Runtime: 100 mins
Genres Crime Drama Thriller
Actors Charles Martin Garcia, Davina Reid, Leon Salem, Marion Blount, Tanya Christiansen, Michele Yeager, Steve Heinz, Brian Jalbert, Jered Allen, Atiq Rahman, Thibault White, Shrey Neil, Jason Kimball, John O'Keefe, Jim Abde, Mark William Myers, Amy Woodring, Shauna Trower, Chad Stevens, Joseph Mammina, Gabriel Lee, Andrea Jordan, Micah Anderson, Alexandra Cruz, Jim Duncan, Vivian Hanna, Lucas Martin, James L. Seaton, Tracey Sheldon, Randall Speakman
Closely based on a real life hijacking in 1983 in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, Hostages is a great looking thriller with tragic Cold War backstory. Georgia born manager Rezo Gigineishvili spent years intensively studying his 4th feature, a Georgian Russian Polish co production that premieres at the Berlinale this week. The truth behind the botched hijack and its bitter aftermath remain contentious in Georgia greater than 3 decades later. Changing names and adjusting a few small details, Gigineishvili hits a cautious balance between nerve jangling action yarn and forensic procedural, even when this systematically non judgmental strategy occasionally risks slipping into aloof detachment.
Hostages must appeals to viewers in Georgia and neighboring countries who’re familiar with the events being portrayed, while further celebrations will almost definitely take a bite after Berlin. A compelling cocktail of thriller character, glossy visuals and political themes may also generate specialist hype overseas, particularly given the flowering trustworthiness of Georgian art house cinema in latest years. The carefully concealed history behind the movie is the hijacking of Aeroflot Flight 6833, which left the Georgian capital of Tblisi on Nov 18, 1983. It had been bound for Leningrad through Batumi, a resort town close to the Turkish border. Right after takeoff, an armed gang of young terrorists tried to seize control of the airplane in a doomed bid to escape the Soviet Union.
However their amateurish plan failed and the pilots delivered to Tblisi, where the airliner was stormed by Russian special forces. Three crew members, 3 hijackers and two passengers died. Gigineishvili offers some context for these dangerous antics in his opening act. Already reserved as possible troublemakers by the KGB for their curiosity about unacceptable fruits like western rock music and the Orthodox church, the would-be hijackers are mainly artists and actors from Georgia bourgeois intellectual elite. They’ve up with all the social benefits possible in a Soviet satellite state, however continue to be willing to risk their lives to escape a sweltering, suffocating regime.
The film blunt title pointedly invites one or more interpretation. The day before the hijack, boyishly attractive screen actor Nika marries his gorgeous girlfriend Anna in gloriously immersive set piece wedding picture, which Gigineishvili and his Russian cinematographer Vladislav Opelyants shoot camera with dancing and long tracking shots. In the airport, the pair exploit their fame and newlywed status to easily slip past airport security transporting illegal firearms. However the hijack itself is a catalog of errors, obstacles and delays. Imprudently pressing ahead with the plan anyhow, Nika and his accomplices soon become nervy and trigger happy, with lethal effects. Back in Tbilisi airport, the regulators pressure the gang parents to negotiate a peaceful settlement, just to be sidelined in support of brute military power. In the subsequent legal trial, the privileged background of the enduring hijacker is leveraged by the state to push for maximum penalties, backed by dangerous plea deals and false promises of leniency.
Gigineishvili shows himself adept at sweaty suspense and tightly wound tension, but not so great at exploring character motivation. Hostages never really gets below the skin of its anti-heroic protagonists, who are inadequately explained and sketchily delineated. A little more personal insight would have helped audiences engage with these relatively recent yet oddly remote events, which take place in a failed utopia where owning a Beatles album is a dangerous outlaw act. A bitter coda scene, in which parents mournfully search for their children’s unmarked graves after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, packs a powerful kick.