Hostages (2017) [Toronto True Crime Film Festival 2018]

In 1983, a group of Georgians from well-educated families try to leave the Soviet Union at all cost. Their solution to hijack a place quickly turns bad and the surviving members get tried and executed, with the exception of one member.

Bringing this true story to the screen are director Rezo Gigineishvili, who co-wrote as well, with writer Lasha Bugadze. The two of them take this story of desperation and wanting a better life by all means necessary and show the possible way this came to be. Of course as most of the key players in this are now dead, some creative decisions had to be made and filler information had to be written into the script to allow for a more complete story to be brought to the screen. Their work here brings this ultimately dark story to the screen in a believable and sober manner. The goal here is to bring the story forth, not to make an exciting action-packed film but to make one as close to the reality of the situation as could be.

The cast for Hostages is composed of unfamiliar faces for this reviewer. While being a talented group playing the leads are Irakli Kvirikadze as Nika, Tinatin Dalakishvili as Anna, Darejan Kharshiladze as Nino, Giga Datiashvili as Koka, Giogi Khurtsilava as Lasha, Giorgi Grdzalidza as Sandro, Giorgi Tabidze as Oto, and more giving an ensemble performance that lets subtle emotions come through their natural yet appropriately stressed performances. Their work here is kept mostly minimalistic which is most definitely the best choice for the material. The performances throughout the film let the story and struggles brought to the screen come through.

As a carefully crafted film, Hostages boasts a fantastic attention to details, particularly in terms of décor and costumes, reproducing the look of 1983 Georgia meticulously. The clothes in particular are incredibly well done and selected. The costume design by Tinatin Kvinikadze deserves particular kudos.

Showing all this work is the cinematography by Vladislav Opelyants which bring the story to the screen in a low-key color palette, creating a gloomy and appropriate mood for the dark story. The film’s look works perfectly with the story and the general tone presented, helping to create the latter and helping to give the film a specific and clear mood. The choice of a very wide ratio helps give the film a more cinematic, less television drama film, keeping it from falling in a melodramatic look.

Hostages is a true life crime drama that takes more than its time to get going and thus may lose some viewers’ interest well before the main event. The acting is good, the décor and costumes are great, and the cinematography gives it the right atmosphere and feel. Unfortunately, all the great work involved feels a bit lost in the end as the film comes off too calm, too slow, and perhaps a bit sleep inducing. While its story is one more than deserving to be told and the craft levels behind it are high, Hostages will most likely appeal only to the few who are particular true crime aficionados.

The Toronto True Crime Film Festival 2018 runs June 8th and 9th, 2018: https://www.torontotruecrimefilmfestival.com/