Protagonist (2007) - Rotten Tomatoes

Protagonist (2007)

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Critic Consensus: Protagonist skillfully intertwines its subjects' lives through an unexpected common thread -- Euripedes.

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Academy Award-winning filmmaker Jessica Yu offers an unusual look at the simultaneous diversity and commonality of four very different men in this documentary. In Protagonist, Yu recalls the structural format of the ancient Greek playwright Euripides -- whose stories were often marked by human tragedy, the commentary of a chorus of independent observers, and the sudden and unexpected intervention of the divine -- as she chronicles the lives of a thief, a student of martial arts, a preacher who has renounced his past as a homosexual, and a political terrorist. Protagonist was screened in competition as part of the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

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Critic Reviews for Protagonist

All Critics (33) | Top Critics (15)

Many will be moved by Protagonist and its reminders that we are all struggling to find versions of ourselves to live up to.

October 18, 2008
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

At first, the technique seems gimmicky, but finally it's as compelling a perspective as any to understand how these men passed through agony to some sort of peace.

Full Review… | December 14, 2007
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Yu's film may be challenging to synopsize, but it's thoroughly engrossing and wildly surprising.

Full Review… | December 14, 2007
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

None of the talking heads is as interesting as [director] Yu thinks they are; and it's difficult to build sympathy for any of them.

Full Review… | November 30, 2007
New York Post
Top Critic

While [director] Yu's experimental approach brings valuable insight to the human condition, the interviews themselves too rarely measure up to her ambitious structure.

Full Review… | November 30, 2007
New York Daily News
Top Critic

Protagonist is an enthralling documentary exploration of people with obsessive needs for control and self-mastery.

November 30, 2007
New York Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Protagonist

This visually fasinating(with all the Greek myth tiltle animations) documentary really surprised me. Four men who come from extremely different background somehow share the same pattern of life, and with staged Greek drama, Jessica Yu used puppets to act out scenes which connect all the characters. It's hard to do a documentary with only narrations and couple achieval footage, but Yu really pulled it off with the puppets and some great music score, making the film extra diverse.

Annie Chen
Annie Chen

I'm a sucker for a piece like this: the film-maker takes a set of subjects, usually a small amount in the range of 3 to 6 and interviews them all seperately, never has them meet or needs to see them meet, but uses some central theme, some shared condition to unify true stories that one would usually consider to be in totally different worlds from each other. Basically, these films show us the constants of being human and reveal our universal qualities. They place a spotlight at a millimeter distance from the human condition and show it to us. Does this film ever get to that lofty, poetic, and transcendent place? Not for me, but I see that it has the elements to do it for other people. One thing that is not universal after all, are our emotional reactions to art. I think this is a must watch. I really love the tie-in element of the Greek puppetry theatre, and the film-maker picked some incredibly interesting subjects.

_kelly .King
_kelly .King

Super Reviewer

[font=Century Gothic]By taking a page out of Errol Morris' playbook, with the documentary "Protagonist," Jessica Yu has made a mildly successful and occasionally perplexing film(sorry, but I don't get the whole Greek puppets thing...) with four ordinary men, Mark Pierpont, Hans-Joachim Klein, Joe Loya and Mark Salzman testifying about troubled times in their lives.(Of the four, Klein is the most notorious of the four due to his involvement with terrorists in West Germany in the 1970's including the infamous Carlos the Jackal. For this reason, he is also not the most fortcoming, sounding a little naive in fact. Remember, if somebody ever hands you a loaded gun, playtime is over.) What she is after is an exploration of masculinity as all the men included here were missing something from their lives when they were younger, be it a parent's love or a cause, and were lured by the siren song of fanaticism.[/font]

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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