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Big Game

As part of a coming-of-age ceremony, a 13 year old boy must go hunting on his own, armed with only a bow and arrow. Whatever he brings back – rabbit, deer, bear — marks him for life: this is the kind of man he is.  Now that’s pressure.

One of the fun things about “Big Game” is that it starts with this ceremony, somewhere in the ice and snow of Scandinavia. And while it clearly takes place in present day, I would guess that you could take the first twenty pages of the script, remove only the stage directions, and shoot this same sequence set in 1500 AD.  The men would be carrying their supplies on sledges pulled by reindeer instead of four wheelers and pickup trucks, and you’d have to change the costuming a bit.  That’s all. The words would stay the same.  It’s a fun, fascinating look at the ways how, in some places in the world, culture and time-honored ceremony stay the same, even as technology changes around us.

Unfortunately, the rest of “Big Game” doesn’t live up to the beauty and profundity of that opening set of scenes.  Once President of the United States is on the scene, the film hews pretty closely to dumb action movie tropes, as established by films like “White House Down” and “Air Force One.” The terrorist who shoot down the President’s plane are two-dimensional, and the conspiracy they’re a part of is ridiculous. The camerawork relies far too heavily on slow-motion shots to juice up pedestrian action sequence, and the director seems to have a special fascination with helicopters, – both in front of and behind the camera.

But if I’m going to watch a dumb action flick, I’d rather it be this one, if just for this scene alone: the President tries to commandeer the boy’s four-wheeler.  “This is now property of the United States of America,” he says, with a serious look on his face.  “The hell it is,” the boy says to the most powerful man in the world.  “This is a big forest. You will get lost.”  Of course the two help each other escape their dilemmas and accomplish their goals, by the end. But it’s fun to watch the Commander-in-Chief learn about the woods from a thirteen year old indigenous boy.

Director Jalmari Hellander has made two movies that have made it to America from Finland; the first was “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale,” a take on the Santa Claus Christmas movie that I recommend all horror fans check out.  Both films have featured young actor Onni Tommila, and both feature communities of what I assume are Sami, the indigenous people of northern Scandinavia. I haven’t been able to figure out if Tommila or Hellander are Sami themselves (most of the articles I find via Google search are in Finnish) but I appreciate that we are getting movies set amongst that people group.  In fact, Hollander seems most at home when filming amongst the Sami; both film run into most of their problems when outsiders get involved.

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Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke, Native & Indigenous Cinema.

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