A new film from Polish master Jerzy Skolimowski, this 78 year old auteur shows no signs that he has slowed down in his latest thrilling venture.
It is nearing 5:00 p.m. on an austere but sunny day in Warsaw, Poland and the film jumps across various modes of cinematography, from CCTV footage, handheld, still, and even a dog’s eye point-of-view to present its handful of broken or troubled protagonists. Once they are all revealed, it becomes clear that they are within close proximity of one another. The tenuous links of fate and circumstance become something more and the reason the film is drawing them to a metropolitan hotel becomes all too clear.
Before that moment arrives, however, Skolimowski keeps the wheels turning with an array of pulsing drama that borders on glorious pulp, from a jilted husband’s attempt to stop his wife auditioning for a sleazy director, to an ambulance crew fighting off a drug-fuelled tenant to get to a pregnant woman, to a cocaine-addled bike messenger, to nuns buying hot dogs from a vendor with a troubled past. These are just some of the mysterious and engaging characters on the streets of Warsaw.
The way their stories are introduced is nothing short of mesmerising, as hypnotic and theatre-vibrating sound is used to great effect. A powerful minimalist score beats in the background and a constant reminder of a timestamp in the form of a roaring airliner flying in too low interrupts each character's moment. Outside these moments, the minutiae hustle and bustle of the city is captured with precision. The director also uses repetition masterfully, to fully grasp the importance of the time that is slipping by, and placing each character in that situation where each cue is seen and heard. There is a natural progression to reach that essential ‘5:11’ p.m. moment, and once all the elements are in place, the set-piece is ready.
Although the film is about those 11 minutes and what they mean to the overall arch, the screenplay highlights each character and their predicament cleverly. There is only enough detail organically mentioned as to fathom a backstory or concurrent plot for each main player, and the craftiness in how some of them relate to each other is not overhanded in its approach, including the fact that they see something in the sky, on the screens; a black dot or a dead pixel.
There is never a dull moment in 11 Minutes, as the film keeps on shifting from one character to the next, and the insightful progression that keeps the viewer on their toes never lets up. This is an intense film that temporally distorts all notion of what a good action-thriller should be, and yet it still works so well.
Recalling Tom Tykwer's Run Lola Run in its manic nature, and contemporary Euro crime narrative in general, it is clear the brilliant co-production partners of the Irish Film Board and HBO Europe certainly enhanced the value and quality of the film. Regardless of the outcome, this is a handsome production that bluntly and succinctly makes its inevitable point, and although that point may not have a deeper significance or meaning, it is absolutely fascinating to watch unfold.