Somewhere in Poland.
Captured by the US military after killing the three soldiers that are tracking him in the Afghanistan desert, a Taliban insurgent is rendered to a secret American detention center located somewhere in Poland. When the vehicle he is being transported in crashes, he finds himself suddenly free and on the run in a freezing snow-blanketed forest, a world away from the desert home he knew. Relentlessly pursued by a white clad army with an American helicopter in constant support the escapee must face the fact that he must continue to kill in order to survive this harsh and unremitting terrain.
Essential Killing (2010) is a grippingly stark political thriller by the Polish writer and director Jerzy Skolimowski that attempts to examine the physical and mental sufferings involved with attempting to stay alive under such dire and desperate circumstances. Vincent Gallo (Buffalo 66 1998, The Brown Bunny 2003) is expertly cast as our protagonist Mohammed, whose name we do find out until you see the cast list at the end of the film. Without barely a word to say for the entire movie Gallo’s portrayal of the increasing cold and hunger suffered with its accompanying hallucinations and nightmare dream sequences of his past life is well deserving of the Best Actor Award he received at the 67th Venice Film Festival. One of the most disturbing scenes in this film is when the fugitive comes across a peasant women breast feeding her baby at the side of the road and at gun point suckles on her other breast which I believe shows the intensity of Skolimowski’s latest work. A piece of work that does not encourage us to take the side of Mohammed, although I believe the viewer is tempted at times or are his pursues any more likable?