The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
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All Critics (36)
| Top Critics (5)
| Fresh (30)
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| DVD (3)
Under the guise of current events, Skolimowski artfully conjures an elemental archetype of human life itself. In English, Polish, and Arabic.
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.
View it as an existential thriller illustrating how violence begets violence.
Delivering an absolute minimum of context, the film dares us to forge our own reasons for rooting for or despising this savage.
The movie deftly shifts from its initial chase thriller mode to a grueling, offbeat tale of human survival.
Maybe the only failing of Essential Killing is that everything in it is seen so sufficiently that one doesn't feel the need to go back to watch it another time (unlike most great films, which improve on repeated viewings).
Quite literally, Gallo is the only reason to see Essential Killing, and it's that which guarantees the film's blessedly quick fade from our ever more cluttered horizons.
Skolimowski's fresh approach keeps us on guard.
What is striking about it, of course, is the way that the filmmaker manages to garner sympathy for an essential villain.
An astonishingly dull piece of work...
Gallo's humanity is reduced to its naked essence
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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