It's ten years after the kidnapping of Martin Bristol. Taken from a backyard swing at his home at the age of six, he is forced to witness unspeakable crimes of a deranged madman. For years, Martin's whereabouts have remained a mystery...until now.
R. Brandon Johnson,
Five friends returning from a marriage in Canada return home to the United States. Not far from the border, two customs officers stop them to check their identity. Suspicious, they take their time especially with Jalil, a man of Arab origin. The situation worsens when a customs officer finds a small bag of marijuana in the luggage. Then things degenerate rapidly.Written by
Oddly enough, the bad reviews on this site were what enticed me to actually watch the film. Besides the first review by Coventry, which had some constructive criticism and actually compared this film with others within its genre, the reviews all took issue with the episodic quality of the films plot. It seems that they haven't been introduced to the concept of art cinema - a mode of film practice which subverts and breaks from classical filmic conventions like continuity editing, and strict causal relations between narrative events, instead focusing on the psychological depth of its characters and the "everyday" realism of disjointed, unrelated events. This film definitely shows various qualities of the art cinema, especially its episodic structure and focus on character psychology. I found the plot intriguing and despite what some of the other reviewers said, I think that the introduction of the private detective was not arbitrary but actually contributed to the creation of the expectation that the tortured would be rescued. By building this character who can sympathize with the families of the missing, as he has ostensibly lost his own daughter, the director effectively takes the audience out of the roll of victim-by-proxy and into rescuer-by-proxy. This is clever because by the time this plot line is introduced, the viewer has become frustrated with the course of events (as trapped in them as the tortured) and the detective becomes the voice for the audience, while also giving them a view onto the other side of the tragedy of kidnapping/forcible confinement.
As for the ending ... I cannot believe that one of the previous reviewers complained about the fact that the ending did not gesture to a sequel. I'm sorry bud, but sequels did not exist before the late 80s early 90s and the dawn of the multiplex theater. I also disagree with the suggestion that the film doesn't allow the audience to interpret the final events in any way that they wish - because that is exactly what the ambiguous ending does. The lack of closure makes it the viewers responsibility to interpret the ending in whatever way that they can.
Overall, the film was esthetically pleasing and definitely generated the reactions thrillers are supposed to. Maybe for Coventry the film is just another in a long line of psychopath/kidnapping/torture stories, but I have seen few which are as dedicated to the art of film and not very tangibly grasping at demographics in hopes of being successful. Also I would say that Territories fell well within the range of the independent film mode, and far from that of the B-film - despite its low budget and virtually unknown cast. Definitely a film worth watching - at least for those who can appreciate films which reveal their artifice by making the viewer think.
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