Sundance Selects' 2010 "Direct from the Sundance Film Festival" Initiative
7 Days (January 24/10)
Filmmaker Daniel Grou's big-screen debut, 7 Days tells the harrowing story of a respected doctor (Claude Legault's Bruno Hamel) who decides to take the law into his own hands after his eight-year-old daughter is raped and murdered by a smarmy pedophile (Martin Dubreuil's Anthony Lemaire). It's a compelling premise that's employed primarily to thrilling effect by Grou, as the director superbly establishes (and sustains) an atmosphere of almost unbearable suspense that's heightened by both the deliberateness with which the narrative unfolds and by the eye-catching, meticulously-composed nature of the visuals. There's little doubt that the film's uniformly impressive performances also play a significant role in its success, with Legault's subtle yet searing work matched by Lemaire's go-for-broke turn as the object of Bruno's progressively destructive hostility. And although the movie can be difficult to watch at times (ie Bruno memorably puts his medical background to gruesome use on his hapless victim), Grou and screenwriter Patrick Senecal tend to emphasize the inherent drama within the storyline over its more openly horror-based attributes - which, in turn, ensures that the film primarily comes off as a pervasive examination of grief and the impact that it has on several disparate characters. The subsequent lack of B-movie, tongue-in-cheek thrills might disappoint gorehounds, admittedly, yet the degree to which 7 Days ultimately lives up to (and surpasses) the potential of its setup cements its place as one of the most gripping thrillers to come around in quite some time.
The Shock Doctrine (January 25/10)
Based on Naomi Klein's controversial bestseller, The Shock Doctrine explores the manner with which certain governments - at the behest of big business - have pushed through a free-market agenda following moments of extreme crisis (ie natural disasters, political upheaval, etc). It's an inherently compelling premise that's squandered virtually from start to finish by filmmakers Mat Whitecross and Michael Winterbottom, as the two men have infused The Shock Doctrine with a hopelessly dry sensibility that effectively limits the movie's appeal to political science students and aficionados. The relentlessly academic atmosphere is exacerbated by Whitecross and Winterbottom's tendency to simply recap events that most viewers will be intimately familiar with (ie the fall of the Berlin wall, 9/11, the recent financial crisis, etc), which ensures that the movie primarily plays like an aggressively prolonged segment on the evening news (with Kieran O'Brien's BBC-like narration only heightening this feeling). The inclusion of several fascinating yet all-too-brief excerpts from Klein's recent speaking tour ultimately stand as The Shock Doctrine's one overtly positive attribute, and it does seem clear that the movie would've benefited substantially from a more pronounced emphasis on Klein herself (rather than the pervasive and entirely needless reliance on stock footage).