Thursday, January 8, 2015

Film Review: The Retrieval (2013)

Copyright: Variance Films
There is no doubt about it - this film presents a harrowing experience. It is set in a horrible time, when the American Civil war entered its last, but still very bloody phase. More importantly, it examines a horrible relationship of slave masters and their slave controlled by fear which wasn’t often presented in films.

Its story revolves around two slaves by the names of Will and Marcus, who are commanded by a slave bounty hunter Burrell to enter the area behind Union lines. There, their mission is to somehow lure an old runaway slave, and now a free man called Nate, back to the Confederate-held territory. There, Burrell simply plans to kill him.

This small drama was masterfully directed by Chris Eska using only talented actors, a great script, and the great outdoors. Eska superbly used the natural environment as the stage for this hard tale of the past, creating a road movie where the main engine of travel is the protagonist’s feet. Nate, Will and Marcus are a strange traveling band, and all three have completely different outlooks on life. Marcus is deceiving and treacherous, but fueled by the desire to keep him and Will alive. At first, Nate seems like his complete opposite, but in times of slavery and war, the film tells us, being pure and innocent was a lot harder than anyone could imagine.

Finally, Will is a young teenage, caught in the grips of a life where starvation, fear of death and random killings are just the way things are. His perspective, still somehow filled with hope and questions about the righteousness of this decision, is the focal point of the film. In his young, frightened and inquisitive mind, the true battle for the future of that land is being fought, and Eska definitely managed to transport these difficult ideas to a very clear work of art.

The Retrieval is undoubtedly full of great actors, but two names stand apart. First one is Bill Oberst Jr. who created the character of Burrell so effectively and free of any tropes that he is chilling to watch. Oberst body language, combined with a totally unreadable ideals or agenda, produced a brilliant ending to this fine film. In Burrell, the entire way of Confederate life is seen as a somber, cruel snapshot, just before it gets consumed by its own internal flame.

The other actor is Tishuan Scott, who played Nate. Scott offered an imposing, steadfast man, secure in his way while all other fall or stumble in the dark. But, as the story progresses, so does Nate gradually turn into a deep and flawed human being, which Scott successfully presented.

Watch the Retrieval and witness how it tells a sad and harsh tale about hope and freedom in a very unique and beautiful way.