Reviewed By brianorndorf
Posted 08/21/10 07:11:02

"War beard"
3 stars (Average)

“Triage” is a frustratingly incomplete motion picture about the nightmarish world of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. It’s a passionately made feature with emotionally charged performances, but it stands empty, incapable of reaching out and finding a connection to the horrors on display. It’s a film to admire from afar, taking on the challenge of depicting war zone trauma, but it rarely connects in any sort of profound manner.

A photojournalist in Kurdistan covering the war, Mark (Colin Farrell) has lost touch with the aggressive reality of his surroundings, bringing along pal David (Jamie Sives) to help with the reporting, only to find his friend sensitive to the bloodshed. Going their separate ways, Mark heads deeper into the conflict, soon severely wounded during an attack. Returning home to Europe and to his Spanish wife, Elena (Paz Vega), Mark is a changed man, unable to snap out of his depressive daze, recalling abstract images from his near-death experience. Brought in to help is Elena’s estranged grandfather, Joaquin (Christopher Lee), who’s controversial history with combat trauma helps to breathe life back into Mark, soon finding a dark secret hidden deep within his shattered psyche.

Directed by Danis Tanovic, “Triage” returns the filmmaker to the brink of wartime madness, captured superbly in his Academy Award-winning 2001 feature, “No Man’s Land.” A similar tale of disturbing reflection in the grip of Hell, “Triage” brings about a domesticated take on the ravages of guilt, with the screenplay adapted from a book by veteran war correspondent, Scott Anderson. This is a more lived-in film of psychological exploration, surveying Mark’s distress as he returns home a burdened man, narrowly escaping death for the first time in his long, respected career as a photojournalist. He’s a professional who’s made a living documenting unimaginable sights of slaughter, only to be faced with the reality of his work, eventually coming close to a mercy killing inside a Kurdistan cave.

“Triage” attempts to create a patient mystery surrounding Mark’s road to recovery, though little is seen to satisfying fruition. It’s a rushed film, barreling through the main character’s anxiety as the weight of what he’s observed finally paralyzes his soul, requiring the curious services of Joaquin to bluntly challenge his mental coma. The dramatic elements are cleanly arranged by Tanovic, promising a severe, cathartic journey for Mark as he inches closer to his darkest revelations, confronting his callous life behind the comfort of his camera. Unfortunately, there’s no consistency with the storytelling, which lurches around covering random acts of anguish. It’s a frustrating motion picture, perhaps kneecapped by meat-cleaver editing that pared down the characters to thin displays of vulnerability, working to build to a boiling point of mystery that’s easily solved in the first act by even the most disengaged viewer.

“Triage” nails a few crippling moments of wartime nightmares as Mark recalls his most harrowing experiences, and I thoroughly enjoyed Lee’s authoritative performance -- a real human treat after spending the last decade watching the actor slaughter Jedi and bitchslap Middle Earth. There are tiny pockets of sincerity here worth a view, but the lasting essence is missing, making “Triage” a half-realized affair with enough stillborn passion for three movies.

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