Denis Villeneuve is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors, with Blade Runner 2049 being my favorite film of 2017 as well as really enjoying Arrival the year prior. I figured I should watch one of his earlier feature films, and Polytechnique was the easiest to watch.
A semi-fictional, dramatized retelling of the Montreal Massacre of 1989, Polytechnique starts strongly with it’s short opening scene, which I think is the best scene in the whole movie, but sadly it falls flat in the areas you hope it would succeed in. A mass shooting is such a horrifying event, I feel like a movie about one should be portrayed similarly to a horror film, you should want all the characters to survive, but be unsure of what could happen next. Instead Polytechnique just doesn’t seem to try to connect you with the characters at all, I mean the main character you follow through most of the movie is portrayed as a side character until the shooting starts, then he just takes over. I don’t care about this guy and it ruins the suspense of the whole movie. The little amount of character development we got for the female leads is ruined once he takes over. I wasn’t even really sure who this movie was about once it ended, there are 3 main characters, including the killer, but I didn’t know who those characters actually were, they just felt like extras that the camera pointed at for most of the movie.
The movie states everything so matter of fact as well, at the start the killer writes his suicide note detailing his hatred of feminists. I just don’t see why this is necessary to include, and I understand that it is based on real events, we know his motives in real life, but I can’t help but feel if we were left in the dark it would lift the suspense. If the movie actually started from the point of the opening scene I think it would have been far more interesting. Now I don’t want to get into re-writing the script, but I just can’t help but feel like there were better ways to setup the main event of the film.
Once the shooting starts somehow the movie becomes even more boring. Many of the scenes at this point are of him shooting random bystanders, and these scenes are very well shot, but they are again, totally worthless in terms of emotional power. I know that it is a terrible thing for anyone to die, but just seeing random characters die doesn’t evoke any emotion for me, and it really just makes it feel like the scenes were included to fill time and up the “spectacle” of the film.
The movie ends in rather cliched fashion and is still totally emotionally devoid. The whole structure of this movie is off and it is really only worth watching if you want to see some kinda interesting camera shots. I watched this on Amazon with prime, so I will say if you have prime, watch the movie up until the title card then turn it off. I really don’t think the rest of the movie is bad, it’s just boring, there are some well shot scenes, but overall I really don’t think it is worth the runtime.
I found this film bleak and horrifying and not one I’ll soon forget. Maybe it’s because I remember the actual shooting, and event that still resonates with Canadian women.