The High Frontier Movie Review
Written by Hamzah Sarwar
Released by One Eyed Films
Written and directed by Wojciech Kasperski
2016, 98 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Bartosz Bielenia as Janek
Janusz Chabior as Dzidek
Andrzej Chyra as Mateusz
Marcin Dorocinski as Konrad
Andrzej Grabowski as Lechu
A hostile and barren landscape along the Polish-Ukrainian border is the setting for Wojciech Kasperski’s icy thriller. This debut feature is an icy cauldron of slow-burn tension that thrives and dies in its remoteness; the feeling of isolation is a breeding ground for unkempt secrets and a blizzard of deception. A familial bonding trip between a father and his two sons takes a startling turn as an uninvited guest stumbles in from the wilderness. A hysterical dose of survivalist horror shouts and screams unnecessarily as the brothers are pressed into a desperate struggle to remain alive. Meanwhile, their father (Mateusz) is trekking across the terrains on a utilitarian pursuit of discovering those left behind after an accident leaves many injured.Thematically, there isn’t anything fundamentally new or different here but for what it lacks in originality, Lukasz Zal’s outstanding cinematography makes up for. The wintery landscape in day and night is captured beautifully.
The bullish and decidedly macho father figure, Mateusz, seeks to reconnect with his two sons by planning a trip to his former hunting ground. His past life working as a guard on the Polish border clearly has taken its toll on the temperament of the man intent on making men out of his boys. The hyper-masculinity and old-school initiation clashes with the values of older teenage son, Janek (brilliantly played by Bartosz Bielenia). He is without question the most interesting character and one that experiences extreme inner turmoil. Averse to the customs of excessive drinking, swearing and hyper-masculinity, he has a different way about him. Bielenia is eminently watchable and has a face that captures emotion that few do.
His character is put to the test as a frozen and broken man appears out of the cold and collapses at their door. Marcin Dorocinski’s, Konrad, is the antithesis of Dan Stevens’ David in Adam Wingard’s The Guest. Konrad is far from the charming princely presence and there’s clearly no good reason for him to wander in wounded in such remote surroundings. Mateusz faces the predicament of whether to venture out in the cold to attempt to save others at risk or to stay behind and protect the wellbeing of his sons. It’s this moment which isn't given enough thought as the troubling decision to leave behind his family is seemingly made off the cuff. His desire to make boys into men is given inadvertent impetus and unwanted danger.
When it becomes clear that Konrad isn’t the innocent bystander, the boys are thrust into a game of hide and seek in the dark. While Janek struggles to put on the brave front and protect his older brother, it’s this period which feels elongated and makes for difficult viewing. Tension is dispersed by the irritating screeching and hysteria. It’s a shame for what’s a grand set up for the hunter to prey for the hunted. Despite the obvious anti-climax, The High Frontier is a solid if unspectacular debut which is worth a go as the winter draws in and the days get shorter.