You will be redirected back to your article in seconds


An impulse more therapeutic than artistic drives "Triage."

Mark Walsh - Colin Farrell Elena Morales - Paz Vega Joaquin Morales - Christopher Lee Diane - Kelly Reilly David - Jamie Sives Dr. Talzani - Branko Djuric Amy - Juliet Stevenson

An impulse more therapeutic than artistic drives “Triage,” a somber drama of wartime trauma and recovery that’s twice as earnest and half as enlightening as it needs to be. Colin Farrell’s dedicated turn as a wily combat photographer who runs out of luck isn’t enough to disguise the film’s medicinal nature, spelling meager commercial prospects in most markets.

Writer-director Danis Tanovic, who scored so decisively with his first feature, “No Man’s Land,” in 2001, is evidently still grappling with, if also perhaps trying to close the book on, the remaining residue of the conflict that engulfed his native Bosnia and Herzegovina. Whether he’s completely expunged his personal demons or not, he should probably try to find some new subject matter, at least temporarily, as the depiction of the endless strife and useless loss of life that generally preoccupies him is now yielding diminishing dramatic returns.

The hostilities in question this time involve late ’80s Kurdistan — a place, a local middle-aged medic laments, that has experienced eight different wars during his lifetime. Mark Walsh (Farrell) has made his reputation photographing such conflicts with his best friend, David (Jamie Sives). But when David decides to return to Ireland, where his wife is about to give birth, Mark opts to stay on to cover an upcoming offensive.

When a frazzled, battered Mark eventually makes his way back to Dublin, he finds that David has never turned up. For the first time in his life, Mark is genuinely rattled and unable to talk about what he’s just experienced, so his Spanish wife, Elena (Paz Vega), resorts to calling her despised psychiatrist grandfather to fly up to help.

Old Joaquin (Christopher Lee) is a grave, authoritative gentleman, hated by his granddaughter because, during and after the Spanish Civil War, he was on the Franco side and specialized in healing traumatized men who committed atrocities against the Loyalists.

Joaquin could have been a great role for the still-commanding, 87-year-old Lee, who brings his imposing bearing and resonant basso to everything he does. But nearly all his dialogue consists of explicit remedial insights; he’s Count Dracula as a self-help guru, Dr. Mengele as a full-time shrink, but to disappointingly one-dimensional effect.

When Mark can finally open up to Elena and David’s wife (Kelly Reilly) about what happened to David, it’s upsetting but not at all surprising, given the programmatic nature of the project. “There is no pattern as to who dies in war,” the film’s epigraph warns. “People die because they do. There is no more to it than that.” Unfortunately, the viewer is left no more enlightened at the end of the movie than at the beginning, which is only frustrating.

Led by a noticeably thin Farrell, who reportedly shed 30 pounds for the role, the cast members give what are often called committed performances. Shot in Spain and Ireland, the pic looks sharp.

Popular on Variety



Production: An ASAP Films and Parallel Films production. (International sales: Hanway Films, London.) Produced by Alan Moloney, Cedomir Kolar, Tim Baschet. Co-producers, Susan Mullen, Mariela Besuievsky, Tim Baish. Directed, written by Danis Tanovic.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor, Panavision widescreen), Seamus Deasy; editors, Francesca Calvelli, Gareth Young; music, Lucio Godoy; additional music, Tanovic; production designer, Derek Wallace; art director, Michel Higgins; costume designer, Lorna Marie Mugan; sound (Dolby Digital), Brendan Deasy; sound designer, Samir Foco; re-recording mixer, John Fitzgerald; special effects supervisor, Pascal Molina; stunt coordinator, Donal O'Farrell; line producer, Patrick O'Donoghue; assistant director, Tony Aherne; casting, Nina Gold. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentations), Sept. 13, 2009. Running time: 99 MIN.

With: Mark Walsh - Colin Farrell Elena Morales - Paz Vega Joaquin Morales - Christopher Lee Diane - Kelly Reilly David - Jamie Sives Dr. Talzani - Branko Djuric Amy - Juliet Stevenson

More Film

  • Renee Zellweger Rufus Wainwright Sam Smith

    Renée Zellweger: Judy Garland Was 'My Childhood Hero'

    Awards buzz is building around Renée Zellweger for her performance as Judy Garland, emerging as a frontrunner in the Oscar race for best actress. But for her, the real prize was paying tribute to Garland, of whom she’s been a lifelong fan. “Nobody was prettier, nobody sang prettier…the adventures she had, [she was] my childhood [...]

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

  • 'Downton Abbey' Music Gets 'Bigger, Better,

    As 'Downton Abbey' Hits the Silver Screen, the Music, Too, Gets 'Bigger, Better, Grander'

    When “Downton Abbey” fans hear that familiar strings-and-piano theme, a Pavlovian response ensues: Get to the television immediately, because you don’t want to miss a minute of the addictive Crawley family melodrama to follow. This week, with the “Downton Abbey” movie reaching theaters on Friday, fans can’t wait for their fix of Lady Mary and [...]

  • 45 Seconds of Laughter

    Film Review: '45 Seconds of Laughter'

    “Everyone is worth more than their worst act,” said Roman Catholic sister and anti-death penalty advocate Helen Prejean, and it’s with these words that “45 Seconds of Laughter” closes. It’s an apt sentiment on which to leave Tim Robbins’ sincerely felt documentary study of the therapeutic acting workshops run by his own theater company in [...]

  • Julie Andrews

    Julie Andrews Selected for AFI's Life Achievement Award

    The American Film Institute Board of Trustees has selected Julie Andrews as the recipient of the 48th AFI Life Achievement Award. The award will be presented to Andrews on April 25 in Los Angeles. The ceremony will be telecast on TNT. “Julie Andrews is practically perfect in every way,” said Kathleen Kennedy, chair of the [...]

  • 4127_D001_00007_RC Phyllis Logan stars as Mrs.

    'Downton Abbey' to Dominate Box Office Weekend With $30 Million

    The feature film version of “Downton Abbey” is heading for an impressive $30 million opening weekend at 3,079 sites for an easy victory at the North American box office, early estimates showed Friday. The launch of Brad Pitt’s space drama “Ad Astra” will land in second with about $20 million, while Sylvester Stallone’s action-thriller “Rambo: [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content