DVD Review: Territories [MA15]

Dir: Olivier Abbou
Cast: Roc LaFortune, Sean Devine, Nicole Leroux, Cristina Rosato

The Film:
Territories is bound to go down as one of the more disturbing and just difficult to watch films that I have seen in 2011. This however does not make it a bad film; in fact this was a very good film.

Like I tend to do with a lot of films, I went into this with no prior knowledge, I had only heard some positive word of mouth and that was good enough for me. The first 20 minutes of this film contain perhaps some of the tensest moments I have seen in a film of this sort and it really does not let up. It begins with the opening credit sequence played to Dirge by Death In Vegas; we see a group of people driving in a car. There is no context, however we get the idea these are just a normal group of people. They are returning home to the United States after attending a wedding in Canada, as they cross the boarder two apparent Customs Officers stop them and begin interrogating them. Things get from bad to worse for these people, as it seems no matter what they say the ‘Officers’ do not believe them and assume them hostile.

This is all you really need to know, I’d rather not reveal too much. The film is certainly a political piece, focusing on the post 9/11 paranoia and the treatment of suspected terrorists and such. This really does make it a difficult watch, knowing the people here are innocent of what they are being accused of and being forced to watch what happens to them isn’t pleasant. It is quite horrific, and the handheld camera techniques help with the realism. It never once feels like an exploitive piece, it isn’t a torture porn type of film. In fact I’d say it has quite a bit in common with last years Unthinkable, which dealt with the implications of torturing a terrorist. The messages are clear, and whether you agree or disagree or simply have no feelings either way it will make you think and you will want to discuss it afterwards.

On the other side of things, the film is extremely well acted. From the group of people to the ‘Officers’ everyone did an outstanding job and I was highly impressed. The standout out of the group was Michael Mando as Jalii Adel Kahlid who is the subject of much of the problems the ‘Officers’ have with these people. He managed to hit all the right notes and be extremely sympathetic, it was difficult to watch certain scenes that he was in, and he was that convincing. Sean Devine and Roc LaFortune were both excellent as the villains here. They were both frightening and their strange relationship was a centrepiece in the film. Their motivations aren’t exactly made clear, but we are given clues and there are layers to uncover to really understand what makes them tick. In a sense as difficult as it might be the film needs a second watch, there are many things that might not be picked up right away.

Co-writer and director (his debut film) Olivier Abbou has crafted an important piece of cinema, this really isn’t just a horror piece, and it is also a serious political piece. It is extremely well made and presented; I was so impressed with this film. I honestly can’t recommend this highly enough, whether you like it or not this will have some kind of affect on you, and you’ll be thinking about it long after you see it.

The Australian DVD:
The DVD I reviewed was a screener, so I am unable to comment on Picture/Audio quality.


DVD details here.

Thanks to Bill care of Accent Films for the copy.

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