TIFF Report #6: Kilo Two Bravo, River, Louder Than Bombs

Today’s TIFF report looks at the tense war movie ‘Kilo Two Bravo,’ the escaping-from-cops thriller ‘River,’ and a family dealing with grief in the witty drama ‘Louder Than Bombs.’


Still from ‘River’

Six days into the festival, I’m beginning to wish that I had taken more chances on smaller films. For logistical reasons, my schedule includes a lot of films that are about to come out within the next few months. Seeing them at TIFF means I don’t have to see them at press screenings back home, perhaps opening up the opportunity to attend another screening for something that didn’t play at TIFF. But lining up a bunch of Hollywood productions gives a warped sense of what’s in store at TIFF, and receiving emails for the Montreal press screening of a movie that has yet to open at the festival kind of puts things into perspective. Then again, a small film I take a chance on may never open theatrically in Montreal at all.

This puts the supposed mandate of Montreal’s World Film Festival — of “discovering new talent” — into perspective. It’s easier to be bowled over by a movie you have no expectations of; the prestige of watching something like I Saw The Light clouds your judgment ever-so-slightly.

My sixth day of TIFF, much like the third, was made up mostly of smaller films that weren’t really on my radar a week ago when I hastily put together a schedule that I ended up almost completely ignoring in the end.

Kilo Two Bravo


There aren’t too many large-scale war movies anymore because there isn’t that much large-scale war; today’s wars (or at least what we see of them on the screen) are fought in short bursts, isolated incidents and harrowing six-hour ordeals. Upon its release in the U.K. last year, Kilo Two Bravo (released then as Kajaki: The True Story) drew significant comparisons to The Hurt Locker, another small-scale but nerve-wracking modern war film. It’s an apt comparison, but it doesn’t quite capture the harrowing, minute-by-minute tension of Paul Katis’s debut film.

A small platoon of British paratroopers are assigned to guard a dam in a remote bit of Afghanistan; it’s thankless, boring work for soldiers who have grown close over time, and almost nothing actually ever happens. After sending some men out to patrol, the soldiers discover a long-buried minefield that they find themselves trapped in; as they wait for help, they have to manoeuvre the deadly minefield and brave the life-threatening injuries that come with it.

Kilo Two Bravo is a war movie without an antagonist — not a single shot is fired and the “enemy faction” is never seen. The men of Kilo Two Bravo are at war with war itself, with the tangible physical presence of death and the almost insurmountable odds they find themselves up against. Unfolding in quasi real time, it’s a harrowing and suspenseful movie that goes against the oft-quoted notion that it’s impossible to truly make a movie about war that doesn’t make war at least a little glamourous.

Kilo Two Bravo is set for release in November.



A young American doctor (Rossif Sutherland) working in Asia finds himself in a bar in Laos between two assignments. He witnesses a pair of Australians aggressively flirting with a few local girls and force-feeding them drinks. On his way home after tying one on, he comes across one of the Australians and one of the girls, who has clearly just been sexually assaulted. In a blind rage, he attacks the Australian man and leaves him for dead. The next morning, the man’s body is found in the river and the American doctor is sought out by the Laotian authorities as a suspect. With nothing but his passport, he attempts to escape the country before he’s caught and sentenced under intense Laotian laws.

Joining the ranks of pared-down, no-bullshit thrillers like Cop Car or ’71, River makes the interesting moral point of never calling into question the main character’s guilt. It’s a fairly simple twist on the structure of The Fugitive that nevertheless emphasizes the survival aspect of the film without getting lost in wasted exposition. Jamie M. Dagg’s direction doesn’t keep the propulsive fever pitch as much as one would hope, but River remains very effective.

River does not have a slated release date.

Louder Than Bombs


Wunderkind Norwegian director Joachim Trier makes his American debut with Louder Than Bombs, a family drama that explores some familiar territory in a less than familiar way. Gabriel Byrne plays the patriarch of a suburban New York family, an actor-turned-high-school-teacher whose wife (Isabelle Huppert), a well-regarded photojournalist, has died relatively recently in a car crash. Their oldest son (Jesse Eisenberg) is a college professor with a wife and infant daughter who finds it difficult to move on to the next stage of his life. He returns home with the excuse of preparing a retrospective of his mother’s work, where he reconnects with his brother Conrad (Devin Druid), a videogame-obsessed teenager working through his grief in strange ways.

Louder Than Bombs brings films like Ordinary People to mind in its exploration of middle-class malaise, but Trier isn’t content with simply letting us wallow in it. The film has a few tricks up its sleeve: it has a sharp sense of humour, for one, and it’s constructed in a way that lets the viewer connect the dots themselves instead of turning on the waterworks and the grandstanding expositional speeches. It’s a film about grief that actually feels like grief in all of its fucked-up, inconsistent glory. The relatively chilly nature of the film is likely to turn many off but it shows a maturity and command in Trier’s work that’s refreshing.

Louder Than Bombs is set for release in 2016.
See our previous TIFF 2015 reports here.

Keep an eye on Cult MTL for daily TIFF coverage through Sept. 20