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French Review of Triage (Eyes of War)

May 20, 2010

Source: Filmosphere
Written by Niko

A thoughtful and thought provoking critique written by Niko and originally published in French on Filmosphere. Admittedly, somewhat clumsily translated here into English. If you read French, please do read the review in the original language.


So it was a huge revelation straight from his first film, No Man’s Land, justly rewarded almost everywhere (in Cannes and the Oscars, class!), Bosnian director has been fairly quiet since almost 10 years, emerging from the shadows in 2005 to present Hell written by Krzysztof Kieslowski and more than coldly received by critics. And it is once again with a subject of war he finally returns to the screens, a subject he knows well, having filmed documentaries on the front during the Bosnian war. But this time he tackles the problem with a different angle, probably closest to him because he likes war journalists. Oliver Stone’s brutal Salvador to foil Tony Scott’s Spy Game, the subject has already been processed but rarely so clear and sincere about these elusive men, unarmed soldiers and homeless, who are often among the victims and also suffer terribly when they return to the real world. He had to look for a man who experienced the war to make it all believable, as was the case for Stone. By cons, are going to have to push a new rant against the distributor because there is no longer possible! Why change a title as simple and evocative as Sort (which does not require a French translation), downright logical when you see the movie, by another English title more pompous? It’s annoying as a method! But anyway, this does not alter the great qualities of this ambitious film and worn by a player once more on top of his art.

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This time Tanovic adapts the title story of Scott Anderson’s novel Triage and transports it to Ireland treating a war reporter on a mission to Kurdistan. The opportunity for him to show us the ravages of war on the mind of a man, which seemed strong. So we can always say that his message “War is evil and it leaves traces” is not original, it is true, except that when the connection is treated well it is still effective, even upsetting . The director builds his film on a standard pattern in two parts with the first events that occurred in war zones and in the second, more important, the return and the development of the trauma. He deliberately leaves a hole between the two narratives; the crucial gap will be filled through various flashbacks rather well integrated into the main frame and gently reveal the real reasons for Mark’s return alone and in bad shape physically and psychologically.

Two parts for two major themes. Firstly of course the picture of the job like no other which is that of a war reporter. With the intelligent opposition between Mark and David. The former, despite a loving (and understanding) feels that his life’s mission is in war-torn country, while the latter on the verge of becoming a father has clearly lost that spark of adrenaline and no longer wishes to be away from his family. In the name of their old friendship, David accompanies Mark in Kurdistan, one last time. Tanovic shows perfectly the energy that pushes one reporter risking his life for a picture, this kind of morbid fascination with tragedy and the decline emotional as necessary for them incomprehensible to us. It is in this part that the original title of the film makes sense – sorting is a place where emergency care was not an aggressive course of treatment and where euthanasia is practiced with handguns. The scenes are sometimes very hard and we may hope to see a certain colored tags [blue or yellow] rather than another. The second part of the film focuses in turn on Mark and the main subject is the impact of war on the person who has experienced a tragedy.

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The drama in question, poignant, will be unveiled at the conclusion in a final flashback. Actually it is not really a surprise, at least not completely if it is a revelation on the essential character of Mark. It is the latter which is at the center of the story, while David’s shadow hovers throughout the film. Mark is a ghost on his return, as if only his body was returned home without his soul which remained in the war. Physical injury, echoing those, more profound, affecting his heart, he is changed forever; and it is in his slow convalescence he returns to the living world that will follow. Psychological shock mingles themes of grief and guilt, all treated with intelligence. Visually, Tanovic is never excessive, constantly seeking to give a natural look in his image. He does not make concessions to desaturate the colors of war scenes, which ultimately adds to the realism of the company. Of course he gives his direction depending on where the action raised in Dublin and carried by the urgency in Kurdistan or in other countries at war appearing in flashbacks.

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The story becomes secondary and the film turns out to be a real character study, an unvarnished portrait of a man completely broken. It had great actors, Tanovic has made the right choice. Most of the characters ‘secondary’ are all worked and credible, Paz Vega (what a great actress!) To Branko Djuric through Kelly Reilly. But distribution is dominated by two monsters. Colin Farrell first, who once again delivers a performance of blatant realism. His eternal sad look finds a resonance in this beautiful man destroyed from within. But at his side, and this is the big surprise of the cast, there is a huge Christopher Lee who, after relatively brief appearances in various productions finally inherits a role commensurate with his talent. His magnetic presence and his voice immediately imposed in Empowered hat! Tragic film par excellence, worn by great players, Eyes of War mark the real return of the great film director Danis Tanovic. We can accuse him of a pace that sometimes weakens more than reason, but overall it’s a nice movie about a serious subject, treated with understanding and mastery of subject matter.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Samantha permalink
    May 21, 2010 4:03 am

    Thanks for this translation. I know it’s not perfect but it’s clear enough to get the meaning. Really great review! I agree with the author about the title “Sorting”. And that’s an interesting line: “while David’s shadow hovers throughout the film”.

    • May 21, 2010 10:13 am

      And thank you for your kindness about the wonky translation 😉 It is an interesting line, and I imagine not a very easy thing to act; not very easy circumstances to play.

  2. Beth permalink
    May 22, 2010 11:07 pm

    In this review, this line in particular rang true: “Mark is a ghost on his return, as if only his body was returned home without his soul which remained in the war.” While David might have been a “ghost” in the literal sense, Mark returned from the war as a “ghost” in the sense that a part of him died along with David.

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