Partisan Blu-ray review
The man watches over a room of newborns in a hospital. He moves through the hallways to a mother’s room. He asks to sit down and mentions he noticed there were no flowers next to her bed. When the nurse comes in and declares her son is “ready for the world,” the man’s eyes light up. “Beautiful Alexander.”
The man is Gregori (Vincent Cassel, who also appeared in the adaptation of CHILD 44) and he runs a sort of quiet operation in which he raises children to be assassins. One of his recruits is Alexander (Jeremy Chabriel, in his debut), now 11, whose mother, Susanna (Florence Mezzara, also in her only screen credit to date), is one of many who has allowed herself and her child to be taken in by Gregori. They live on a compound, where the women maintain the grounds and the home. On quiet days, they sunbathe and the boys play soccer. When a new child is born on the property, it’s a cause for celebration.
But the goal of the children, ultimately, is to kill. And although there is a makeshift school set up (with cinderblocks as cubbyholes), one of the biggest lessons Gregori teaches his disciples is that they should put cotton in their ears to protect them when pulling the trigger. To ensure they are prepared, he has them shoot at balloons and fire paintballs at the women.
Questions immediately come to the viewer’s mind, like, Why has Gregori set up this society? What is the purpose? Why is he having children kill civilians? What have these civilians done? The viewer shouldn’t expect these to be answered clearly. While it might seem like the intention is to have the audience draw their own conclusions as to why and how such a society could develop, it comes across more as the screenwriter being stubborn on developing the core of the story. Even Daniel Lopatin’s (Sofia Coppola’s THE BLING RING) score comes off less ominous than it does forced to add emotions that the story can’t.
With no obvious motivation from Gregori, it is hard to invest in what is occurring. Has he rescued them from some sort of dystopian life, where the circumstances would be much worse than the life of a trained assassin? (This is another instance of the filmmakers being too unclear, since the movie has no determined setting or time.) Or is he a completely sadistic psychopath? In that case, we’re left to root for the children, although even this is difficult since they are given such little personality.
As the movie progresses, it becomes apparent that none of the questions presented by director Ariel Kleiman and screenwriter Sarah Cyngler are really worth exploring. This is an immediately forgettable movie with nothing to chew on except dirt and ear plugs.
Video: 2.39:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Detail is strong and colors are accurate.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English. Dialogue is clean (if sometimes quiet) and the score comes through effectively.
Interviews with Ariel Kleiman, Director (15:00) and Vincent Cassel, Gregori (9:09)