Calgary International Film Festival 2013 - The Retrieval

Posted on Monday, September 23, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Review Type: Festival

The Retrieval

Review by Troy Steinke

It was with a degree of hesitation that I sat in the hallowed halls of the Globe Theatre on a sunny Saturday afternoon to watch a film. I could swear I had heard my friends laughing and swilling pints on a patio nearby. In the end, I was glad I made this small sacrifice. 'The Retrieval' tells the story of a young slave who takes on the gruesome task of assisting in the capture and retrieval of runaways, fugitives and the like. I immediately drew the obvious parallels to 'Django Unchained' in my mind. I was relieved to learn in the first 10 minutes of the picture that I was wrong. Though the comparisons can't be completely ignored, a mix of strong performances from Ashton Sanders (Will) and Tishuan Scott (Nate) made the experience worthwhile. I was especially impressed with the supporting roles, which included a standout performance from Bill Oberst Jr. (Burrell), whom I last saw in the Netflix smash hit 'Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies'. Go figure?!

'The Retrieval' is beautifully photographed with engaging storytelling. Set against the backdrop of the civil-war era South, the narrative weaves gently through classic themes of persecution, treachery and betrayal and ultimately, love. I truly enjoyed the setting and character of the film, ominous and serene at the same time. It was easy to imagine walking amongst stretches of Georgia pine, the sun peeking through ever so slightly, twigs cracking under feet. At times we hear the faint sounds of America's most brutal war invade the silence, perfectly juxtaposed with our antagonists' quiet struggles. Scenes of tragedy and misfortune are cleverly mixed with moments of humour and innocence. Surprisingly effective filmmaking and writing from Chris Eska, who's IMDB profile hints at a career with a long future ahead. The the film's score is also worth mentioning, with Matthew Wiedemann and Yellow 6 providing pitch perfect mood music.

Though my blood pressure was never raised to 'Django' levels by this film, I think it's a piece of work worth seeing. If I had anything bad to say, it would be that some of the action sequences were 'muted' and a tad ineffective. This film has received some well deserved attention at festivals in Phoenix and Austin, so it's nice to see that CIFF has taken it a bit beyond its Southern boundaries. All in all, a great picture and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for this young cast and director.

Reviewed at the Calgary International Film Festival 2013.

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The Retrieval >



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