After publicly stating that he wasn’t happy with his first two films, Denis Villeneuve took a nine year hiatus to be a stay at home dad, claiming that he would come back when hecould make a film he could be proud of. Fast forward to 2009, the 20 year anniversary of the Polytechnique school shooting in Montreal (which injured 28 people and killed 14 women), and he was back with a vengeance.
The film pulls no punches from the opening frames, and it seems to suggest exactly that; here is someone laid dormant for too long, and he is back with something explosive to say. So, too, is our main character (the real killer is never named in the film), who has realized that his life is over and intends to take as many feminists out as he can before taking his own life. The opening scene immediately drops you into the chaos, before pulling back for some brief exposition. But this method is very effective at building tension (something Villeneuve excels at), because you know the horror that is to come.
It’s a big tragedy, but kept on a small scale, between the short run time and mostly only following three characters (The killer and two survivors). Dealing with themes like the power of misplaced hatred (something he would revisit in a big way the following year with Incendies), survivors guilt and the hopelessness of feeling lost and forgotten, this film feels like catharsis for the survivors and their families, and Villeneuve delivered it in an admirable way. It isn’t sensational and doesn’t glorify violence or dangerous ideas. It is a daring film, and one that I couldn’t see being made in America in 2018.
Currently available on Amazon Prime.