Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Erika? Universal Hires Husband to Write 'Fifty Shades Darker' How Do You Solve a Problem Like Erika? Universal Hires Husband to Write 'Fifty Shades Darker' 'Age of Ultron' Director Joss Whedon on Self-Doubt and Why It's His 'Rio Bravo' 'Age of Ultron' Director Joss Whedon on Self-Doubt and Why It's His 'Rio Bravo' Watch: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Amy Schumer Hilariously Slam Hollywood Sexism (NSFW) Watch: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Amy Schumer Hilariously Slam Hollywood Sexism (NSFW) CinemaCon: How Tom Cruise Stole the Paramount Show CinemaCon: How Tom Cruise Stole the Paramount Show Cannes: Directors' Fortnight Lines Up Vet Auteurs and American Indies Cannes: Directors' Fortnight Lines Up Vet Auteurs and American Indies Joe Wright's 'Pan' Gets Fall Release Date: Good News or Bad News? Joe Wright's 'Pan' Gets Fall Release Date: Good News or Bad News? Seeing Ryan Gosling's 'Lost River' Through Composer Johnny Jewel's Eyes (STREAM SOUNDTRACK) Seeing Ryan Gosling's 'Lost River' Through Composer Johnny Jewel's Eyes (STREAM SOUNDTRACK) 3 Women Genre Directors Get SF Film Society Fellowships 3 Women Genre Directors Get SF Film Society Fellowships Here's Why Jon Stewart Quit 'The Daily Show' Here's Why Jon Stewart Quit 'The Daily Show' Watch: From Tarantino to Cronenberg, Great Directors Talk the Art and Anxiety of Filmmaking Watch: From Tarantino to Cronenberg, Great Directors Talk the Art and Anxiety of Filmmaking Specialty Box Office: 'True Story' and 'Child 44' Flop as 'Ex Machina' Lures Audiences Specialty Box Office: 'True Story' and 'Child 44' Flop as 'Ex Machina' Lures Audiences Tribeca Film Festival Matches George Lucas with Stephen Colbert: “I’m gonna tear you a new one, George" Tribeca Film Festival Matches George Lucas with Stephen Colbert: “I’m gonna tear you a new one, George" 10 Films Booed at Cannes That Every Cinephile Should See 10 Films Booed at Cannes That Every Cinephile Should See 5 Things You Didn't Know About Lars von Trier, Who's Going Back to Work 5 Things You Didn't Know About Lars von Trier, Who's Going Back to Work Time 100 Highlights, from Bradley Cooper to Emma Watson Time 100 Highlights, from Bradley Cooper to Emma Watson The Eerie Connection Between 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' and 'Tomorrowland' The Eerie Connection Between 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' and 'Tomorrowland' Digging Into the Cannes Lineup: More Vet Auteurs and Women, No Netflix Digging Into the Cannes Lineup: More Vet Auteurs and Women, No Netflix You Can Now Read Over 200,000 Leaked Sony Emails and Documents You Can Now Read Over 200,000 Leaked Sony Emails and Documents Watch: This Exclusive Tribeca Trailer Promises a Vérité Southern Gothic in Malick Vein Watch: This Exclusive Tribeca Trailer Promises a Vérité Southern Gothic in Malick Vein 7 Things to Learn from 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner About Compelling Storytelling (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO) 7 Things to Learn from 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner About Compelling Storytelling (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)

Review: Chris Eska's Meditative, Slow-Burn Civil War Drama 'The Retrieval'

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood March 31, 2014 at 3:08PM

Chris Eska’s beautifully made Civil War drama “The Retrieval,” which opens at Film Forum April 2, is a quietly stirring journey into America’s ravaged heartland of 1864. It follows three black men, two fully grown and one barely on the cusp of adolescence, as they walk North and navigate the complexities of survival, self-interest and slowly emerging friendship.
0
Tishuan Scott and Ashton Sanders in "The Retrieval"
Tishuan Scott and Ashton Sanders in "The Retrieval"

Chris Eska’s beautifully made Civil War drama “The Retrieval,” which opens at Film Forum April 2, is a quietly stirring journey into America’s ravaged heartland of 1864. It follows three black men, two fully grown and one barely on the cusp of adolescence, as they walk North and navigate the complexities of survival, self-interest and slowly emerging friendship.

The Retrieval

13-year-old Will (Ashton Sanders) and the older Marcus (Keston John) work for a band of bounty hunters, led by the vicious Burrell (Bill Oberst Jr.). Often they are tasked with locating hidden slaves, insinuating themselves into the runaways’ company and then turning them over to Burrell’s gang. When Will and Marcus are sent on a mission to find Nate, a freed black man whose capture will bring a hefty sum, the two are warned that returning without Nate will spell death.

Will and Marcus embark on their search, plodding through wintry golden terrain and the scorched earth of battlefields, looking for a man with the same skin color as their own whose deposited corpse will save them from a similar fate. They eventually find Nate (Tishuan Scott), a large fellow with a perceptive gaze. At first he’s wary of their claim that his sick brother is in need of a visit, but he’s a decent man willing to trust that others are the same, and goes along with them.

Will finds a kinship with Nate, one he doesn’t feel for the bullying, self-serving Marcus. When Marcus is killed in the crosshairs of a Union-Confederate battle that emerges suddenly on their overnight campground, Will and Nate are left alone to continue their journey -- towards the dead brother who Nate believes is still alive, and the bounty hunting gang that will murder Will if he doesn’t deliver his new friend.

“The Retrieval” is admirable for many reasons, one being that it isn’t afraid to take its time. Writer-director Eska, who won the Cassavetes Independent Spirit Award for his previous feature “August Evening,” lets the drama unfold at a meditative pace. The characters primarily walk and talk in this film, shooting penetrating glances at one another, conversing in low tones, and always watching their environment for any gradual or sudden shift. War territories are volatile, and though few scenes of violence occur in the film, the possibility is always thick in the atmosphere, especially for Will and Nate, whose freedom is an outrage to many.

This article is related to: Reviews, SXSW, South By Southwest Film Conference and Festival (SXSW), The Retrieval, Chris Eska, Reviews, Festivals, Tishuan Scott, Festivals


E-Mail Updates