Once again, the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal proves why it is truly one of the greatest genre film events in the world. The 2015 edition has boldly, brilliantly programmed this jaw-droppingly terrifying film which focuses - NOT on the evil of terrorism, but the real evil, the hideous malevolence of the WAR on terror. Dazzling, provocative filmmaking that's worthy of a dazzling, provocative film festival.
If you missed it at Sundance, you have no excuses now. This is one scary mofo of a movie, a ***** 5-Star ABSOLUTE MUST-SEE!!! To paraphrase Liam Neeson, if you miss this film, "I will find you and I will kill you."
Dir. David Felix Sutcliffe, Lyric R. Cabral
Review By Greg Klymkiw
This is one blistering, nerve-jangling political thriller, not unlike the kind of pictures Costa-Gavras (Z, State of Siege) and Alan J. Pakula (The Parallax View) used to make; dark, scary and tingling with urgency, borrowing dollops of ennui from espionage pictures like Martin Ritt's The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and serving it up in a tidy, unbearably haunting neorealist package.
Shariff Torres is our surrogate here for the characters Jean-Louis Trintignant, Warren Beatty and Richard Burton played in the aforementioned thrillers. Torres is an informant for the FBI. His job is to root out terrorists. Well, not just terrorists, but anyone who even sympathizes with them, no matter how remotely. Besides, even if that target is not a terrorist, the FBI could really care less. It's always been very good at building a fake case to nail non-criminals. After all, they need to keep their arrest stats up to ensure the holders of the purse strings that their usefulness as a crime-busting agency is still vital. As such, they'll continue to get the ever-rising carte-blanche support from the government.
It's the American Way. And Canadians, don't get all smug about this. Our Nazi Prime Minister Stephen Harper (pictured below with his spiritual guide on the new Canadian Flag) has rammed through sweeping anti-terrorist powers that might make our neighbours to the South look positively benign.
Sharif Torres has been an informant for two decades. Since America's spurious "War on Terror" began, his duties are becoming ever-dangerous and the guilt he associates with what he's doing to innocent American Muslims is weighing heavily upon him. He'd almost not care about himself; he's in mighty deep, but he has a young son and in this dirty business, family is how "they" get you. He's going to do one last big job, but how easy will it be to "retire" in relative peace?
The eyes of "terror" are always upon him, but who is more terrifying? The Terrorists (if they genuinely exist at all, at least to the degrees with which they're sought out)? Or the FBI?
Torres decides that the best thing to do is make one last cash grab, but in so doing, betray the corrupt hand that feeds him. He invites a documentary film crew to follow him around and give them unprecedented access to espionage activities as well as the lengths to which the FBI will go to nabbing, charging and incarcerating whomever they choose.
The crew captures all the ins and outs of espionage activity. Sometimes, what transpires is so ludicrous and appalling that you find it hard to believe. In fact, if this were a dramatic thriller, you might actually find yourself saying, "I don't buy this." But you do. You buy it hook, line and sinker; not just because the filmmaking is so first-rate, but because this is not fiction, but is, in fact, a documentary. Yes, a fucking documentary - proving again that this is a genre which demands its filmmakers rise above the strictly dull informational approach to their subjects which so many find themselves taking.
Sharif Torres, you see, is a real spy and his victims are real and the filmmakers are very, very real. David Felix Sutliffe (director of the powerful Adama, reviewed HERE) and his co-filmmaker Lyric R. Cabral are indeed the "documentary crew" whom Torres has allowed to detail his actions as dictated by the FBI.
I can assure you, there are few documentaries which ever get so close to such subjects and subject matter as this one does and watching (T)ERROR is pure edge-of-your-seat suspense.
Ah, but there is an even more chilling twist.
The filmmakers decide to also follow the target of Torres's surveillance.
"What the fuck?" you might find yourself exclaiming out loud. "They're following the target, too?" Good Goddamn, this is one scary-ass movie!
(T)ERROR is quite unlike any documentary ever made. It's a film about counterterrorism in which the spy and his target become subjects of the filmmakers - up close and personal. After seeing it, I'm still chilled to the bone. Watching it is so creepy, so horrifying, so downright jaw-agape shocking, you might even consider wearing a pair of adult diapers in case the you-know-what is scared right out of you.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** 5-Stars
(T)ERROR receives its French Canadian Premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival 2015 in Montreal. For info on dates, times and tix, visit the FANTASIA website HERE. Its International premiere was at Hot Docs 2015 in Toronto and its World Premiere was in Sundance where it won the Special Jury Prize. But screw that, it deserves a goddamned Oscar!