Jeff's Reviews

Thoughts on every movie I've ever seen.

The Act of Killing (2012)

Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, Anonymous, Christine Cynn

Starring Anwar Congo, Herman Koto, Syamsul Arifin, Ibrahim Sinik


An unconventional angle on Indonesia’s brutal, genocidal history. Who knew Indonesia was this messed up, this corrupt? Oppenheimer has found dramatic subject matter that has not yet been exposed and exploited.

Interesting collection of footage. It’s horrifying how proud these people are of their brutal history, and it’s even more chilling how they casually go back and forth between these horrifying role-play and casual off-camera banter. Oppenheimer’s realization that the reenactments were not the story, and his decision to reframe the film around the footage he was capturing between takes, was a stroke of genius.

Anwar and Herman are two repulsive, narcissistic megalomaniacs. Despite this, Anwar is somehow engaging, charming when he repeatedly clicks his dentures into place, and even redeeming at the end when even his own guts decide to hate him. His revelation at the end is powerful. There’s not much to like about Herman, other than the fact that he looks and acts ridiculous most of the time. He’s the best overweight, goofy sidekick you could hope for.

Ssome of the amateur acting in the horrifying reenactments seems quite good, but I wonder if these people are not acting but instead stirring something deep inside and feeling all of these horrible things in a very real way. And I don’t think a lot of these kids, with uncontrollable tears streaming down their faces, are acting.

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