Cincinnati World Cinema is back in action on the big screen this coming weekend with two different European visions of suspense. The first film is Sightseers, from British director Ben Wheatley. Coming from a background of commercials and short films, Wheatley has been earning points among the indie film crowd in his native country. In his latest feature film, he mixes genres, blending romance, road movie, suspense and pitch-black humor.
A thirty-something couple who are trying to develop a relationship despite being social misfits, and having to cope with her snarky mum, take off for a caravan holiday… that’s camping with a trailer for you yanks. Along the way, they channel their sociopathic tendencies into a murder or two. Comedians Steve Oram and Alice Lowe, who co-star and also wrote the script, worked out these characters and situations in their routines before setting everything before the camera.
Unfortunately, the British sense of humor was totally lost on me in this film, as all the characters are pretty much unbearable and the kind of folks that you don’t want to be anywhere near for any reason. It’s also another of those Brit flicks in which the dialogue is mumbled through heavy accents, which renders much of what’s said inaudible…a prime example of a film in the King’s English that would greatly benefit from subtitles. Depending on how you approach a film like this, you may indeed enjoy it. Unfortunately, I felt like one of their victims, as Sightseers left me cold.
But the really good news is the other film showing next weekend. World Cinema had a special event last month with one showing of A Hijacking, which sold out and got such great word of mouth that it’s being brought back for two more showings so more film fans have a chance to see it. And see it you should, as it’s a thriller par excellence that is a claustrophobic, maddening edge-of-your seat exercise in a story that we too frequently see “ripped from the headlines” as they say.
A Danish cargo ship in the Indian Ocean is hijacked by Somali pirates who intend to hold the boat and all hands in exchange for the shipping company ponying up millions of dollars in ransom. In director Tobias Lindholm’s quest for in-your-face realism, he filmed on a real cargo ship that had been hijacked with some of that boat’s crew. The scenes featuring phone negotiations between the CEO of the shipping line and the pirate in charge were shot with the two men actually talking long-distance between Denmark and Somalia. But realism aside, what becomes maddening is how both corporoids and criminals treat the whole affair as a game, with constant negotiations that last well over three months. The crew, and conditions on the boat, deteriorates to the point you just want to smack the negotiators silly for caring so much about their money and so little for the captive crew. Lindholm has a knack for pacing, and for getting excellent performances from a diverse group of actors whom you’ve never seen before, and whose names I couldn’t pronounce if you paid me. A Hijacking is of such quality that it would be in good company had it received an Oscar nomination for Foreign Language film… even though some of the dialogue is in English. It’s a harrowing voyage, but one that is well worth taking.
Both films are being shown at the Sharonville Fine Arts Center on Saturday and Sunday, July 20th and 21st. Sightseers screens at 4 pm each day, and A Hijacking runs at 7 pm. It’s not a double feature, so you can pick either / or, get tickets for both if you prefer.