Film Review: HOSTAGES (TORONTO TRUE CRIME FILM FESTIVAL)
HOSTAGES is a true crime film by Georgian filmmaker Rezo Gigineishvili. Set in the Soviet Union in the 1980s, it is as much a political drama as it is a crime thriller. HOSTAGES is showing in Toronto as part of the TORONTO TRUE CRIME FILM FESTIVAL and with its Russian and Georgian dialogue, it brings a foreign flavor to the festival.
Newlyweds Nika (Irakli Kvirikadze) and Anna (Tinatin Dalakishvili) are desperate to leave the USSR and find paradise in the west. Despite relatively comfortable lives- shown by their lavish wedding- the couple and their friends plan to hijack a plane on the way to their honeymoon. Starting with smuggled Beatles’ records and ending with smuggled guns, their plan seems doomed from the start.
HOSTAGES is based on the real-life incident of Aeroflot Flight 6833 in which seven upper-class but disaffected young adults hijacked a plane. After military involvement, the hijacking left casualties on all sides and was an all-around tragic event.
HOSTAGES does its best to provide us with background (giving a brief explanation of the circumstances in an opening scene), but if you’re wanting to see this film and don’t know much about the geopolitical climate in which it is set, I would suggest reading up to give you a better appreciation for the narrative. No doubt viewers who have lived in Soviet Union Georgia can understand the main characters’ motives but to an outsider, the characters lack depth and are hard to relate to.
This being said, the film does accomplish a genuine portrayal of the period in which it is set, with a close eye for detail concerning set design and even costuming which allows the film to pull you into 1980’s Georgia. All the actors gave impressive performances with what they had to work with. While the film’s main heroes- or villains, depending on which side you are on, were certainly young, beautiful and mesmerizing to look at, it was the supporting cast’s performances which really pushed the film into greatness.
The film is full of expertly shot sequences including a stunning Georgian wedding which was a delight to watch. The nail-bitingly tense hijacking was equally as captivating. While the first half of the film is a little slow, HOSTAGES is frantic and thrillingly paced once the events the film is based on start to unravel. I could not look away and grew more emotional as I watched everything go wrong in the worst possible way.
A particularly harrowing part happened near the end of the film in which parents, shovels in hand try and find their children’s bodies in unmarked graves to give them a proper burial. The scene made more powerful by the bleak fields and winter skies. HOSTAGES had a few nice shots of the Georgian countryside and in terms of cinematography I would have loved for some more shots of the beauty Georgia has to offer.
The scenes of the court and military proceedings were particularly interesting, with the over-use of force adding to the tragedy. The film ends with one final gut punch of irony, telling us that the Soviet Union collapsed only 8 years later meaning the events of the film could have all been avoided and they would have been able to leave for the west had they put off their plan a little longer.
HOSTAGES was a fascinating watch even if it was just to learn about a true crime event in a foreign country I otherwise would never have known about. The TORONTO TRUE CRIME FILM FESTIVAL runs from the 8th to the 9th of June 2018 at The Royal Cinema and if HOSTAGES is any indication of the caliber of the line-up, it should be a fantastic experience.
“HOSTAGES is frantic and thrillingly paced”
3 Tombstones out of 5