Edinburgh International Film Festival 2010 - Day 5

Skeletons (UK) (trailer)

Two men, a bit past their prime walk the countrysides of England looking for houses that match the scenes on pieces of paper they carry. They enter the home, talk to the people and get them to sign some papers, and then head upstairs with a Ghostbusters-style energy meter and protective clothing.

Davis and Bennett are paranormal investigators, but in a slightly different world where it is treated as an accepted science. These two have been at it for years, part of a shadowy company dealing in all sorts of jobs where paranormal readings might help. Unfortunately, they have been on the bottom rung for quite some time, and head in almost like rat catchers, their aim only being to remove the skeletons from peoples' closets. Literally. Using their tools to enter the memories of these people, they can uncover truths they wanted to tell, or maybe wanted kept hidden, but always best out in the open.

Bennett is a giant of a man, kind but a little dim, he always tries to keep a moral grounding in whatever he does. Davis is sour and bitter, and does highly illegal 'Glo Chasing' - transporting his mind back to a time with his parents when he was happy and safe, living it over and over.

At the same time their boss comes with news of a promotion, they find a particularly tricky job to do. A wife has lost her husband several years ago, and he may be dead. Taking it upon themselves to do what they can in a job one step up the skill ladder from what they are used to, they set about searching the house for spiritual clues, but something isn't right, and the teenage daughter is being a bit too cagey. When things start to go wrong, it gets very bad for both of them.

Low budget films are often some of the best, because the meagre budget necessitates a compelling storyline above everything else. Skeletons is an example of this (Kin is another) and manages both great comedy and tragedy without any of it feeling forced or unnatural, even with the paranormal aspect. It's smart, witty and complex, and even though the final scenes were quite predictable, it was certainly fun getting there. 8/10

Restrepo (US) (trailer)

Restrepo is the name of an American outpost in the middle of Konegal Valley in Afganistan. It was named after Juan 'Doc' Restrepo, a young soldier killed in the nearby Kop outpost during an early attack on the platoon in 2007. This film is an account using ragged-edge camera footage of the platoon activities in '07 and '08 as Restrepo was constructed, and the soldiers faced heavy barrage from the Taliban.

There have been several films purporting themselves to be 'the Afghanistan war film' to watch, but few I have seen have so much raw, up-close footage of life right at the front, taken by the two directors (Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger) who spent 15 months with them dodging bullets and bombs and seeing the casualties on both sides, and to the Afghan civilians caught in the middle trying to survive. The film makes no attempt to be judgmental, rather leaving it as a dry account of the front line, for better or worse, interviewing the surviving soldiers sometime after they manage to leave the place they have both hated and developed a strong bond with. 7.5/10

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