Fantastic Fest 2016: “The High Frontier” review

The Short Review: “The High Frontier” is a really, really slow burner, but when the film finally reaches the climax is absolutely incredible.


The Long Review:

This Polish Thriller directed by Wojciech Kasperski  follows a father, Mateusz (Andrzej Chyra) and his two sons as they take an unusual family vacation to the remote region along the Poland-Ukraine border to relive his former life as a border guard and teach his two teenage sons, Janek (Bartosz Bielenia) and Tomek (Kuba Henriksen) how to be men. This family trip takes a dark turn when a man, Konrad (Marcin Dorociński), close to death stumbles from the woods and collapses in the doorway of their cabin. When Mateusz ventures into the wilderness to search for anymore survivors from the mysterious accident this man escaped from, Janek and Tomek are left alone to with this uncious mysterious stranger, hoping that their father will return before he awakes.

“The High Frontier” relies on slow building tension to create suspense between Konrad and the boys. While this tensions pays off at the end, I was bit bored at times. While the film always found a way to reel me back in, I found myself drifting off a lot and the film didn’t completely demand my attention until the last act.  The last act is AMAZING. It is the moment where the characters are finally forced to take action and realize that all of them are not going to leave the cabin alive.


Masculinity is a central theme in this film and it’s interesting that none the characters in this film outside of Mateusz take on the traditionally masculine traits of courage, independence and assertiveness until they are pushed to the edge. Janek is a bit of a pushover and does everything Konrad tells him because while he is intimidated by him, he is content on waiting for the real decision making to happen when his father gets home. Tomek disagrees with his older brother’s actions, but doesn’t do anything about it because he is the subordinate to Janek. Even though Konrad is the villain, he’s a very reasonable and very controlled man. He doesn’t do much to warrant his villain label until her is backed into a corner like an animal. It isn’t until all these characters begin to assert themselves and take on more masculine and animalistic traits that the real action happens in the third act. It is however up to you as the viewer to decide whether taking on the masculine traits and transforming into real men was actually a good thing.


It is also important to note the beautiful visuals and music. The director makes use of the bleak and desolate landscape surrounding the Poland-Ukraine border to create an environment to match the feeling isolation, desperation, and hostility that affects the characters throughout the movie. The soundtrack itself is worth mentioning due to it’s ability to create an equally miserable and unforgiving environment. The soundtrack’s highest point is during the last few minutes of the film where the layers of increasingly damaged and mangled industrial sounds solidify the uncompromising bleak and uncertain future for Mateusz and his sons.

“The High Frontier” is a fantastic film for anyone who loves intelligent thrillers without the cliches and cheap thrills found in most mainstream thrillers.


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