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rochefort [Film Festival 09.24.12] Netherlands thriller

A couple from the Netherlands, Johan (Barry Atsma) and Saar (Susan Visser), have come to Argentina on a vacation meant to reopen the lines of communication and heal their damaged marriage. But their time together in their gorgeous villa quickly turns sour, each of them emotionally wounding the other so badly that they cut the trip short and head for home. While waiting for the bus that will take them to the airport, Susan, who has been documenting the trip with her camera, catches a local policeman killing an unarmed civilian in cold blood. The cop sees her, and Johan and Saar are soon pursued by multiple corrupt police through the streets of a city they don't know and where almost nobody can understand a word they say.

I have extremely mixed feelings about director Diederik Van Rooijen's Taped. This is one of those movies with some real deal-breaker moments, moments where characters do things so stupid as to be almost beyond forgiving, but those moments are usually followed by a scene that brings you right back over and has you again rooting for its beleaguered protagonists. Things start off extremely well, especially once you realize that what seems to be yet another found-footage film quickly turns into something much more interesting. The home movie that Johan and Saar are making for their daughter back home contains the meatiest and most heartfelt emotional beats, as each of them puts on their game face and acts the happy vacationer, but little tics and half-smiles give away that something is definitely out of sync. Once the murder occurs, the found footage approach shifts to a traditional shooting style, complete with long tracking shots of the couple running through the city's alleys, factories and abandoned apartment buildings, and the photography is kinetically top notch. The entire second half of the movie is an extended chase sequence, and unabashedly so, and by this point the pic has handled its setups effectively enough that we're right there in the thick of things with Johan and Saar, and the early hot pursuit scenes conjure up the most dread and some legitimate suspense.

But things go from bad to worse in record time, for both them and us, and many of the moments in the near-climax, when the couple are briefly separated and have to make some tough decisions, will almost certainly evoke a handful of "oh, come on" reactions. And I know that it's easy to judge what a character in a survival situation should do from one's armchair, and that in real life we don't always process and act as quickly and smartly as we wish, but some of the mistakes these folks make really are appalling, and it took me a few moments, on at least a couple of occasions, to get back on their team. Almost deal-breakers, but not enough to ruin everything. Hollywood is reportedly remaking this one, so expect the grade for the next iteration to be on a much harsher curve.

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