NEM // 2009 // 99 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // September 9th, 2010
Some live. Some die. Some are changed forever.
Following his Oscar-winning debut No Man's Land and a small French movie titled Hell, esteemed filmmaker Danis Tanovic returns with Triage, a decent war drama featuring Colin Farrell in what I consider to be one of the better performances of his acting career.
Farrell plays courageous war photographer Mark Walsh, who heads to Kurdistan with his buddy David (Jamie Sives) to properly document the ongoing war in the region. After being injured during an attack several weeks into the assignment, Mark finally finds a way to returns home only to discover his partner hasn't made it back yet. Haunted by disturbing flashbacks triggered by his photographs, Mark decides to launch an investigation to find the truth behind David's mysterious disappearance.
Although the DVD's explosive cover suggests otherwise, Triage is not exactly an action-packed war film boasting massive battles. On the contrary, Tanovic's film spends most of its time exploring in what ways post-traumatic stress disorder can mess with those trying to recover from a shocking wartime experience. When we first meet Mark we can immediately tell he's been through a lot during his career as a photographer, but what we quickly realize is that nothing could've prepared him for the psychological anxiety caused by the attack and injury he faces in Kurdistan.
Tanovic chronicles Mark's predicament in an interesting way. Still recovering from the physical pain he endured in the field, he spends most of his time locked up in his city apartment, sorting frantically through all the dramatic images he took of wounded soldiers in the war-torn desert. At first, the loving affection he receives from his girlfriend Elena (Paz Vega) is comforting, but soon enough, his terrifying war memories even threaten to damage their relationship. Of course, there's also the disappearance of his colleague David, which adds an extra burden because his wife Diane (Kelly Reilly) is expecting their first child. In other words, the pressure Mark is confronted quickly spins out of control.
Hence, it's the second act of Triage that proves to be the most compelling one. Tanovic found a nice balance between showing Mark at home and in action in Kurdistan, and even though the film's plot moves ahead rather slowly, the story never slips into a state of boredom. One of the reasons for this is Tanovic's detailed writing and his care and respect for his characters. He knows war, and he has no trouble bringing it to the screen. Then there's that excellent performance by Farrell, who strongly committed to this role by losing a lot of weight for his role as Mark.
This leads me to the movie's solid cast. Farrell doesn't only look the part, but he's in complete control of his character. His job here is totally believable, and his depiction of a guy suffering from PTSD proves to be dramatic and intriguing. Jamie Sives stars as his likable colleague, and Paz Vega and Kelly Reilly play convincing partners. I also have to mention Christopher Lee, who enters the film later on and acts as a sort of therapist trying to help Mark recover from his emotional stress. Now, I'm not entirely sold on everything Lee's character has to say (a lot of his dialogue and conclusions sound formulaic), but from a broader perspective, his efforts do pay off in the end. He definitely shares some intense scenes with Farrell.
Triage is presented in a solid 1.78:1 widescreen presentation boasting a clean, sharp image quality and a satisfying audio transfer. The bonus section on the disc includes a bunch of B-roll footage and a series of informative interviews with cast and crew. Also included is a 20-minute behind-the-scenes look, which features more set footage but uses mostly the same sound bites.
The one major problem I have with Triage is its final act. The movie spends all this time setting up a surprise ending, but once it all goes down and we get to see what the story's really been leading up to, the payoff disappoints. Things feel rushed as the movie comes to a close, and I feel the experience as a whole would have been more memorable had Tanovic chosen to go a different way. Those final moments really do damage what he's worked hard to build up.
Triage is a relatively small war drama, not intended to pull a massive audience. It works just fine for what it is, and it gives us Colin Farrell in a great role. That alone makes it worth watching -- that and Tanovic's ability to create an atmospheric movie that spends enough time focusing on how its lead character goes from bad to worse after experiencing war and being fortunate enough to make it home alive.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R