The Terrorist Movie Review
Malli (played by expressive newcomer Ayesha Dharkar) is a nineteen-year old rebel girl whose only home has been a guerilla camp nestled deep in the forests of an unnamed country. She has been asked to perform a crucial assassination that requires her to strap on a bomb and, when the moment arrives, blow up herself and her enemy. Sounds like a lean, mean novella in the Ernest Hemingway mold.
Patient viewers who respond to the visual poetry of Robert Bresson or Terrence Malick will find much to appreciate here. Of course, as soon as a review mentions the notion of visual poetry, some folks may start running for the hills. Indeed, this is understandable. The Terrorist is slow, meditative, and more than slightly pretentious.
There's not much in the way of dialogue or exposition. Much of the time, the camera simply follows Manni as she wanders through rivers and hills, teardrops and rain. The natural light sources create a strange pastiche of aqua colored landscapes. Often, shots will linger on close-ups of Dharkar, whose eyes burn with charisma. If that sounds boring to you, give this movie a wide berth.
Early scenes are taut with violence as Manni casually blows away a prisoner-of-war, then undergoes a grueling interrogation as her superiors wade through five teenage girls seeking the right candidate for the job. While director/cinematographer Santosh Sivan wields his camera with austere grace, these early scenes set up what amounts to a fairly generic story -- Bresson's interpretation of Mad Magazine's Spy Vs. Spy.
Bottom line: it's difficult not to get utterly bored, no matter how much of an art house cinephile you aspire to be. If the thought of Manni tromping through minefields with a battle-scarred little boy (Vishwas) sounds exciting, be forewarned that you're faced with endless shots of them walking, thinking, or staring off into nothingness. This particular subplot ends on a hollow, predictable note right after Manni says goodbye to this friend. If you've seen any films set in a war-torn country, it won't shock you.
There's a token love story, just as there is the inevitable guilt over her mission. If more attention had been paid to illuminating her inner thoughts or struggle, perhaps The Terrorist would amount to more than several reels of affecting pictures. We are presented with a motion picture with themes that would have been better articulated in the medium of a slide show or book.
If you're not into the whole art house thing, you may get some enjoyment out of putting on your Cultural Anthropologist cap and using The Terrorist as a point of entry into the portal of John Malkovich. To those with the desire to experience this elusive actor's taste in cinema, I offer this tiny hint: it's only a rental away.
Up jump the terrorists!