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