Essential Killing


Essential Killing

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.



Total Count: 37


Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,589
User image

Essential Killing Photos

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, in part because an explosion has made it difficult for him to hear what they're saying. The Americans ship the Afghan off to a detention facility with a number of other Taliban soldiers, but upon arrival he's able to escape. However, the Afghan finds himself in a forbidding snowbound climate, and with no provisions or warm clothing he struggles to simply survive as he avoids his pursuers and struggles to find some way to get home. Shot with very little dialogue (and almost none delivered by leading man Gallo), Essential Killing received its North American premiere at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Watch it now


Vincent Gallo
as Mohammed
Nicolai Cleve Broch
as Helicopter Pilot
Stig Frode Henriksen
as Helicopter Pilot
Zach Cohen
as American Contractor
Iftach Ofir
as American Contractor
David L. Price
as Interrogating Officer
Tracy Spencer Shipp
as Soldier in SUV
Klaudia Kaca
as Woman on Bicycle
Dariusz Juzyszyn
as Ukranian Logger
View All

Critic Reviews for Essential Killing

All Critics (37) | Top Critics (9)

Audience Reviews for Essential Killing

  • Jan 10, 2013
    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.
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Aug 11, 2012
    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.
    Daniel P Super Reviewer
  • Mar 16, 2012
    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!
    Doctor S Super Reviewer
  • Nov 29, 2011
    While not immediately involving or interesting, "Essential Killing" is taut and well-directed, and Vincent Gallo is brilliant in his wordless role. The deliberate pace may prove agonizing for some, but I enjoyed "Essential Killing." Sure, it's nothing to write home about, but there are some well-made moments. It's got enough entertainment value to earn my recommendation.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer

Essential Killing Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

News & Features