Essential Killing

It’s a rare thing when a film director whose career spans six decades makes a feature with the same kind of intensity, excitement, and sincerity as he would his debut — and Jerzy Skowlimowski triumphs with Essential Killing, one of the best of his entire career. In one of his most fearless, primal performances — during which he has no spoken dialogue — Vincent Gallo is an unnamed prisoner of war captured in a Middle Eastern country by American forces; en route to being processed at a European outpost, the transport truck containing Gallo crashes in the Polish wilderness, spilling him out into the bone-snappingly harsh winter. What follows is a harrowing portrait of the extremes humans can reach in order to survive: as an injured and increasingly delirious Gallo devises further ruses to duck the encroaching soldiers on his trail, he must kill anyone who stands in his way — but wouldn’t you, if you were in his shoes? Skolimowski brilliantly avoids any partisan politics inherent in the subject matter by never explicitly stating if Gallo is, in fact, Taliban, instead immersing the viewer in a densely poetic and aurally fractured trip that leaves you chilled, thrilled and fulfilled — lingering in your mind for weeks afterwards.
Dir. Jerzy Skolimowski, 2010, 35mm, 83 min.

Watch the Polish trailer for “Essential Killing” (no subtitles needed)!
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