
Second time seeing this. Hard to watch, but a must see. It's based partially on the columbine shooting if anyone is interested.
½ November 29, 2016
Complete waste of time and utter shit-eeeeeeeee.
½ August 26, 2016
It already takes a lot of balls to make a movie directly inspired by the callous Columbine massacre of 1999, but to write and direct that said movie with no message, no overt sensationalism, and no cerebral explanation in mind is even ballsier. Helmed by Gus Van Sant ("My Own Private Idaho," "Good Will Hunting"), the legendary chameleon of indie, 2003's "Elephant" is so brilliant because it so unhesitantly refuses to view its focused upon day's tragic events through anything other than a helpless, almost detached lens. Unimportant is the analyzation of the killers' psyches; unimportant is the emotional aftermath. The film is more engrossed with seeing the shooting as it transpires, watching feebly as senseless violence takes the lives of rosy cheeked youths, so full of vigor and potential.
One might wonder why a movie like "Elephant" exists. If a film is unwilling to do anything besides essentially recreate a tragedy, with no scrutinizational strings attached to its incendiary self, why be released at all? Evidently, Van Sant wants us to be active viewers. He wants us to be the ones to decide what the prime motivation of its antagonists is, what the repercussions for those involved looked like following the incident. By sidestepping resolution, we have to fill in the majority of the blanks ourselves. It's a conversation piece of a film, seemingly simplistic until a thirsting to dissect it makes it something furtively substantial.
"Elephant" isn't a movie made for everyone - some will find its near clinical approach reprehensible, and others, if not offended by its intentional dryness, will find it fatiguing, at least until its disconcerting conclusion. Van Sant's extensive use of long-winded tracking shots (mostly utilized as a way to mundanely follow characters as they move from point A to point B, thus bringing out the paranoia that rests impatiently in our being as we wait) are a lot to take in, and the sparse dialogue forces us to attempt to delve into the minds of characters that are already too thinly drawn to truly understand anyway.
But Van Sant's disturbingly naturalistic approach is what makes "Elephant" so consuming. Its characters, all kids you'd find in any high school in America - the introverts, the relentlessly bullied, the artistic, the eating disorder afflicted - are instantaneously recognizable. But here, even the confident basketball star who walks through the halls during times of trouble is not impervious to the dangers of young monsters who are hazards to themselves and others.
And in an age where gun violence is more pressing of a cultural issue than ever, "Elephant" should serve as a graphic reminder as to why the gratuitous usage of arms is such an ugly point of conflict in American society. (Notice how easily the film's villains obtain their weapons - it's merely a matter of ordering from the right website.) Movie violence, with its peppering of heroism and machismo, is not to be found here. "Elephant's" violence is immediate, ruthless, inane. If the movie is hard to access and sometimes too dramatically barren to serve as anything else besides a disquieting take on the Day in a Life motif of cinema, it's at least a conclusive conversation starter. Only a filmmaker of Van Sant's exploratory resolve could have made a film of its caliber and make it all come across as instigative instead of irresponsibly provocative.
½ July 2, 2016
Fantastic. It's nice to see a movie that focuses on the innocent victims of a senseless tragedy, as much as the perpetrators. 4.5 out of 5
½ June 27, 2016
Because the film does the bold and essential thing by merely observing rather than justifying or evangelizing, Elephant does not end once the movie is over; it lingers and needs to be discussed.
June 6, 2016
Un experimento suma y relativamente, interesante y hasta cierto punto, estremecedora.
Pero, no se las recomiendo a todo el mundo.
April 12, 2016
Gus Van Sant's Elephant, though a rapturous and terrifying memorial to the Columbine massacre, brings nothing to the discussion on high-school violence. No causes, no solutions, no moral or intellectual perspective, none of the facile politicking that immediately followed in the incident's wake. Those looking for answers, or even insights, are certain to be disappointed by Van Sant's audacious experiment, which offers a delicate and uninflected meditation on high-school life during a not-so-ordinary day. A natural companion piece to Gerry, his minimalist landscape film about two men lost in the desert, Elephant creates gorgeous, wide-open spaces that allow viewers the freedom to reflect without having a point-of-view imposed on them. In that sense, the film does the important service of stealing Columbine back from pundits and politicians on both ends of the ideological spectrum, all of whom seized upon the event so opportunistically. With ace cinematographer Harris Savides' elegant Steadicam prowling the halls, Van Sant quietly restores some humanity to the victims and perpetrators alike, if only to account for their existence. Using a mostly non-professional cast, he tracks all the students involved in this fateful day, which begins with mundane routine and ends in bloody mayhem. Because there's no time to get past first impressions and truly understand these characters, many appear as Breakfast Club-like stereotypes (The Jock, The Nerd, The Bulimic Princesses), reduced to their place on the high-school caste system. Van Sant spends more time with John Robinson, a wispy blond boy who looks out for his alcoholic father (Timothy Bottoms), and Elias McConnell, a yearbook photographer with an unerring eye for beauty. In the film's most problematic sequence, he also follows the two killers (Alex Frost and Eric Deulen) in the moments leading up to the massacre, using the opportunity to check off all the usual "causes"-violent video games, gun proliferation, Nazism, repressed sexuality-that are commonly attached to such rampages. But collectively, all the players are brought together under the same umbrella, their lives intersecting in a way that none of them could have anticipated. While it seems that Van Sant is merely leading his lambs to the slaughter, Elephant has a gentle, hypnotic tone that's insistently sweet and elegiac, in spite of the horrors that overwhelm the frame. In its juxtaposition of the serene and the violent, the beautiful and the brutal, the film achieves a balance that's exquisitely judged, tiptoeing artfully through a cultural minefield.
April 5, 2016
This movie sucks. It's only 80 minutes long, which is about an hour too long.
½ March 13, 2016
I saw this film in the Azores, Portugal of all places.

It came out after the Columbine tragedy and I think it is disgusting that this film tries to somehow capitalize and evoke empathy from a serious real-life tragedy.

There is little dialogue in this film. As such, it is very realistic and believable. Simply, the visual story of a couple of outcasts who organize a mass slaughter at their high school. They are spiritually devoid human beings and are presented as everyday kids. They are able to arm themselves enough to wipe out much of the student population.

The title means nothing. This film means nothing. I hope it is not viewed by children who learn from it to carry out a copycat catastrophe. Some losers may look at this film and find it intriguing to emulate. If this is ever acted upon, the filmmaker Gus Van Sant should be jailed for life. Shame on him for this production. This piece of trash should never have been released in wide distribution.
½ February 18, 2016
A very confronting & unsettling about film as we follow the lives of a few teens during a typical High School but two students have a very sinister plan at hand.

Unmistakably a closer look at the horrific Columbine High School shooting on April 20th 1999 four years before the film.

The film has such an authentic feel to it which makes the horror all the more real. A chilling film that is incredibly crafted...a true social comment.
½ December 31, 2015
What Roger Ebert said.
December 24, 2015
A gorgeous modern masterpiece of unshakeable power.
November 30, 2015
This movie is absolutely awesome i loved it.
October 26, 2015
A fantastic film who's only flaw is its inexperienced cast. A truly disturbing tale based on the Columbine massacre. But the lack of emotional depth in the characters is prevalent. Still, this film is super important. And super.
Super Reviewer
½ October 22, 2015
With a flawless direction and elegant long takes, this hypnotizing film moves in a careful pace to follow its characters prior to an impending tragedy. I only wish I felt more involved with them, while the amateur actors could have conveyed a more authentic sense of terror.
August 24, 2015
Criticada por su sínica y "falta de profunidad" la película realmente brilla por una dirección tan lenta que termina por estresarme y es ahí donde capta toda mi atención al expresarla en miedo.
Super Reviewer
August 23, 2015
MOVIE REVIEW: "ELEPHANT" (2003) ****
Gus Van Sant's powerfully unnerving film about two high school misfits, Alex and Eric well played by Alex Frost and Eric Deulen, who calmly plan a mass execution of their class mates and school administers like the massacre at Columbine. The real strength in this film lies in its power of observation, we get a brief glimpse into the young killers personalities, who are sexually confused, Hitler-loving dweebs, who get off on playing single-person shooting video games. But what makes it all the more chilling is that they don't seem any different from any of the other high schoolers. Brilliant cinematography by Harris Sadvides with those long steady-cam tracking shots really do a great job of putting you with the characters, as they walk the long endless corridors of their high school murdering innocent people. The supporting cast of mostly unknown actors all deliver fine naturalistic performances. I think the most disturbing scene in the film is when one of the killers turns to the other and tells him, "Most important, have fun man!" just before they begin their mass killing spree. Winner of the Golden Palm at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. A starling and unforgettable motion picture. Highly Recommended.
August 4, 2015
AN INCREDIBLE MASTERPIECE!!
THIS MOVIE ILLUSTRATES IN AMAZING DETAIL THE TRAGIC EVENTS WHERE TWO STUDENTS PLANNED AND ORCHESTRATED A MASSACRE IN THEIR HIGH SCHOOL LOCATED IN PORTLAND, OREGON!!
THIS MOVIE IS BASED ON THE TRAGIC TRUE STORY OF THE COLUMBINE HIGH SCHOOL MASSACRE IN COLUMBINE, COLORADO WHERE THE MASSACRE ACTUALLY TOOK PLACE!!
August 3, 2015
Gus Van Sant's raw teen drama can be justifiably defined as 'all too real' and is that kind of movie that can characterized as good, but too upsetting to want to watch twice.
½ August 3, 2015
Shocking even as you know what's about to unfold.
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