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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Essential Killing [Blu-ray]


(Jerzy Skolimowski, 2010)




Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Skopia Film

Video: Artificial Eye



Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:24:34.000

Disc Size: 24,693,049,315 bytes

Feature Size: 21,963,171,840 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.99 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: July 9th, 2011



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 1798 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1798 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 956 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 956 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 512 kbps / 16-bit)



English for non-English dialogue), none



• Helicopter Effects (1:45 in 1080i)

Interview with Director Jerzy Skolimowski (16:39 in 1080i)

Trailer (1:32 in 1080i)





Description: Captured by the US military in Afghanistan, Mohammed (Vincent Gallo) is transported to a secret detention centre in Europe. When the vehicle he is riding in crashes, he finds himself suddenly free and on the run in a snow-blanketed forest, a world away from the desert home he knew. Relentlessly pursued by an army that does not officially exist, Mohammed must confront the necessity to kill in order to survive.


A Taliban member who lives in Afghanistan is taken captive by the Americans after killing three American soldiers. He... is transferred to Europe for interrogation but manages to escape from his captors and becomes an escaped convict on a continent he does not know.



The Film:

One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter: it’s a truism Essential Killing pursues as relentlessly as Vincent Gallo’s hunted loner.

Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski, smartly continuing a late-career return to filmmaking begun three years ago with Four Nights with Anna, doesn’t make it easy for anyone seeking clear-cut heroes and villains.

He and co-writer Ewa Piaskowska have constructed an eye-of-the-beholder experience, using minimalist methods to maximum effect. A double prizewinner at last year’s Venice Film Festival, Essential Killing can be read as barbed commentary on the Afghanistan War.

It’s probably best, though, to view it as existential thriller illustrating how violence begets violence.

Excerpt from Peter Howell at the Toronto Star located HERE

Too often in cinema, “existential” serves as code for “boring.” That would be a mistaken assumption about this film from Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski, which won both the jury prize and the award for best actor at last year’s Venice film festival.

The action opens in a dusty, unnamed land, clearly Iraq or Afghanistan. Three Americans trudge through the canyon-strewn landscape. Two are dopey contractors who discuss how to pad their expenses. The third is a sober soldier with a mine detector — though not a rocket-launcher detector, as they discover in their last moment of life.

The man who kills them — and it’s just one open question among many as to whether this is the essential killing of the title — is a bearded fellow referred to only as Mohammed, and that only in the end credits. He’s played by Vincent Gallo, a take-no-prisoners actor and sometimes director who comes from Sicilian stock but could pass for a local of whatever locale this is.

Excerpt from The National Post located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Essential Killing represents another modest, single-layered, but natural, un-manipulated transfer via region FREE Blu-ray from Artificial Eye in the UK. This is a very visual film experience and the 1080P rendering gave me a solid presentation. Color doesn't play a big part in Essential Killing excepting in a couple of specific scenes - mostly we get the dusty, earthy colors of the desert terrain or austere snow-capped forest sequences. Contrast wasn't notable but I have no doubt that this, with a high bitrate, is a strong representation of the film's theatrical appearance. It is, predictably, clean with no obtrusive noise.


















Audio :

There is barely a handful of dialogue in the entire film but there are effects ranging from strong (helicopter, growling dogs and firearms) to subtle (quiet streams.) The DTS-HD Master 5.1 at1798 kbps picks up the bass with decent response and there are some keenly present subtleties to the rear speakers. There is an untested stereo track as an option. Infrequently used is music (often some Middle Eastern cords) that sound quite poignant as they are sparsely utilized. The optional subtitles are only for non-English dialogue and are used less than 1/2 a dozen times.  My Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.


Extras :

Supplements include a short 16-minute Interview with Director Jerzy Skolimowski, 2-minutes on the Helicopter Effects and a trailer - all in 1080i. I don't think a commentary would have been appropriate for this film as it is very interpretational and requires no explanations that would defeat the intent of the narrative.



Highly interesting film experience that I ended up watching twice - consecutively. Essential Killing's emotional impact value is mostly inferred with less important details being relegated to the back-burner. This only adds nuance to the film and I couldn't help but reflect on the work of Andrei Tarkovsky. I was keen, yet clueless, on the animal imagery but feel very fortunate to have seen the award-winning Essential Killing via Blu-ray as I felt the HD medium picked up the subtleties extremely well - that might have been homogenized through SD-DVD. It is akin to an apparent simplicity concealing a sophisticated reality. Gallo is dialogue-less and superb at embodying the role. Strongly recommended!


NOTE: From IMDb: "Jerzy Skolimowski attended the showing of this film at the London Film Festival to introduce it, although he didn't take questions. He announced that at a retrospective 20 years earlier, he had introduced his film The Adventures of Gerard by telling the audience that it was the worst film he ever made, but that he was in the position today to tell us that Essential Killing was the best film he ever made." 

Gary Tooze

July 9th, 2011



About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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