Essential Killing Review

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Suspected terrorist Mohammed (Gallo) is captured by US forces and taken to an unnamed European country. Using his instincts he escapes and is forced to find a route to freedom across the snowbound landscape.


Ostensibly the story of an Afghan prisoner escaping brutal US custody to endure the vicissitudes of a Polish winter, this near-wordless parable could represent any individual’s struggle against an imposed ideology during 72 year-old Jerzy Skolimowski’s lifetime. Poetic truth is prioritised over plausibility, as Vincent Gallo evades army patrols and survives bear traps and ravenous dogs to find sanctuary with mute Emmanuelle Seigner. Conveying the fear and ferocity that won him the Best Actor prize at Venice, Gallo delivers a laudably physical performance. The visceral camerawork and curt editing are also impressive, but flashbacks to his Islamic indoctrination seem scant inspiration for his slaying of three Americans.

Gallo convinces as a desperate man on the run for his life and capable of anything. Don't expect wordy interplay or political exposition though: this thriller is a mood piece that's all but dialogue free.