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New Release Review - 11 MINUTES

A group of disparate characters are linked by the events that unfold over 11 minutes.


Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Jerzy Skolimowski

Starring: Richard Dormer, Paulina Chapko, Wojciech Mecwaldowski, Agata Buzek


"For a movie made by a 77 year old, 11 Minutes moves with an energy you might expect from some prodigious future auteur, and its Altman-on-uppers approach makes it one of the year's most fascinating watches."





Like his fellow Eastern European auteurs, Karel Reisz and Roman Polanski, Jerzy Skolimowski left home to ply his trade in the British Film Industry in the 1960s. Unlike Reisz and Polanski, he never made the next step to Hollywood, preferring instead the freedom Britain afforded him to make such avant-garde gems as Deep End and The Shout. Now he's back on home turf with the hyper-active ensemble drama 11 Minutes, a manic paced look at the lives of a group of Warsaw residents, all set within the titular timeframe.
We're introduced to Skolimowski's players in an opening sequence that employs various methods of surveillance, from CCTV cameras to skype calls to video 'selfies', before the film switches to a more conventional technique, save for the scenes shot through the POV of a dog. In downtown Warsaw, this group of characters begins to gradually converge. There's budding starlet Anna (Paulina Chapko), who arrives for an audition with sleazy American director Richard (Richard Dormer). Unknown to Anna, she's about to fall under the effects of sleeping tablets slipped into her drink by her paranoid husband (Wojciech Mecwaldowski) in a failed attempt to prevent the audition. There's an affable hot dog vendor (Andrzej Chyra) who seems to have a sinister history with a nearby school. What's his link with the young Romeo motorbike courier (Dawid Ogrodnik) he contacts by cellphone? In a nearby apartment, a couple watch a porno video starring a fellow climber. An elderly painter (Jan Nowicki) has his work interrupted by a film crew. A teenager bids his mother farewell before attempting to rob a pawn shop, while a punky young girl (Ifi Ude) takes the aforementioned dog for a walk through the square. Meanwhile, a team of paramedics attempt to battle their way into an apartment guarded by a ferocious skinhead.
At first, nothing of consequence seems to link any of these characters, save for passing mention of seeing a strange phenomenon in the sky. This leads to a final twist that, while quite bonkers, is genuinely impressive in its audacity, owing a debt to the final episode of 1980s hospital drama St Elsewhere. However, while this final reveal positions every character under a narrative umbrella, we're left questioning the relevance of some of the players in Skolimowski's offbeat drama. The mountain climbing couple, the dog walking punkette and the hot dog vendor seem particularly pointless in the grand scheme of things.
11 Minutes is a movie that can be easily picked apart if you so desire. For a start, there's that time frame. Perhaps if I went back and rigidly dissected its various components, I'd be left with egg on my face, but I'm willing to bet the story's timeline spans a lot longer than 660 seconds. If you require logic, Skolimowski isn't your man, but what he does offer is a genuinely gripping piece of cinema that keeps you guessing for a tight 80 minutes before assaulting you with a finale that both compels and frustrates in equal measure. For a movie made by a 77 year old, 11 Minutes moves with an energy you might expect from some prodigious future auteur, and its Altman-on-uppers approach makes it one of the year's most fascinating watches.
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