Review: ‘The Insurgents’

A brain-teaser that tosses ideologies in a narrative blender alternately set to "certainty" and "ambiguity," "The Insurgents" makes the most of its compact cast of attractive thesps and low budget to examine the inner workings of a domestic terror cell.

A brain-teaser that tosses ideologies in a narrative blender alternately set to “certainty” and “ambiguity,” “The Insurgents” makes the most of its compact cast of attractive thesps and low budget to examine the inner workings of a domestic terror cell. Anybody wondering how homegrown terrorism against a U.S. target could ever seem like a good idea will find somewhat stagey but consistently engaging food for thought here. Fests and civics classes should investigate.

As a citizen’s response to post-9/11 doubts, scripter-helmer Scott Dacko’s debut film is sometimes clunky in execution but always lively on an intellectual level. Script has something for everyone, whether you think the Chicago 7 were swell guys or you see no real reason not to wipe rogue nations off the map.

Talky but intriguing pic bounces back and forth in time, reconstructing the lead-up to an all-American bomb plot implemented by a disabled Iraq vet, a resourceful ex-prostitute and an ex-con country boy. Disgruntled protags follow the self-righteous leadership of a charismatic professional author and lecturer.

At pic’s outset, clean-cut Southern-accented James (Michael Mosley) addresses the camera with a defiant rant marbled with eloquent references to dying for a cause, prefaced by, “If you’re watching this, I guess I’m dead.”

Ten or so title cards situate the action at between “three years ago” and “yesterday” but in non-chronological order, keeping viewers on their toes.

For example, “6 months ago” James came to the rescue of foxy, self-reliant Hana (Juliette Marquis) in a bar, after which they became a couple.

Two years before meeting suave but impotent ex-Marine and Iraq vet, Marcus (Henry Simmons), Hana was befriended by polemical author Robert (John Shea) who holds cozy salons for folks unsatisfied with the status quo.

Set piece devoted to the Unified Theory of Sept. 11, 2001 is an entertaining if chilling roundup of all the square pegs that don’t fit in round holes pertaining to that day’s terror attacks.

“The remarkable thing about 9/11 isn’t how many people died — it’s how many lived,” is one assertion.

“Why do conspiracies always have to be vast? Two people can be a conspiracy,” offers one character. And, oh yeah, “The founding fathers were insurgents.”

By the time the title card reads “Yesterday,” suspense is white hot. Who really recruited who and for what?

Production values are sufficient on limited funds.

The Insurgents

Production

A Slamdance Media Group release, in conjunction with Allumination FilmWorks, of a Revel Films production, in association with Angel Baby Entertainment and Full Glass Films. (International sales: Revel Films, New York.) Produced by Greg Segal, John Gallagher, Elana Pianko, Stan Erdreich, Mike Parness. Directed, written by Scott Dacko;

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Learan Kahanov; editor, Bob Reitano; music, Ben Butler, Mario Grigorov; production designer, John El Manahi; art director, Patrick McGowan; costume designer, Dara Ettinger; sound, Stephen Barden, Brian Miklas; casting, Adrienne Stern. Reviewed at Avignon Film Festival -- competing, June 23, 2007. Running time: 83 MIN.

With

John Shea, Henry Simmons, Juliette Marquis, Michael Mosley, Mary Stuart Masterson.
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