With over a week remaining, it may be a bit early to say so, but it’s entirely possible that Gareth Huw Evans’ The Raid is the single coolest film screening at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.  This high octane action flick packs a wallop that doesn’t let up, blow after blow.  The international films at this festival always remind us that there is some amazing, innovative film making going on across the globe, and this terrific action thriller is proof positive.  To find out more, check out the rest of the review after the jump…

UPDATE: Watch Brendan Walsh’s review of The Raid below.

The Players:

  • Director/Screenwriter: Gareth Huw Evans
  • Cinematographer: Matt Flannery
  • Starring: Iko Uwais, Doni Alamsyah, Joe Taslim, Yayan Ruhian, Ray Sahetapy, Verdi Solaiman, Ananda George

Synopsis:

Early one morning, an elite Indonesian SWAT team invades a tenement building to capture a ruthless crime lord.  But when their operation takes a turn for the worse, their mission becomes less about capturing their target, and more about surviving the brutal operation.

The Good:

  • Pacing – The Raid does a spectacular job of constructing tension that leads to enormous action scenes.  Each story beat takes ample time to establish tone, and fully motivate the gun battles or fight scenes that explode out of the taut, quiet moments that build up to them.
  • Camera Work – Matt Flannery’s filming style is extremely versatile and dynamic.  Without relying too heavily on either shaky hand held shots or fluid camera moves, he employs whichever technique is best suited for the scene at hand.  The frame rate is never visibly over-cranked, allowing blood spatters to maintain a realistic look, but a handful of slow motion shots are used to great dramatic effect.  This, combined with the muted blue and gray tones, creates an environment for the story that is both highly stylized, but also totally believable.
  • Action! - I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a movie with action that was so fully engaging.  With an even mix of gunplay and martial arts, The Raid doesn’t pull a single punch.  Each gunshot, machete chop, punch, or kick is delivered at breakneck speed and with brutal weight (the sound design deserves as much credit as the fight choreography).  And though the film is a bit of a bloodbath, the gore is kept to a relative minimum.  Sure, there’s plenty of blood; gunshot wounds, stabbings, bludgeonings, and broken bones are common throughout, but viscera almost never comes into the picture.  Only in a couple of shots, where it really matters, do they really show off the SFX makeup appliances.  When it gets going, it really gets going, and doesn’t let up until there is only one man left standing.

The Bad:

  • Predictable – As soon as the storytelling formula becomes apparent, it becomes very noticeable, time after time.  When an action scene ends, you can expect a slow dramatic scene, building up to the next action set piece.  The ratio is pretty even, one for one.  However, it’s not just the storytelling formula, but also parts of the story that become predictable.  As soon as the more mysterious elements of the plot are revealed, it’s easy to see where they’re headed, and at a certain point, it just becomes a vehicle to take you to the next battle sequence.  But ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because it’s all so exciting that even when its twists and turns are clear, you just want to keep going along for the ride.

Overall:

It’s a rare thing to see a room full of journalists (typically a cynical breed) have the raucous, vocal reactions that they did to this movie.  Laughter, gasps, and cheers were a regular occurrence throughout, and I honestly wish I could have seen the look on my face during some of the crazier action scenes.  The shootout and fight scenes are so stark, and carry so much power, that The Raid will stand out as one of the most impressive action films of the year!

Rating: 8.5/10

Watch Brendan Walsh review The Raid: