Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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At The Picture Show
February 2013


Invisible voyeur

'Resolution' is a stripped-down, darkly comedic paranoid thriller

Tribeca Film
Director: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead
Screenplay: Justin Benson
Starring: Peter Cilella, Vinny Curran, Zahn McClarnon, Bill Oberst Jr., Kurt David Anderson and Emily Montague
Not rated / 1 hour, 33 minutes
Now playing in limited release and VOD
(out of four)

In a sense, you could call Resolution a "found-footage" movie, only without the shaky handheld camerawork or the characters' camera-consciousness. What we see is still very much "footage," only without the participants' consent, and seemingly without rhyme or reason. All that's clear is that someone or something is watching them - and is only gradually letting them know they're being watched. Perhaps only making it clear when it's already too late.

The unwitting participants are Mike (Peter Cilella) and Chris (Vinny Curran), a pair of thirtysomething friends spending a week on the outskirts of town in a house (cabin?) that is only barely hospitable. Chris, an affable but paranoid crack and meth addict, has been squatting there for some time, and Mike has come around to detox him by force. And by "force," I mean handcuffing him to a pipe for a week and then trying to coinvince him to go to rehab.

But both parties get more than they bargained for, as Mike starts to find little hints about people who were in this place before, and the terrible things that might have happened to them. If, that is, the scratchy audio and video recordings are to be taken at face value. For all Mike knows, these were just student films, or old copies of B-movies, or something altogether innocuous.

But he gets other mysterious hints as well. A photograph is left on his chest overnight, then a library book on the doorstep, then a series of slides at the library in the book's place - as if whoever's watching is taking him on a little scavenger hunt.

While his friend is chained up and going through withdrawal, Mike's got nothing much to do, so he keeps digging around. It's only when he comes into possession of a recording of himself and Chris - seemingly impossible footage - that red flags begin to go up. (At that point in the movie, you might start to think of this as a sort of low-budget horror version of Caché.)

It makes for a nice little character twist, as Mike starts to get paranoid about being watched by some ambiguous entity, while Chris - who during the film's earlygoing is talking about government satellites and shooting at birds for being too noisy - seems unconcerned and rational. He's mostly preoccupied with the being-chained-to-a-pipe thing. (Whenever Mike says he's leaving for this errand or that, Chris always tosses out a halfhearted, tongue-in-cheek "Can I come along?") Cilella and Curran do a fine job carrying the movie together; the two have an easy rapport, and Curran's deadpan comic delivery is particularly commendable.

Even before things start to get fishy, there are warnings - Mike just chooses to disregard them. Chris' dealers, Billy and Micah, keep showing up at the door asking for their stuff; Mike thinks he can keep them at bay simply by being diplomatic. Then there's Charles, a local who reveals that the house where Mike and Chris are staying is, in fact, private property. Even worse? It's on tribal land, and these two yuppies are unwelcome visitors.

And here's the kicker - after Mike hands over a few bucks to let them stay for the rest of the week, Charles drops this little nugget: "This place is filled with the bodies of dead junkies." So yes, technically, this is all taking place on an Indian burial ground, as if the film is self-consciously underlining its scenario's horror lineage.

That's part of the fun of Resolution, which takes a breezy, lightly comic approach to its characters' predicament, utilizing wide shots and unobtrusive camerawork to make sure we (and whomever/whatever is surveilling them) keep at a cautious distance. Writer/director Justin Benson and co-director Aaron Moorhead are really smart about the straightforward way they set things up, and careful to not try to expose too much about their intentions. There's a calm, eerie ambiguity about the whole thing that, especially in a few key moments, is supremely effective.

Better yet, Benson and Moorhead retain their aesthetics throughout. Too often we see movies that get it mostly right, but get impatient at the end and try to either explain too much or reveal too much or wrap things up too neatly. Not here. The question of who or what might be watching these guys is an abstract one. The film delivers on that promise by maintaining its distance, building suspense with small gestures and incidents, and ending with the exact same approach. Simple, quiet, cryptic and efficient.

Read more by Chris Bellamy

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