The Killing$ Of Tony Blair (UK)
With this next film, I go from the cute and cuddly nature of the documentary, Kedi, to the horrifying expose of a monstrous former world leader in The Killing$ Of Tony Blair. The film is produced and narrated by George Galloway, a former member of parliament who was expelled from the UK’s Labour party for opposing the Iraq War. Years later, it led to this documentary, which outlines the atrocities that Tony Blair has committed before, during and, more significantly, after his time as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Honestly, I could write a lengthy essay about all the awfulness that Blair has done for money; including shield dictators, escalate the fight between Palestine and Israel or even being complicit in creating a war for oil and money, but Galloway manages to fit everything in quite nicely.
A word to those who are sensitive to graphic images, there are pieces of this movie that are completely unflinching in what they show you but it just makes the resonance of Tony Blair’s actions that much more palpable. At the top of this review, I called this film an exposé of Blair but more than that, it’s almost a call to arms or at least a pleading to finally put him and his best buddy, George W. Bush, in the crosshairs of a trial for war crimes. The evidence is unrefutable and it’s sickening to see Blair and company living off blood money, meant in the real absolute sense of the word. If The Killing$ Of Tony Blair doesn’t make you upset in the face of the ugly truths of what this man truly embodies, then we’re losing hope quicker than I thought. 4/5
The Other Half (Canada)
Two movies in just one week. That’s how much of Tatiana Maslany’s work I’ve taken in and even funnier than that is the similarity between the two projects. Two Lovers And A Bear, which opens October 7th in limited release, has two damaged lovers finding solace only with each other in the Arctic. The Other Half has a man named Nickie with an emotionally troubled past finding a connection with Emily, a woman who’s mental wellbeing is always teetering on the brink. In a hope to escape his own darkness, Nickie strives for his relationship, desperately trying to steel himself from running when the tougher moments of her sickness surface. Together, and against the wishes of her father, the two look to make a lasting relationship for the betterment of them both.
Both Two Lovers And A Bear and The Other Half are proudly Canadian and both are great but The Other Half had an interesting resonance with me. Firstly, this must be attributed to Maslany and her co-lead Tom Cullen but director and writer Joey Klein’s command of this film is what gives it that added weight that makes it so powerful. His cinematography shifts between focus and out of focus which give it a certain atmosphere of emotional confusion that I thought was infinitely interesting, especially when Nickie is talking to his parents in England, who he hasn’t seen in years after an unrevealed tragedy with his little brother. This is also what makes the good times and bright scenes in the film soar so much. When Canadian films get bogged down by the usual tropes we always rag on it for, The Other Half won’t be part of that conversation. 4.5/5
The Phantom Detective (South Korea)
That kid in a candy store feeling is on high when I dig into the South Korean film side of the Vancouver International Film Festival, as this year I have three on my list. The first one is The Phantom Detective, a blend of many different genre elements: film noir, fantasy and action. It’s the story of a detective with exceptional memory skills and a penchant for caramels. He’s also on a never ending quest of revenge on the man who killed his mother when he was a child. His life’s mission gets a bit complicated when the man he’s looking for, now an old man, is kidnapped by unknown assailants within the police department, leaving behind his two grandchildren. Now with these kids in tow, he must track down their grandfather to reunite them and final exact his revenge.
With South Korean films, it’s a given that you will be getting something visually stunning as well as something almost overwrought with emotion and this is certainly true with The Phantom Detective. Every shot of the movie is absolutely stunning and the camera work, through a bunch a CG sequences and cuts, is captivating. What interested me the most was the black hats that all the characters operate under. Our lead is not a good guy. He deceives everyone and, most importantly, he lies to the kids about trying to rescue their grandfather. He is a villain looking to take down another villain for selfish gains, with a few lessons to learn along the way. If you dig a good but slightly long Korean film, you won’t make a wrong choice with this one. 3.5/5
Hello Destroyer (Canada)
With much anticipation, I got a look at the Canadian film that was the hit of Toronto International Film Festival, Hello Destroyer. It really can’t get more Canadiana than a film about hockey. Well, that’s a little bit of a mislead because the sport itself is really only the catalyst for the story but I digress. The film is about Tyson Burr, an enforcer for the Prince George Warriors, who, in a moment of heightened aggression and confusion, ends up hitting a player from behind and putting him in the hospital in critical condition. Tyson feels guilty about his actions but it seems that everyone around him regards him differently, more as a violent individual than is usually the norm for these muscle bound enforcers. Returning home after being suspended indefinitely, he finds that it may have been worse for his psyche, dealing with a father who doesn’t seem to have a care in the world for him.
This film is visceral, heartbreaking and carries a gut punch quality that will leave you reeling after the credits roll. Director and writer Kevan Funk most definitely secured himself the BC prize at the festival this year but, more so, he should be a filmmaker all eyes should be on in the future. The way he softly films Tyson’s story feels like we almost crawl up on the shoulder of actor Jared Abrahamson. Speaking of Abrahamson, his performance is truly powerful and filled with soul. A certain scene pops to mind, when he and another teammate are talking about what scares them and Tyson mentions true silence as his. It has a resonance on the rest of the film as Tyson has many moments of absolute silence through in pivotal scenes. This film is an incredible work of art and the last shot is unforgettable. The best Canadian film at the festival. 5/5
The Red Turtle (Netherlands/France/Japan)
My only fully animated film of the festival is The Red Turtle, a co-production of the Netherlands, France and Japan, coming from Studio Ghibli. The film is about a man shipwrecked on a remote island. He explores to figure out food and then tries to gather large bamboo shoots to make a raft. He is constantly thwarted from his escape – every time he gets beyond the reef, a force comes from beneath to destroy his raft. After multiple tries, he finally figures out what is impeding him from getting back to civilization, a red turtle. Now, thinking of the turtle as a nemesis, the man looks to attack the turtle and eventually kills it, which quickly gives way to his guilt and remorse. Then, to be frustrating to you, my reader, what happens next will blow your mind.
It’s easy to say this movie actually did blow my mind. I’m not well-versed in the films of Studio Ghibli, but The Red Turtle was a film that absolutely astounded me with its beauty and the emotionality of every moment in the film. I was in awe of the delicate nature of this story and constantly had to fight back the tears that welled up in me throughout. The Red Turtle is a true cinematic experience and when you couple that with the fact that there is no real dialogue in the entire film, the accomplishment is that much more incredible. When the audience clapped as the credits came up, I found myself brimming with praise for this film, truly one of a kind. This is what animated filmmaking is all about. 5/5