Written by Sarah Cyngler and Ariel Kleiman, Partisan struggles to keep you on the edge of your seat, but eventually delivers an engaging and dramatic look into a commune that teaches its children to become hit men, killing intended targets at point blank range. But when young “Alexander” (Jeremy Chabriel) begins to question authority, it puts him at odds with cult-leader “Gregori” (Vincent Cassel). (JEP 3.5/5)
Review by Contributing Editor Jessica E. Perry
After an extremely long, dialog-free, opening sequence and clumsy set-up, Partisan comes into its own, offering a look inside a commune and the threats that the outside world pose to its ideals.
When the film opens, “Gregori” (Vincent Cassel) is in the beginning stages of forming his own cult community in the mountains of Eastern Europe. He seeks out single mothers with newborn children, promising to shelter them from the cruelties of the outside world.
Flash forward to “Alexander’s” (Jeremy Chabriel) eleventh birthday. The community is now fully formed, and Alexander, the first newborn Gregori took in as his own, has grown up to be a talented yet inquisitive young man.
The children within the community are taught to shoot guns and run practice scenarios in which they kill an intended target. When they are old enough, these children become hired hit men, sent out by Gregori, and bringing in the money needed to keep his commune running smoothly.
Alexander is one of Gregori’s star pupils, completing many successful kills. But circumstances arise that lead Alexander to question the morality of their way of life, and in turn, Gregori’s authority. However, any challenge to Gregori’s ideals is not to be tolerated, and Alexander grows more and more at odds with his leader.
Co-written by Sarah Cyngler and director Ariel Kleiman, Partisan is a compelling drama. Jeremy Chabriel is one to watch, delivering a strong performance as Alexander. And Vincent Cassel is entirely convincing as Gregori, bringing us a chilling portrayal of a man both admired and feared by his followers.
The film hits a few bumps, with some slow pacing and an overbearing score. But I found myself engaged all the same, pulling for Alexander as he came into his own and fought back against the questionable practices of his community. For this I will applaud director Ariel Kleiman on a strong first feature, and am interested to see what he does next.
Middle Photo: Alexander completing his intended hit.
Bottom Photo: Gregori and Alexander have a playful moment before Alexander must go into the outside world again for a job.
Photo Credits: Ben King