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TIFF Review: River


A volunteer American doctor in Laos flees from local authorities when he is accused of murder.

John Lake (Rossif Sutherland) is told to take leave of absence by his NGO boss after a botched surgery kills a patient; he encounters even more problems when intervening in the sexual assault of a young woman.  Not willing to stick around to be tried by the local court system for killing the assailant who happens to be the son of an Australian senator, the American doctor attempts to make his way to the U.S. embassy in hopes of obtaining a safe passage out of the country.

The best way of describing the action adventure is Jason Bourne encountering The Year of Living Dangerously (1982).  There is little time for taking a breath as the authorities and danger is never all that far behind. This is illustrated by a peaceful shot of a mother holding a baby which quickly shifts tones as the camera pans revealing the presence of a police officer standing nearby.  The handheld shooting approach results in there being constant movement with the framing adding to the mounting tension. The landscape of Laos has a prominent role to play which contributes to the disorienting and exotic atmosphere as the audience only views it from the perspective of the protagonist.

It is hard to entirely sympathize with the character portrayed by Rossif Sutherland (Hyena Road) who does a believable job of conveying a constant state of panic.  The supporting characters are sketchy but given the nature of chase genre that is not entirely surprising.  Conventionality rules with the storytelling; however, the ending provides a redeemable twist that contributes some moral weight to the well-executed feature debut of Jamie M. Dagg.



Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.


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