Two FBI agents attempt to clarify the murders occurring in a desolate region. They approach the witnesses of the latest incident with the help of the local police. All of them hide something and all have wildly different stories to tell.
Grisly murders occur in a small town. Two FBI agents arrive, set up their cameras in three interview rooms, and set up interviews of three survivors: a girl of about nine, a foul-mouthed cop with a bandaged hand, and a young woman of about 20 who uses drugs. Each tells their story as the male FBI agent listens and watches from a separate room: the girl draws for and talks to the female agent, the local chief interviews the injured cop, and two officers interview the young woman. As they tell their stories, some of which are inaccurate and self-serving, we see what actually happened the day before. Can the agents or anyone else put the pieces together?Written by
The closing credits state that the cast is listed in alphabetical order, but Daryl Haney's name is listed after Kent Harper, Michael Ironside, and Pell James (despite the fact that it precedes all of them alphabetically). See more »
Working her way into the business under the shadow of her internationally renowned father, Jennifer Lynch exists as a figure in the industry that will be sure to catch the eyes of film enthusiasts for years to come if only to witness how she establishes herself as a single entity outside of her father's influence. Surveillance, which sees the director return to film after a fifteen year hiatus following the lackluster Boxing Helena, despite its reigns being pulled this way and that by father and producer David, nevertheless does create an interesting vision here that is both expected and yet somewhat refreshing. In the midst of the countless numbers of drudgery that fills in the genre's hotspots year after year, Lynch manages to stick to her father's mantra of keeping things basic, and at the same time daring and bold. However, diverging heavily from the surreal abstractions associated with Mr. Lynch's features, Jennifer creates something that combines originality with tradition in a successful dish that isn't perfect by any means, but nevertheless succeeds in providing ample thrills and suspense.
Surveillance is essentially the story of four groups of people; there are the two serial killers on the loose involved in a series of murders within the past months; there are the local-area cops involved in one of the crimes directly; then there's the FBI agents sent to investigate and go over the head of said officers; and finally there's the surviving civilians of the killers' most recent venture. Taking place over the course of perhaps a few hours of interrogation spliced with flashbacks relating back to the day of the last known murders, the script mixes subtle plotting and slow moving developments with a high caliber of character work and atmospherics to keep things moving. This shift from heavy-handed mystery-solving to a healthy balance between character dynamics and dialogue allows the movie to broaden its horizons and escape the usual middling indifference a cold-blooded thriller usually indulges within. Indeed, perhaps the most compelling side of Surveillance doesn't necessarily reside within its plot (although, things to pick up steadily from act three onwards), but through the characters and performances by their respective thespians.
Retrospectively, Jennifer Lynch's directing takes many leafs from her father's style, the least of which certainly not being her use of eccentric characters, dialogue and establishment of surreal tone. Indeed throughout the course of Surveillance, one is likely to find themselves not only disturbed by the visual brutalities (which are few, but nevertheless potent), but the more visceral elements spliced through the film through shades of atmospheric manipulations. Sure enough, this certainly isn't Mulholland Drive or Eraserhead by any means; rather, Lynch does well to avoid becoming a mere parody of her father, and establishes a familiarly tense tone without overstepping the boundary into pure abstraction. Through this, Surveillance instead strikes chord not dissimilar from such features as Natural Born Killers, and House of 1000 Corpses in its deconstruction of authority, twisting of the natural order and unsettling the settled, cozy tinsel lenses of Hollywood horror.
The performances, although not quite as compelling as Lynch's overall direction, nevertheless do well to echo the themes of script with a similar sense of disjointedness from reality. For the sake of preserving first time viewers from any major plot developments past the half way mark, I cannot go into stark detail involving any said performer's styles, but can at least attest to the fact that most of the central cast do a very good job of portraying their characters with enough uncertainty to keep the viewer guessing. Throughout, you are left wondering "who done it", yes, but the end result isn't as obvious as most hackneyed thrillers and will certainly catch audiences off guard if they're not careful. The performances, alongside Lynch's subversive, purposely withholding script make sure to establish this mystery, keep it interesting (for the most part) and then unravel it to the enlightenment of those unprepared.
There are problems however, most of which reside within the movie's middle act that dwindles along for a good half hour involving neither sufficient plotting nor characterisation to the extent that is displayed earlier on. Furthermore, the experience as a whole, although fulfilling a promise to deliver suspense and extreme tension during its greater scenes, nevertheless boils down to one of temporal satisfaction. For what it's worth, Surveillance provides a fine look at how the thriller can be done well with plenty of viscerally and cerebrally engaging sequences and cascading shades of disturbing nightmare-quality insanity, but it nevertheless can't quite escape the tedium that is often associated with the genre. Definitely worthy of a look-in for fans of either the thriller or David Lynch himself, but for everyone else, this will probably be a temporarily engaging affair quickly forgotten soon after the credits roll.
A review by Jamie Robert Ward (http://www.invocus.net)
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