Partisan full movie review - A flawed gem; technically amazing but perhaps too ambiguous for its own good
In yet another high quality Australian movie, Vincent Cassell is
Gregori, a man who is sheltering people in his compound from a bleak
This isn't really a thriller, it is more of a
drama/coming-of-age story as there is not a lot of action, rather the
atmosphere is thick, and an overall feeling of dread looms over the
entire film. While I feel a bit divided about the film, there is no
denying that it is technically sound, with the locations, camera-work
and soundtrack all of extremely high quality.
Whether you will like this or not will boil down to whether you like
this fresh approach to making a film, as it does come close to being
too ambiguous for its own good. Personally I liked it, as it is unlike
most movies, though it does smell ever so slightly of lazy writing. But
the world within the film is so intriguing that it works, as long as
the viewer is willing to participate in the experience. I cannot shake
the feeling that this is a brilliant concept that is not fully
explored, but the film's universe is unforgettable; both the desolate
outside world and within the compound, where Gregori's word is law and
children are encouraged to be creative, whether it includes
face-painting or karaoke.
Oh, and Gregori also trains the children to become assassins.
The movie begins with Gregori at a hospital, talking to a troubled
mother who is nursing her newborn child. Next we suddenly find
ourselves in the safety of his compound eleven years later, where we
see mothers and their children happy and in safety. They seem to obey
Gregori's word because of this. When young Alexander, who I assume was
this baby at the beginning, starts to feel differently about what he is
doing, what he has been trained to do, I really started wondering how
it was going to end, as the relationship that forms between the two
characters is much like that of a father and son.
Rather than exploring the amazing looking outside world that has been
created, the film focuses more on how this world has affected Gregori,
Alexander and the rest of the compounds' residents. Most of the film's
run-time is spent inside this compound, which at first confused me, as
the barren world that is created outside the compound's walls is
extremely striking. I wondered why this world wasn't explored further.
A world in which Gregori has not only built a compound where his word
rules, but also a world where he sends child assassins out to do his
dirty work. However, I believe this was the intention, as the focus is
on the daily lives of the people inside these walls, and on the way
Gregori seems to be a husband to so many woman while also being a
father figure to so many children. These children love living in the
compound so much that they cannot see the violence that resides in
Gregori's heart. He is a flawed and complex man, whose personality is a
direct result of the desolate outside world. Or, one could ask, is this
only the way he perceives it? Both Gregori and Alexander make for
interesting character studies. Alex's journey is a coming-of-age tale
of sorts, but one very different to movies normally associated with
that tag. He is the only one within the compound who begins to question
Gregori and his methods as he matures before our eyes, becoming
disobedient and asking questions. The obedience to Gregori by the rest
of the residents though is one of many elements in this film that isn't
quite explained. It however provides more food for thought. Was Gregori
delusional? Did he truly believe he was helping these mothers and
Overall, the best way to describe this movie would be an ambiguous
character study as well as a coming of age story. Ultimately, the
sparse details given is for each viewer to interpret. Ambiguity reigns
supreme here as gaps are not filled, events are often not explained.
This approach is taken perhaps a little too far, but regardless, the
film is gripping and full of emotional depth. Gregori is one of the
better characters I've seen in a film for a while, as is Alexander.
They both have complex character arcs, as does their father-son type
relationship. This is certainly not a Friday night beer film as its
ambiguous nature is sure to raise many intriguing questions for the
viewer to chew on.
Do I think it was lazily written? Yes, to a small extent. The dialogue
could have been better and there could have been more action, but
ultimately I feel the filmmakers wanted viewers to think, to ponder, to
contemplate on what they have just seen. In this regard it succeeds,
but with a little more energy in the dialogue and with more meat on the
bones of the story, this really could have been quite something.
Vincent Cassell also is not at his best, he looks the part but is not
as engaging as his character suggests. This could be due to the fact
that he stepped in for Oscar Isaac, who pulled out just before
shooting. In saying all this though, the entire movie looks and sounds
incredible ? meaning this is yet another young Aussie director who I
shall be keeping my eyes on.