The largest genre festival in the United States is back and in-person! Fantastic Fest 2021 takes place September 23 to September 30 and specializes in horror, fantasy sci-fi and action films from all around the world. One of those films includes the Russian Federation entry “The Execution” in Lado Kvataniya’s feature film debut. “The Execution” had its World Premiere Thursday, September 23 at 7 p.m. The murder mystery crime thriller is written by Kvataniya and Olga Gorodetskaya.
The film follows Issa Valentinovich (Niko Tavadze) who is celebrating his promotion to police chief when a phone call reveals that the serial killer case that made his career may not be closed. The film stars Daniil Spivakovsky, Yulia Snigir, Evgeniy Tkachuk, Aglaya Tarasova and Victoria Tolstoganova. On the surface, “The Execution” is in line with the usual detective genre stories: solve the murder and lock up the culprit. But that’s just one layer behind this detective story. When you know who the killer is and can’t put them away, what lengths will the system and people behind that system go to?
The film is told in a non-linear narrative that showcases Kvataniya’s directing skills with his carefully selected framing that smartly reveals clues to the audience and characters. With wide shots, the audience feels like they are peaking in while also revealing what could be the “killer’s” point-of-view. And with the close-up shots you get the intimate moments with all of these characters that slowly reveal their motivations, back stories and grapplings in this nearing-the-end of the USSR world alongside solving the case.
“The Execution” does take some time to get going but it also allows you to get adjusted to the non-linear narrative. The film weaves back and forth in a 10-year time-span that propels the viewer to take an active role in deciphering clues with every flashback. These time weaves slowly reveal important clues about the case and character relationships but you never quite know how it’s going to end. And with each time weave ,your suspicions about certain characters can’t help but change. It’s truly masterful work from Kvataniya and Gorodetskaya’s story.
“The Execution” features well-rounded, complex characters that adds to the guessing game. They aren’t clear-cut “good” or “bad” guys and very much in the grey which leads to a nuanced characters played well by the actors behind them. Tavadze’s portrayal of Issa is well-balanced and heartbreaking as we go and back-and-forth with him during the 10-year time-span. We see when Issa was a bright-eyed detective and how the game of politics and outside forces took a toll over the years and slowly diminished his idealistic view of thinking he can make real change. The film is able to really hone in on the tragedy of those who solve crimes, the toll it takes on those around them and each other.
And there’s the theme of what justice looks like for victims and the law. How far would you go to put a killer away? Do you turn into one yourself? These are all the questions that “The Execution” brings to light and leaves you pondering after it’s over. It’s not so black and white especially in this film’s world.
“The Execution” is a welcome addition to the detective genre. From the production design, to the score, to the cinematography. You can see the care in every detail that was taken to bring to life the dark and cold world of “The Execution.” With the use of bright hues in the earlier years to the darker tones near the end, it all helps paint the picture of how the world and characters change. It’s subtle, but effective just like a lot of other choices Kvataniya makes. It’s hard to believe this is his directorial debut given the clear-cut vision and weaving it all together to a nice, satisfying end. Dare I say, a nice execution!
Stay tuned for more Fantastic Fest 2021 reviews and coverage!
Catherine grew up watching action flicks at a very young age which led to her love of film. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelors in Radio-TV-Film in 2012. Always the adventurer, Catherine traveled and lived in Sydney, Australia for a year where she took a selfie with Brad Pitt. She runs Shuffle with passion, lots of caffeine and tacos. When she’s not editing or writing you can find her crafting and planning her next adventure.