In the hands of a less skilled director, Essential Killing could have easily become a politically-loaded statement film that feels manipulative, but with acclaimed filmmaking Jerzy Skolimowski behind the lense, Essential Killing is a raw, hypnotic mood piece which captures a man reduced to a primitive state with only his will to survive. First of all, from a technical standpoint this film is pretty much flawless. The cinematography captures the vast, dark wilderness which this man faces but never forgets to focus on the small details as well, like the slow, physical damage in which Gallo's character ensues. The sound design really creates a grueling dark setting as well. Screeching noises and at times, effective dead silence, really bring the viewer into this man's situation. Both the physical and mental anguish is seen first hand and there are some frightening sequences where Gallo's character is shown slowly losing his grip on reality. This is a grueling film which is pretty much existential in it's raw design and silent approach, that features barely any dialogue throughout its narrative. For me, Jerzy Skolimowski isn't making a political statement with this film but a humanitarian statement about war itself, showing the fragility of us as humans and how violence should never be part of the equation.
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