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TRIAGE is a well chosen title for this film about who survives an who
dies in war: at times those triage decisions are made by serendipity
(read 'bad luck'), at times they are made by physicians or medics
tending the wounded on the battlefield, and at times they are submerged
in the apparent 'survivors' only to later crush the life from those who
make it home. Writer/Director Danis Tanovic has adapted Scott
Anderson's novel is a manner that carries the seemingly simple act of
'triage' throughout the film, showing how that action can affect the
lives of friends, family, and psychological wholeness of the victim.
Mark Walsh (Colin Farrell, in yet another powerful role) and his buddy David (Jamie Sives) are war photographers for a newspaper edited by Amy (Juliet Stevenson). Their current assignment is Kurdistan and the terrifying realities they not only experience but also commit to film are of such a horrid nature that they both are in shock: they not only witness killings and landmine explosion deaths, but they also watch one Dr. Talani (Branko Djuric) triage the wounded, deciding who can survive care and who is so near death that they are put aside to be later 'executed' by Dr. Talani in a compassionate gesture to end their futile suffering. The tension is so great that David decides to return home, leaving Mark to carry on the assignment. An explosion occurs and Mark is seriously injured but survives and after being tended by Dr. Talani he is encouraged to return home. There is no news as to where David is.
Mark returns home to his adoring Elena (Paz Vega), presents his photographs to Amy, and begins to heal: David's wife Diane (Kelly Reilly) is due to deliver their first child in two weeks and has had no word from David. We watch as Mark, eroded by his experiences in Kurdistan, retreat into a state of decline. Elena grows fearful as Mark, despite hospitalizations and medical care, continues to deteriorate and out of desperation she calls her grandfather Joaquin, a psychiatrist who treated the victims of the Spanish Civil War (Elena is still angry that her own grandfather treated the perpetrators of the destruction that war caused). Joaquin slowly brings Mark into the acceptance of how his mind has triaged the events in Kurdistan and leads Mark to discover the truths about incidents in what war for which he has blamed himself. We finally understand David's disappearance at the moment when his and Diane's child is born.
This is a tough story to watch: subtitles would help the audience understand the many dialects used in the film. But the message is clear and the acting is superb by every member of the cast, even very small but cogent cameos by Reece Ritchie as a boy in Beirut and Dada Ashi as a Ugandan woman - two of the early incidents Mark must remember and face in his work with Joaquin. The cinematography is dazzling, especially the use of flashbacks of a raging river so important in Mark's memory recall, and the constant focus on the blue and yellow tags that mark the triage decisions. This is another powerful anti-war film, this time as seen through the eyes of a non-combatant observer. It is important to see.
Firstly, let me just say that the TIFF audience did seem to like it and
they responded well to it. There were quite a few moments of light
humour that were enjoyed and the Q&A session revealed that a lot of
people truly were touched by the movie.
Next, let me say that the story was quite powerful. The character played by Farrel was developed and real. It would be hard not to be emotionally effected by this film, and it would be hard not to leave with something to think about.
Unfortunately, a great story and a great character don't make for a great movie. While many of the scenes were spectacular and a lot of the dialogue worked quite well, on a whole the film didn't do its story justice. It actually felt, much of the time, as if I were watching the subplot of another film. In fact, if you've watched enough war films you'll probably find that this movie WAS the subplot to many of those films. That alone doesn't equal a bad film, but it does make it more challenging for the film to hold its own. That didn't happen. Farrel's character--due to his acting as well as the writer/director's desire to explore that type of character--was fine through and through, but the characters around him all tended to speak their lines solely for the purposes of advancing Farrel's character, or to push out a philosophy of war. To illustrate this, just pay attention to the scene in which we're introduced to the grandfather, Christopher Lee's character. That scene introduces a whole back story and turbulent relationship that has nothing to do with anything... it was just pinned on the story awkwardly so as to justify a powerful speech in which he defended his questionable actions in a long-ago war. Well, that's pretty much what the rest of the story felt like. And the payoff wasn't great. It ended mostly how you expect it will end, and gives a message we've heard from a thousand other films.
So, again, if I had the option, I'd give this story a 9/10. The execution of the story remains a 6.
Being a fan of Danis Tanovic's films, I couldn't wait to see his third
movie Triage". I finally watched it last night, of course, a pirated
copy of the film, which still did not spoil the film for me, not even
one bit. The reason why I mention these technicalities is basically
just to say that not even poor sound quality compounded by a
frustrating inability to appreciate fully the whole atmospheric
environment that Danovic creates for the viewers with much finesse and
eye for detail, takes away from the fact that this is simply a film
worth watching. I tend to think that movie aficionado from the third
world, being forced to choose between watching pirated copies of films
that never make it to the local cinemas and not watching them at all,
are actually watching these films stripped of all their non-essential
elements. If the movie passes this test, I think it can be safely said
that everyone's time, the film crew's time and the audience's time has
been used to a good effect.
Before seeing it, I knew that the movie was about a photographer going to the war zone. That alone would have been enough for me to decide against spending 99 minutes of my otherwise super exciting life on it had someone else directed it. I say this because I myself watched them take photos of people running for their lives in the streets of Sarajevo. I vividly remember one of them taking a photo of a woman running over the stretch of the road that was exposed to sniper fire with canisters in her hands unsuspecting that having reached safety she would start hitting him full force with those canisters out of sheer frustration. On the one hand, it's not like he could have asked for her consent to be photographed in not too dignified a pose. On the other hand, one may say that being too preoccupied with survival she is not even remotely thinking at that moment about how this and no other photo may turn out to be the most symbolic of her plight. Not to digress too far, Colin Farrel's character in the movie and his best friend are off to Kurdistan to capture with their cameras yet another offensive in the two centuries long history of warfare in that country. This is the land where the situation spinned out of control long time ago. These are the people who live out their existence stripped of any real choices. It is this lack of choice and the bravery with which ordinary men like Dr Talzani and Cristopher Lee's character face it that form important aspects of this anti-war film that is so much more than that. As for Mark Walsh (Colin Farrel), his drama is taken to the extreme, probably the extremest I've seen on film recently. I will stop here in order not to spoil the film for those of you who may read this and haven't seen it yet.
Finally, let me briefly respond to some of the criticism leveled against Triage". In some comments it is said that it should have been shot in Kurdistan with more Kurds in it to add to its authenticity. Well, production-dictated requirements aside, No Man's Land" was shot in Slovenia and it does not take away from the movie's authenticity. Besides, he wants his movies to be universal, hence the references to different places across the globe in this movie. As for the comment about the relationship between characters being strained and used solely for the purpose of delivering big lines, I must say that I did not detect that strain while watching the movie and though it may be because of the poor sound quality of the pirated copy, I'm more inclined to attribute it to Tanovic's habit of using dialogue as if he was staging a play and not directing a film. To those who call him an amateur, Tanovic so far worked with Katrin Cartlidge, Miki Manojlovic, Emannuele Beart, Branko Djuric, Colin Farrel, is friends with great film-makers such as Mike Leigh, made his three feature films in three different languages and won positive acclaim at big international film festivals. I rest my case.
This film deserved better than a straight-to-DVD release.
The story begins in Iraqi Kurdistan, shortly before Saddam Hussein gassed thousands of Kurds to quell a rebellion. Colin Farrell and Jamie Sives portray two photojournalists who ride along with the rebels. Because the Kurds have no real army or government, medical care given to the wounded is...frugal. Farrell's character, Mark, converses with a doctor who believes in relieving people's suffering. Mark initially finds it hard to understand the doctor's point of view. Sives' character, David, decides to quit rather than take one more chance and starts a long walk back from the front lines. The next thing we see is a wounded Mark (Colin Farrell) and we don't know what happened to David.
The rest of the film takes place in Ireland, sort of. It moves back and forth from scenes of Mark's life as the traumatized husband of a beautiful woman who feels locked out by his shell-shocked remoteness, and Mark's various wartime memories, as he describes them to his wife's grandfather, a therapist who once treated war criminals. The therapist starts to figure out from the threads of Mark's different stories what might have happened to David. What is fascinating is Mark's unconscious selection of images from his mind that inadvertently reveal the truth to the therapist. As a therapist myself, this was the most interesting part of the movie for me.
Farrell convincingly portrays a man wracked by grief and guilt. Christopher Lee is excellent as a somewhat egomaniacal healer whose political views differ from those of his daughter. The rest of the cast is also good and Paz and Farrell seem to have sexual chemistry.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What a performance from Mr Farrell. I didn't expect anything special when got the movie but it surprised me. Was very well thought, told a good story and the performance of the cast was outstanding. The story is about two friends who go to war-torn Kurdistan and leave behind their wives one of which is very pregnant. I should stop here because revealing more of the plot is revealing the ending and I don't want that. Triage is going to capture your imagination, and make you feel and understand what goes on in war journalist head. I for the first time tried to understand the character's (Mark) motivations and felt that I'm not being lied to. I'm grateful that it's not just another war flick, with loads of kabooom going on, but a deep psychological study of a person who witnessed something that was beyond his mind's capacity. I recommend it because it made me realise that 'in war there are no winners only losers' and this applies to passive witness as well.
I was very moved by this film. I loved the pacing, the movement back
and forth in time, the many-layered meanings of the word "triage".
Colin Farrell's work just gets better and better, he is fast becoming
my favorite actor. The camera work is gorgeous too, kudos to the DP.
I'll keep this review short, but suffice it to say, this is a Must-See. Right up there with some other finely wrought journalism/war films, like "Welcome to Sarajevo," and general war films, like John Boorman's "Beyond Rangoon." I'm ordering the book to read and then plan to re-watch the film too. It's not often an author pulls of a great adaptation, but judging from the film, he sure did here.
this is the third of the 2009 Colin Farrell movies which I have
recently following on from Doctor Parnassus and Crazy Heart but this
surely is his finest acting performance in a movie to date.
There are many movies of course about war and more recently about Iraq. this is not really an Iraq war story but Colin Farrell does play as a war journalist in Kurdistan and returns from there with a trauma wjhich engrosses the main story of the film.
the film title of TRIAGE is a strange one and requires looking up as to meaning before or after watching the movie. the context of TRIAGE within the movie occurs as i recall in only one actual scene of the film when the Kurdistani Doctor is seen having to play 'God' in order to decide who lives and dies.
Like the American movie 'Brothers', somebody returns from a war-torn drama with a psychological trauma and with a story to tell which is not what the folks back home are expecting. Farrells acting performance is spot on all the way and there are one or two graphic scenes in the film, one near the end, which will definitely make you flinch and probably weep.
overall this is not a powerful film like The Hurt Locker and I disagree with the earlier comment about the Grandfather. He clearly has an important part to play in the movie and Farrell links to all the main characters effortlessly.
Okay it was not filmed in Kurdistan for whatever reason and Kurdistani actors/extra may or may not have been used.
Despite the graphic scenes, I commend this movie for viewing. It is not top notch but it is certainly entertaining.
Would have liked to have seen more focus on the concept of the film title and exploration of issues relating to triage rather than the story which eventually evolved between the character of mark Walsh (Farrell) and his best friend David. I really doubt many people will watch the movie and know what TRIAGE means.
Not on general release anywhere I understand, privileged to watch it on good quality DVD.
If you like this movie, you should go out and buy/rent "No man's land"
from the same director. I haven't seen "L'Enfer" yet, but I'm sure that
one is good too. At first I was amazed by the actors at hand here, but
the script proves to have been a big part in their involvement. The
dialogue and the delivery is just spot on.
And when you watch Christopher Lee going one-on-one with Colin Farrell, you just wish there could have been more scenes, with those two together. There is a great chemistry surrounding them and when they grace the screen together it's almost like magic. There is this constant pushing and delivering, that makes those scenes special.
But of course, the rest of the movie is not lacking in tension and/or good performances. Quite the contrary. Especially the doctor and the others involved all have there scenes. The editing does the rest and makes this more than above average.
As a teenager, Elena (Paz Vega) hated her grandfather (Christopher Lee)
because he was a "fascist." He treated the fascist leaders after the
Spanish War. His explanation of why he did so was most interesting, and
showed him to possibly be a great psychiatrist.
She called upon him to treat her war photographer boyfriend (Colin Farrell) after he returned from Kurdistan and was undergoing leg paralysis that was psychosomatic. Their exchanges as Mark (Farrell) relived his war experiences were fascinating, as were Dr. Morales' soliloquies.
The film was excellent in showing the cost of war is far higher than the dollars and cents we spend to fight them. Without adequate treatment, those who return will suffer the rest of their lives for their experiences. Farrell was excellent as was Lee.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Deeply harrowing and involving, this up-close yet suitably detached and
observant examination of Kurdish guerrilla warfare against Saddam's
forces details the horrors that two photo-journalists witness, document
and are embroiled in during the conflict of the late 1980s. When one
(Colin Farrell) returns home, the horrifying details of his friend's
fate are gradually eased out from the scarred and traumatised
photographer by an elderly Spanish doctor (Christopher Lee).
As the two men share their respective experiences in Spain and Kurdistan, a tentative trust and rapport is built up between them and the soul-destroying facts of what actually happened in Kurdistan can gradually be acknowledged.
'Triage' is an intelligent and compelling movie in terms of both detail and acting. Seamus Deasy's evocative lensing of the Spanish locations suitably conveys the barren desolation and ruggedly beautiful yet deeply troubled nature of the Kurdish region. Amidst the war-torn landscape and the subsequent uncertain disorientation upon return, the acting of both Farrell and Lee held me transfixed and utterly riveted. They both create characters of real depth and humanity. Never before have I seen the charismatic Farrell turn in a performance of such note.
Director Danis Tanovic confirms the huge promise that he exhibited with 'No Man's Land' and has with this movie created a searing masterpiece that, like the aforementioned 2001 movie, is undoubtedly significantly informed by his time spent filming in Sarajevo for the Bosnian Army. The chilling and mind-numbing impact of conflict is conveyed vividly and unflinchingly through his directorial vision and execution.
The heart-wrenching reveal that the movie inexorably builds towards is graphic and stands as a draining and deeply moving denouement to this unforgettable picture. The shattering silence that accompanies the unspeakable horror of the climactic scene forms a powerful and sublime encapsulation of one man's release and acceptance of the fate that befell his colleague who failed to return. Through his acknowledgment of reality, comes the chance for renewal and vital reawakening. 'Triage' is indeed a worthy addition to the pantheon of great anti- war movies and it deserves to be sought out and seen by as many cinema lovers as possible.
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