×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Berlin Film Review: ‘Hostages’

Georgia's thriving film scene gets a glossily accessible addition in Rezo Gigineishvili's thrillerish take on a real-life hijacking story.

With:
Tina Dalakishvili, Irakli Kvirikadze, Giga Datiashvili, Giorgi Grdzelidze, George Tabidze, Giorgi Khurtsilava, Vakhtang Chachanidze, Ekaterine Kalatozishvili, Darejan Kharshiladze, Merab Ninidze. (Georgian, Russian dialogue.)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5207262/

If one of the most interesting developments in world cinema recently has been the emergence of a coherent and impressive national new wave in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, Rezo Gigineishvili’s “Hostages” perhaps marks a kind of maturation point for the movement. It’s not that the film, a fictionalized retelling of a real-life 1980s hijacking in which seven young Georgians attempted to reroute an airplane to Turkey in order to defect to the West, is any stronger or more powerful than the foundational films of this regional revival, such as George Ovashvili’s “Corn Island,” Zaza Urushadze’s Oscar-nominated “Tangerines” and last year’s stunning Karlovy Vary-awarded “The House Of Others” from Rusudan Glurjidze. If anything, it is considerably more generic and anonymous than those titles, but that in itself is a kind of progress: “Hostages” marks the point at which Georgian cinema has gained in self-confidence to the degree that it can now set its sights on the mainstream, at least at home, with this polished recreation serving to repackage a painful incident from the country’s recent history as an effectively glossy thriller.

It is 1983 and a group of attractive young people, centered around actor Nika (Irakli Kvirikadze) and his fiancée Anna (Tina Dalakishvili) are splashing about in the shallows of the gray Black Sea on the country’s western coast. The mood of youthful exuberance is stalled by the appearance of some soldiers who tell them to get dressed. “Are you afraid we’ll try to swim to Turkey?” jokes one of their number — but as the subsequent scenes unfold we become gradually more aware of the truth spoken in that jest.

The circle of friends, mostly the children of relatively apolitical, financially comfortable, and cluelessly oblivious professional parents (people we’d call middle class if there were such thing as classes in the Soviet Union) engage in benignly subversive activities like going to church and swapping smuggled-in Beatles albums. But there is also among them the tendency to sudden silences and meaningful looks: something is in the offing.

We remain outside their conspiracy, however — a narrative decision that robs Gigineishvili and Nasha Bugadze’s script of the possibility for deep characterization or real connection to any of the participants. Their inchoate desire for the “freedom” represented by the west is therefore never explored enough to comprehend, whether to condemn their naïveté or exalt their bravery. This disconnect is reflected in the professional but slightly aloof filmmaking, especially DP Vladislav Opelyants’ smooth, disinterested camerawork, which comes into its own during one whirling, drunken dancing sequence at Nika and Anna’s wedding, and later during the tense, bloody, disastrous attempted hijacking, but elsewhere is detached and cool to the touch.

That remove is frustrating, as there is a meaty mystery here, but it doesn’t lie in how the haphazard plan went so tragically wrong — that is successfully and excitingly dramatized with an eye for suspenseful action beats that could see Gigineishvili courted by Hollywood. The mystery is in the why: and specifically in why, at the moment it’s clear beyond any doubt that their plan has no chance of success, several of the plotters elect to open fire. There is a world of motivational and moral significance contained in that moment, but we know so little of these people that it’s hard to reconcile their dreams of a freer life (especially when their relatively privileged lives at home in Tbilisi, however proscribed, seem several degrees away from intolerable) with the reality of bullets and blood and collateral casualties. Whatever sympathy we have for the characters threatens to evaporate when they’re not simply willing to die for their ideals, but willing to kill for them too.

It’s an impressive and well-made hijacking thriller, but it feels like an opportunity missed because where it counts, “Hostages” remains on the fence. It’s hesitant in outright condemning the hijackers — they are so young, and to modern Western eyes, or those of native Georgians who can remember Soviet rule, their desire for escape must be very understandable. But Gigineishvili also refuses to lay too much blame on their uncomprehending and horrified parents, or, most crucially, on the oppressive regime from which they were trying to escape, aside from a generalized, unsatisfying sense that oppression breeds rebellion, which can sometimes lead to an abrogation of moral principles. Without a more pointed thesis at its heart, although there can be little doubt that the film (and the real-life incident on which it was based), unfolds as a tragedy, the question remains: whose tragedy?

Berlin Film Review: 'Hostages'

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 10th, 2017. Running time: 104 MIN. (Original title: "Mdzevlebi")

Production: (Georgia-Russia-Poland) A Nebo Film Company, 20 Steps Prods. production. (International sales: WestEnd Films, London). Producers: Mikhail Finogenov, Tamara Tatishvili.

Crew: Director: Rezo Gigineishvili. Screenplay: Nasha Bugadze, Gigineishvili. Camera (color): Vladislav Opelyants. Editors: Jaroslav Kaminski, Andrey Gamov.

With: Tina Dalakishvili, Irakli Kvirikadze, Giga Datiashvili, Giorgi Grdzelidze, George Tabidze, Giorgi Khurtsilava, Vakhtang Chachanidze, Ekaterine Kalatozishvili, Darejan Kharshiladze, Merab Ninidze. (Georgian, Russian dialogue.)

More Film

  • Nona

    Film Review: 'Nona'

    Twenty years and 12 features down the line, it’s still hard to peg the directorial sensibility of Michael Polish, with or without the presence of brother Mark as frequent co-writer and actor. His output has been all over the place, from early Lynchian quirkfests to the very middle-of-the-road inspirational dramedy “The Astronaut Farmer,” not to [...]

  • Pawel Pawlikowski "Cold War"

    Pawel Pawlikowski's 'Cold War' Wins for Best Film, Director at European Film Awards

    “Cold War,” Pawel Pawlikowski’s black-and-white romance set in the 1950s, scooped the prizes for best film, director and screenplay at the 31st edition of the European Film Awards on Saturday. More Reviews Film Review: 'Nona' Tallinn Film Review: 'Winter's Night' “Cold War” star Joanna Kulig also won the award for best actress. Marcello Fonte, the star [...]

  • The Favourite Bohemian Rapsody Star is

    The Best Movie Scenes of 2018

    When we think back on a movie that transported us, we often focus on a great scene — or maybe the greatest scene — in it. It’s natural. Those scenes are more than just defining. They can be the moment that lifts a movie into the stratosphere, that takes it to the higher reaches of [...]

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

    Box Office: 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Soars Toward $35-40 Million Debut

    “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is swinging into theaters on a high note. More Reviews Film Review: 'Nona' Tallinn Film Review: 'Winter's Night' Sony-Marvel’s latest output is launching to $42 million from 3,813 North American locations in its debut, though other more conservative estimates place that number at $35.5 million. The animated superhero story picked up $12.6 [...]

  • Ventana Sur : Cinema226 Closes Four

    Cinema226 Announces Four Intl. Co-Productions, Hints at More (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mexico’s Cinema226, run by Marco Antonio Salgado and Sam Guillén, is driving into a raft of Mexico, Argentina and Spain co-productions, playing off the current vibrancy of Mexican film production funding and distribution outlets. More Reviews Film Review: 'Nona' Tallinn Film Review: 'Winter's Night' Among the projects are titles which have been standouts at Ventana [...]

  • Ventana Sur Debates Gender Parity in

    Ventana Sur Debates Gender’s 50/50 in 2020 for Argentina Film Industry

    BUENOS AIRES — Despite recent gains, namely the equality pledge towards 50/50-2020 signed at the Mar del Plata Film Festival on Nov. 12, producer Magalí Nieva, pointed out that no representative from INCAA was present following the apparent resignation of its vice-president Fernando Juan Lima. “We are left without an interlocutor to discuss gender policies [...]

  • Ventana Sur Rocks with Sales, Mass

    Ventana Sur Rocks with Sales, Mass Attendance, Structural Growth

    BUENOS AIRES — Celebrating its 10th anniversary with a huge hike in attendance to over 4,000 accredited delegates, the 2018 Ventana Sur will go down in history on multiple counts: Sales and pick-ups on movies which combined social comment and entertainment value, increasingly the new foreign-language movie standard; new sections, led by a Proyecta co-production [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content