Tiger Raid, 2016.
Directed by Simon Dixon.
Starring Sofia Boutella, Brian Gleeson and Damien Molony.
Two Irish mercenaries are tasked with a kidnapping operation in the Iraqi desert.
Joe (Brian Gleeson) and Paddy (Damien Molony) travel via a 4×4 through the inhospitable middle-eastern desert to carry out an off-the-books operation, by a faceless, and mostly voiceless, individual only known as Dave. Their operation is to kidnap the daughter of a very powerful and a very rich enemy, named Shadha (Sofia Boutella). Dave communicates to Joe and Paddy individually via their intercoms to assign them personal assignments. Dave omnipotence allows him to pit Joe and Paddy against each early in the story. This setup is a precursor to the film’s climax, albeit conveyed in a muddled manner. This review is leaping ahead but is done so to mark out how strangely and forcibly structured the narrative is. Many of the film’s early moments foreshadow the twists that abound the latter half, but conveyed so in a quasi-flippant manner; this makes it can be difficult to discern what information’s important and what information is discardable.
The banter between the two leads in the film’s opening act greatly establishes their characters, their motivations, and their dynamics. Joe is clearly the charming yet unhinged one of the two as he probes into Paddy’s personal life and past missions. Conversely, Paddy is reserved, yet comfortable in sharing snippets of his life to Joe. Joe comfortably plunges the conversation into an ocean of past demons to tease out redemption. The colloquialisms, the close-up framing, and the handheld camera aesthetics lean towards the naturalistic style of filmmaking. It’s made more powerful by certain mumbled lines (not the Hollywood style of mumbling dialogue, but more akin to the mumblecore sub-genre).
When they arrive at the adversary’s mansion, wandering around the lush garden and swimming pool seemingly plonked in the midst of the abhorrently desolate desert, the tension begins to mount as Joe’s sociopathic tendencies comes to the surface. Paddy’s sway from shock to indifference doesn’t make him the good-anti-hero: in fact, audiences will most likely align with him because he’s the lesser of the two evils.
Shadha (Sofia Boutella), a Muslim woman returning to the vacant mansion, is man-handled by the duo, and they subdue their hostage. It’s here that the film falls apart very, very, very, quickly. As mentioned prior, the foreshadowing in the film’s opening act shapes the latter half’s discourse. Clustered with a myriad of themes the film struggles to prioritise the powerful twists and personal revelations. It makes the kidnapping a contrived MacGuffin, an act to force our characters to face parts of themselves they’d otherwise ignore. The film’s logic falling disbands. (One will be more grateful for Boutella’s preeminent performance as Jaylah in Star Trek Beyond.)
It’s really telling of a film’s quality when it’ll be the True Detective-style end credits that will remain with you long after the film is over.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★