Adilkhan YERZHANOV Kazakhstan 98 mins PG13 (Some Coarse Language and Violence) Southeast Asian Premiere
A darkly comic, absorbing thriller that indicts the farce and fault lines in a society ruled by the insecurities of men.
In rural Kazakhstan, masked gunmen march into a high school and take siege of the campus. Cowed by the deadly takeover, a math teacher flees by himself, leaving his son and students behind as hostages. With rescue operations hampered by a snowstorm, a motley crew of staff and parents assemble to save the children.
Bound by their inadequacies, the bumbling team stage endless rehearsals of the rescue effort amid petty brawls and showcases of toxic braggadocio between members. As they plot an array of illogical and absurd assaults on the mysterious kidnapping terrorists, the original rescue team make their way to them, armed with a markedly different but equally wild approach to conflict resolution.
Weaving in elements of situational comedy and underlining this thriller with his signature droll humour, Yerzhanov places the ragtag team against insurmountable odds created from their own neuroses. Team leader Tazshy grapples with resentment towards estranged wife and team sniper Lena, while everyone else struggles to be convinced by the tactical strategies of alcoholic watchman Dalbych, who may or may not have been a veteran of various wars.
The meager attempts of these flawed beings towards an ill-fitting heroism are dwarfed by striking compositions of the magnificently desolate snowy tundra, amplifying the endless struggle of these human agents to rise above crises. In Yerzhanov’s bleak and preposterous cinematic universe, heroes and hypocrites are one and the same.
Adilkhan YERZHANOV is a major figure in Kazakh cinema. Following his breakout feature The Owners (2014), which competed in SGIFF, he went on to make acclaimed films like The Gentle Indifference of the World (2018) and A Dark, Dark Man (2019). Assault premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, and won the Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.