Sundance Video Review: David Michôd's Animal Kingdom
by Alex Billington
January 31, 2010
A few days ago we featured the first teaser poster for David Michôd's Animal Kingdom, one of my favorite Sundance films that I saw a week ago during the first half of the fest. Also a few days ago, while working at our condo, Dave Chen from SlashFilm decided to record a video discussion of Animal Kingdom involving anyone who had seen the film (which included me, our own Brandon Lee Tenney, and Dave Chen himself). You can watch that video review below but in addition to that we've got a quick written review from Brandon as well (below). Watch this if you want to know why Animal Kingdom is one of the best films of the fest!
Here's a little blurb on Animal Kingdom from the Sundance film guide: "Wielding a formidable cinematic lexicon, writer/director David Michôd shows complete command of every frame as he shifts between simmering intensity and gut-wrenching drama. There isn't a false note in the film as it follows through on the tantalizing promise displayed in his short films and unleashes a fierce new voice in Australian cinema." Complete agree with everything they said. I just recorded a video talking about the film tonight, which will be up this weekend. Make sure you add this film to your list of films to see from Sundance, it's worth it!
Brandon's Sundance Review of David Michôd's Animal Kingdom:
I'm so used to the sound of gun fire -- in the movies, mind you -- that I'm rarely startled when a firearm is discharged on screen. Animal Kingdom, however, shook me to the core. It's not just the explosion of a round, either. In all aspects, the film is tense. It's the story of a teenage boy who is displaced after the death of his mother and forced to move in with his grandmother and uncles, who are bank robbers in hiding. It's a crime drama and a very slow burn, but most of all it's an interesting coming-of-age story about what it is to be a man before you're ready.
The most impressive part of Animal Kingdom is the performances. James Frecheville turns out a stellar first-time performance as Josh. It's refreshing that he's able to straddle the line of impulsive teenager and soon-to-be adult. He simply feels natural. The rest of the cast feels the same. Ben Mendelsohn, who plays Pope, is terrifying. The quiet intensity he's able to muster just behind his eyes made my skin crawl. Guy Pearce also makes an appearance, playing Australian Jim Gordon. The best performance -- and, in my opinion, best character -- is Jacki Weaver's take on the grandmother. I can't say too much, but… whoa.
Overall, Animal Kingdom is a very tight depiction of what it is to be the grey amongst the black. It's thick and heavy. Despite some unnecessary voice over, it's a solid picture.
Brandon's Sundance Rating: 8 out of 10