The Retrieval Screen 10 articles

The Retrieval


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  • Sanders and Scott share an intimacy in several scenes during the film's second half that compels through a natural, fluid manner that's in symbiosis with the film's themes. But The Retrieval is only useful in the style of a history textbook; Eska's script is more a report of his research, largely devoid of significance beyond inoffensively rendering historical events.

  • Despite its plentiful achievements, The Retrieval hews too closely to familiar coming-of-age tropes and demonstrates a frustrating reluctance to be its own film... The stillness of the leafless forests which mark the film’s topography can give way in an instant to pitiless violence. Yet the storytelling remains staunchly, predictably on course.

  • The Retrieval is first and foremost an effective dramatization of one of Lincoln’s most famous quotes: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Eska identifies the immediate aftermath of the Emancipation Proclamation as a prime opportunity to explore how the world is not what it makes of us, but rather what we make of it.

  • Written, directed and edited by Chris Eska, “The Retrieval” is modest in means and narrative scope. Its heft comes from the moral awakening at its center, which involves the humanization of a black adolescent who, however nominally free, is captive to a system that reduces human relationships to financial transactions.

  • Despite its meager budget, The Retrieval is characterized by its authenticity. The dialogue and attitudes are persuasive in creating both a consistent psychology and a sense of the historical past, without ever lapsing into a flowery 19th century-ness. Much credit is due to Eska’s handling of the actors; considering the charged subject matter, it’s impressive that none of the performances... lapse into cartoonishness.

  • One of the chief virtues of Eska's handling of this material is his eye for landscapes. The countryside traversed by the three characters is rendered with a subtly lyrical exactitude... Both in its structure and its dialogue, Eska's writing is similarly adroit, and he matches those accomplishments with the topnotch performances he gets from his three leads.

  • Director Chris Eska and cinematographer Yasu Tanida let their shots breathe; the landscape feels lived-in, not like pretty backdrops. The actors — especially Scott — make silence as telling as the dialogue. As Will grows close to Nate, revelations are a bit artificially delayed. But the film’s reckoning, when it comes, is fully as heartbreaking as it should be.

  • While The Retrieval shares some themes and settings withDjango Unchained, it’s not an action movie. In his director’s statement, Eska calls it an “emotional suspense film,” an apt description for this understated thriller.

  • The locations, resplendent woods, seem to wind in circles: expanses of wilderness evoking an untamed and uncharted Western landscape, leaving the characters isolated with plenty of time to think about what happens at the end of the trek. Along the way, director Chris Eska provides ample space for his principals to breathe, wisely homing in on the uneasy gaze of the guidance-starved Will, whose struggle will resonate with anyone charged with an unenviable task.

  • Writer-director Chris Eska keeps the tone somber and the suspense taut, while his actors convince with their naturalism, making this cadenced, original work thoroughly compelling.

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