Suspense movie on a shoestring budget
Darren Harrison | Washington D.C. | 06/19/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When Arlington, Va. based screenwriter Scott Schafer approached his friend and fellow filmmaker John Carter about making a movie that looked like a big screen Hollywood blockbuster complete with big-name stars and action the director jumped at the chance. And a little over a year later the result was the tense, cleverly crafted political action thriller "Fatwa" which premiered at the Atlanta Film Festival and June 13 received its DVD release from Fox Home Entertainment.
What is perhaps most remarkable given its production values and bevy of familiar faces is that the two made the movie for less than a million dollars with a budget clocking in at $750,000.
Starring Lauren Holly as junior Republican senator Maggie Davidson and set in the District the movie follows what initially appear to be seemingly unrelated subplots. For much of its 91-minute running time we know something is going on but we're not entirely sure what that something is. We know it has something to do with a junior senator with questionable morals, a taxi-cab driver with Islamic militant leanings and a loan shark turned hitman with a conscience. Indeed as an independent company Schafer and Carter are freed from following the typical Hollywood cookie-cutter plot formula and the result is a rather off-beat and ultimately disconcerting concoction.
The movie begins with the definition of "Fatwa," telling us that it is "a ruling on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized authority."
The film then plays stock footage of President George W. Bush addressing congress in 2001 immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks, an image vividly contrasted with images from 1998 when Osama Bin Laden issued a "Fatwa" to kill Americans and their allies.
This sets the tone for much of the movie which seems to take a documentary approach, heightened not only by its use of news clips but also its excessive use of hand-held camera's and slightly off picture contrast. All of the principals perform admirably, aided by an adept and character-driven script with Angus MacFadyen (who played Robert The Bruce in "Braveheart") as the loan shark and teen star Lacey Chabert as a teen friend to Davidson's daughter, coming in for special mention.
The core of the movie revolves around a terrorist plot to blow up a dirty bomb on the National Mall with Davidson, singled out as a figurehead of the establishment, killed in the blast. The final moments are filled with pulse pounding excitement with a car chase through the streets of D.C. resulting in a truly shocking denouement.
The DVD is fairly sparse by today's standards featuring as it does only a scene specific audio commentary by director Carter and producer Schafer. In what is a very dry, yet lively track the two discuss the technical details surrounding the production covering subjects as diverse as the genesis for the project right down to the film stock that Carter chose to use. Interestingly, in a nod to the effectiveness of the movie's minimalistic look, Schafer states his belief that the lack of CGI helps pull the audience into the film and that if they had received a bigger budget the result would have been a worse movie.
Rather deceptively the DVD box lists access to the text of the Fatwa by Osama Bin Laden (which begins the movie) and the 1957 text for the "Loving Your Enemies" speech by Martin Luther King (which ends the movie) as special features, yet the DVD merely directs the viewer to a Web site.
Overall an interesting and well made movie, but one that is hard to recommend for those unfamiliar with, or appreciative off independent filmmaking."
All over the wrong place
S. A. Richards | Minneapolis, USA | 06/06/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I tried to write a synopsis of this film after watching it, but to be honest I had no idea what to say. I mean, I watched the film, I understood roughly what it was about, but I could not write a synopsis. I think the main reason I struggled to do this, is because the film tries to do too much in such a short space of time. We are literally thrown into the midst of several character's stories, and then expected to sift through it all as we draw towards the conclusion. The fact that we are told very little about each of the characters we meet, makes this process all the more difficult.
Although this is a very impressive looking and well-acted independent film (shot for $750,000), I think that in the end it would have benefited from tightening its focus more on the central characters involved in the bomb plot, and examining their motives for executing this."
Your mission...should you choose to accept it
Junglies | Morrisville, NC United States | 01/31/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This film had a very promising start and a rather intricate plot but for me fell apart due to some major boo-boos.
In our current high level of security, terrorists under every bed, and very high levels of surveillance, the movie postualtes a US politician who seems to have fallen for the Osama Bin Laden line, hook, line and sinker. By this I mean that her response is to galvanise the US for retaliatory action and a proctive response rather like a mirror image of those who have inflicted Islamic terror yet at the same time proclaiming a high cause.
A seemingly disparate set of events lead to a conclusion which is recognised by the politician as a possibility yet she seems unaware of her own role in galvanasing her apostates into action. The threads gradually come together in a dawning of awareness and panic with some gritty action sequences before a resolution is reached.
My problems with the movie begin with the intertwinning of threads which all involve different members of the same family, the target, her cuckolded husband and her hedonistic daughter. At least in Crash there was an intent at the outset to involve the six degrees of separation theory, there was no such deliberation here which makes for a strong sense of incredulity. Secondly, the plot involves a crucial female terrorist who uses her sexuality to achieve a degree of organisation of events for the target to be achievable. While some degree of license is always reuired in these type of thrillers, it again stretches the imagination given the cause to which Islamic terrorists defer. Crucially too, the chances of the characters crossing each others paths in the way that they do is also more than a little unbelievable.
All in all a good attempt but fatally (no pun intended) flawed."