Thursday, November 21, 2013

Movie Tuesday Double-Feature
Aftermath (2013) & All is Lost (2013)

Reviewed by Anthony Servante

Aftermath, a Polish gothic mystery written and directed by Wladyslaw Pasikowski, echoes movies like High Plains Drifter, where the whole town hides a secret. Franciszek (Ireneusz Czop) returns to his small Polish hometown to discover that his brother Jozef Kalina (Maciej Stuhr) has become a pariah amongst the townsfolk. Jozef welcomes his brother with an axe in hand, a rock is thrown through his window, and his dog's head is cut off. These are some angry townsfolk. Then we learn the terrible reason why all this anger is boiling over. It seems Jozef has been going around town buying up all the tombstones and grave markers from the Jewish cemetery that were used by the Nazis to pave the roads and buildings. 

When his brother asks him why he is doing it, especially since the town citizens are reacting so violently, Jozef answers that he doesn't know why, but it has to be done. Thus Franciszek joins his brother on his task, but he goes one step further: he investigates the history of the cemetery, and as he begins to uncover the secret the townsfolk hide, accidents start to happen. 

The movie plays out like a horror movie. Strange buildings are investigated in the dead of night, creepy neighbors follow Franciszek during his inquiries of the older neighbors who were there during the German occupation, and there's the people in the woods smoking the cigarettes stolen from him the day he arrived. These sinister events mount as Jozef reconstructs the cemetery on his land, learning enough Hebrew to familiarize himself with the names on the tombstones. 

It is a shocking secret, and one that becomes more apparent as the investigation leads down roads one of the brothers regrets taking. But once the task is started, it is taken to its inevitable conclusion. And it's not pretty. The film has been banned locally and abroad. I recommend this movie for horror fans. Even though the film says it is based on actual events, it plays out like fiction, but that should not dissuade you from experiencing this fine mystery that has classic gothic elements to tell a horrific tale. 

Grade: B+

Deep into a solo voyage in the Indian Ocean, an unnamed man (Robert Redford) wakes to find his 39-foot yacht taking on water after a collision with a shipping container left floating on the high seas. With his navigation equipment and radio disabled, the man sails unknowingly into the path of a violent storm. Despite his success in patching the breached hull, his mariner's intuition and a strength that belies his age, the man barely survives the tempest. Using only a sextant and nautical maps to chart his progress, he is forced to rely on ocean currents to carry him into a shipping lane in hopes of hailing a passing vessel. But with the sun unrelenting, sharks circling and his meager supplies dwindling, the ever-resourceful sailor soon finds himself staring his mortality in the face.

Robert Redford should have no trouble getting Oscar nominated for his role as "Our Man", the unnamed hero of our survival journey. One thing I must get out of the way now is the "R rating.for Language". Our Man says "FUCK" once during the movie. Yep, an R rating. As a matter of fact, he says little else. 

It brings to mind Jeremiah Johnson, a Redford movie that also went on for long periods without a word. As in that movie, nature does all the talking. Here, it's the ocean roars, the lightning storms and thunder claps, rendering Redford's words unnecessary. He goes from task to task, trying to stay one step ahead of the sinking ship, then switching to the lifeboat, and finally, in desperation, using his flares on gigantic freighters passing by without noticing the grain of sand that is Redford against this vast ocean backdrop.

Everything that can go wrong does. And Our Man handles it with skills that MacGyver would envy. But overall, it's a one-trick pony. But what a trick it is. There were more thrills here than in two thrillers I've seen this year. When the movie ended, the crowd let out their breaths simultaneously. We all laughed that we were holding our breath for that final scene. And that is quite a trick for any film to pull off.

Grade: A-

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