DVD Review: Territories

Leon Nicholson reviews Territories starring Roc LaFortune and Sean Devine.

Currently available on DVD.

How far would you go to ‘protect’ your country? From Raphael Rocher, producer of La Horde, and Olivier Abbou on his feature film debut, comes Territories, a brave movie that attempts to answer this very question.

Territories focuses on five friends – Jalil, Leslie, Michelle, Gab and Tom – driving home from a wedding in Canada, who are then stopped by two members of the Border Police as they approach the US boundary.

The car’s broken headlight does not help matters; neither does the small bag of drugs that they find in the luggage. The main problem however is the issue of Jalil’s (note Arabic sounding name) ‘background’ and the fact that he looks ‘Middle Eastern’ which leads to the group’s arrest.

What follows are scenes of physical and psychological torture and humiliation in a Guantanamo Bay style makeshift prison camp hidden deep within their local forest.

Territories is not your typical ‘survival horror’ film as it attempts to explore and play on the paranoia mustered from 9/11 and the War on Terror. With the two antagonists as Border Patrol, (played extremely well by Roc LaFortune and Sean Devine) we have characters that have served in Iraq and returned home, not only with the horrors they witnessed in battle, but with physical illnesses that affect their daily lives.

Abbou’s direction is executed very well and combined with his script; it avoids the usual ‘US Hillbilly squeal-like-a pig’ scenario that has been done many a time before; instead, it leaves the viewer feeling no pity towards these ex-servicemen and even though it is difficult to understand their mentality, in no way is their psychotic, paranoid and xenophobic behaviour excused.

This is a case where the innocent party are just that… innocent, and even though Territories avoids concentrating on the over-extremities of violent and gory scenes, it’s still a very uncomfortable movie to watch with torture scenes slightly reminiscent of the hard-hitting, controversial Martyrs.

The performances from the rest of the cast including Michael Mando (Jalil) and Cristina Rosato (Michelle) are excellent enabling the viewer to feel sympathy for them, willing them to escape, yet knowing they will endure more pain before this becomes a possibility.

Essentially this is a film of two halves. The first is complete with tension and genuinely horrifying moments, concentrating on the victims’ predicament whilst the second act feels more like Without A Trace focusing on the mysterious Private Investigator that abracadabra’s his way into the movie. His introduction feels a little out of place in keeping with the film demoting the friends to a secondary role.

Territories is a terrifying movie that demonstrates the lengths that extremists will go to ‘protect’ their country. As we have seen in theUK, there are many extreme groups targeting ethnic minorities… especially Muslims. Are these factions doing this for the love of their country and the best interests of the nation or is it blatant ignorance and racism???

Whilst everyone knows the answer to that question, Territories has not made the guards motivation for their behaviour very clear. Is it purely patriotic, is it racial or is it a combination of both?

Territories, despite its faults, is intelligent and very different to other films in its genre by attempting to challenge the viewer. Even though issues of this sort are very much relevant, the similarities to how suspects were allegedly treated at Guantanamo Bay now makes this a little less topical.

FMV Rating: ***

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