A grueling affair, purposefully so, bringing to mind Steve McQueen’s similarly relentless 12 Years a Slave. There’s not much respite to be found in those bloodied waters, nary a buoy to grasp.
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Though grippingly shot and paced, its realism makes it not an easy watch. However, one never questions the horrific circumstances in which the protag finds himself and the ending provides a bitter sort of closure and enough salve on the wounds to make the story palatable.
The film never quite pushes beyond the archetypal nature of its scenario to fully unearth its characters’ psychological turmoil.
In doing justice to the stories of thousands, Rathjen has somewhat undersold the personal story of its single protagonist.
It grows thrilling to watch. Rathjen’s careful script and intensive eye for environmental details deliver all of this to us with a steady rhythm.
There is evil and it helps keep the world running, our clothes and food coming. This is the greatest, most difficult, most unspeakable violence laid bare in Rathjen’s measured, insistently political movie.
The detail, the worn-out wooden boat that is the main location, is perfect. And the calming effect of the sea is utterly spoiled by the tension that’s always there. Daily routine aside, every encounter with the pitiless crew is fraught with peril, and the violence when it comes — is shocking, primitive and sadistic.
Diving deep into dark material yet always remaining afloat, it’s a potent feature debut from Australian filmmaker Rodd Rathjen.