Tribeca 2012 Review: RESOLUTION
This bit of dialogue isn't the tagline for Resolution, and in fact isn't even spoken about the protagonists (the reverse would be closer to the truth), but it does offer a hint of the film's quietly mythic power. And yes, I did indeed just say "mythic."
Resolution's seemingly reckless embrace of big risks -- and bigger opportunities -- is evident in just the first couple of minutes. It's then that we watch a crazed bit of video that hermit-like drug addict Chris (Vinny Curran) has sent to his best buddy Michael (Peter Cilella). When it finishes playing, Michael just sits there, stunned. He's wondering what could possibly work as a follow-up to something so boldly mad and exuberant. So are we.
Yet in the first of many smart structural moves, the script pulls back a bit, letting us catch us our breath and regain our wits. In fact, when Michael sets out to save Chris from himself we get a lot of rather standard, if well played, material about values, life choices, regrets, and the roots of self-destruction. But throughout it all, seeping in from the edges of the narrative, is a pronounced yet expertly modulated sense of menacing weirdness. That's not to say that there isn't a lot of what might be called "genre elements" front-and-center -- early on firearms are introduced into the mix, and soon enough Michael must physically restrain Chris. But credit co-directors Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead with consistently using the magician's knack for misdirection: we're looking in one place, and that's almost always not where the next surprise is coming from.
Of course Benson's script also plays a big role in our slowly spiraling feeling of disorientation. We make the same assumptions that Michael does, feel just as in control as he does. But while he's our pov-character, it's Chris who comes to function as a kind of "unreliable narrator" because nearly all pertinent, sometimes crucial, information, gets filtered through his hazy memory and overheated paranoia. To complicate matters, we begin to suspect that there might be some role-reversal taking place, with Michael gradually becoming the paranoid one. This is vague on my part, I know, but you'll thank me for it if you see the film, and I hope you do.
I will say, though, that on the symbolic level Resolution is at least half-way to qualifying as an example of metafilm. The story becomes so steeped in archaic forms of media, from VHS tapes to vinyl records, that you can't help but make the connection to the film itself as an "artifact" -- but of what exactly? And of course the title refers to that post-climactic section of the third act that's familiar to every screenwriter who's ever read Syd Field.
The end result of this combination of shrewd self-awareness, experimentation, boundary-less creepiness, and popcorn instincts is a work that recalls David Lynch, Adam Wingard, and the scariest parts of Blair Witch (when the characters find objects/effigies left for them). Oh, and maybe I'd throw Monte Hellman in there, too, especially as regards the theme of madness and the grotesque in the American West. And make no mistake, the Western is just another of the genres that Benson and Moorhead are playing with here: Native Americans play a large part in the plot, and sometimes all of the action seems to take place in a vast ghost town.
It's entirely possible, though, that some audiences may find the very things I'm praising either too cerebral or too derivative. But even those who don't care for Resolution would have a hard time not applauding its ambition and spirit. This is independent filmmaking before it became "indie filmmaking." This is also low-budget genre film... but not the kind that employs a lot of fake-looking blood and bad camerawork and self-congratulatory touches. Instead, Resolution uses its smarts and DIY feel to create something that works on its own terms, achieving moods and moments that would be impossible to duplicate with a much bigger budget; in that sense it follows proudly in a tradition that includes films as diverse as Night of the Living Dead and Primer.